September 1, 2008

El Paso makes impact nationally

By Silvestre Reyes / Guest columnist
Article Launched: 08/31/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

This month, several of our country's high-ranking national security officials were in El Paso to attend the Border Security Conference hosted by UTEP, in conjunction with my office.

Now in its fifth year, the Border Security Conference has become one of the most prominent gatherings of border security experts in the U.S.

This year's conference was once again a great success, drawing national and regional leaders and participants from across the U.S. and Mexico.

Participants of this year's conference had the opportunity to hear from top national security leaders, including FBI Director Robert Mueller, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Acting Director Michael Sullivan, and Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Ralph Basham.

These speakers provided insightful presentations during the conference and addressed the many challenges and emerging threats confronting the Borderland and the nation as a whole.

As the largest border community in the world, El Paso is the perfect venue to host this important conference on border security. It is important that our nation's top security leaders are fully aware and informed about the unique security threats confronting El Paso.

The Border Security Conference also gave El Pasoans the opportunity to learn about what our federal agencies are doing to help quell the violence in our sister city, Juárez, and hear about ongoing federal efforts to help ensure the violence does not spill over into the U.S.

During the conference, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Undersecretary for Science and Technology, Jay Cohen, UTEP President Diana Natalicio and I participated in the rollout of UTEP's new Center for Border Security and Immigration.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security officially designated UTEP as the new home of the National Center for Border Security and Immigration.

I have worked with Dr. Natalicio for nearly five years to help establish UTEP as a leading institution for border security and homeland security research.

This designation will provide UTEP with millions of dollars in research funding to assist DHS in developing practical strategies to improve border security and devise sound immigration policies.

UTEP's Center for Border Security and Immigration will also develop the next generation of homeland security experts right here in El Paso, and will harness UTEP's vast expertise in border issues to provide students with unique opportunities to conduct cutting-edge research in the world's largest border community.

This new center also furthers UTEP's efforts to become a top-tier research university.

Our region is uniquely positioned to offer an ideal environment for homeland security and border security research, and Dr. Natalicio and the UTEP administration are doing a superb job in establishing the university as the number one destination to study these issues.

In addition to this exciting new center at UTEP, the Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, Jaime Estrada, and I announced that the Department of Commerce will open a new Export Assistance Office in El Paso.

This new office will provide local-area businesses access to customized counseling and market research to help them export their products to new markets, and as a result, increase their competitiveness in the global economy.

Our region exports billions of dollars in goods each year, and it is vitally important that local businesses can easily access quality counseling and market research here at home.

As the U.S. representative for the 16th District of Texas and a life-long resident of the El Paso-area, I am extremely proud that our community is on the move.

With the unprecedented expansion of Fort Bliss, the rapid growth of our medical sector, our city's Downtown revitalization, and UTEP's emergence as a national leader in homeland security and border research, our community is poised to achieve many great things in the years ahead.

All El Pasoans should be proud of how far our community has come.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes represents the 16th Congressional District of Texas.

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