Monday, October 1, 2007

Vast US military base near border relies on Mexican labor

A sign welcoming residents of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico into El Paso, Texas

People really do need to understand that El Paso/Juarez are joined at the hip. So yes, this may be amazing for some but actually quite predictable. This is all still very interesting.

Dra. Valenzuela

Vast US military base near border relies on Mexican labor

FORT BLISS, United States (AFP) — This sprawling US Army base located at the edge of El Paso and skirting the border with Mexico is undergoing a major expansion that heavily relies on Mexicans for its construction.

Amid growing controversy in the United States over immigration -- legal and illegal -- the military is using foreign labor to build the base.

The expansion will also mean a population boom and a big infusion of cash for the poor city of El Paso, separated by the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

But who will build the new barracks and offices at Fort Bliss, and the shopping malls and restaurants outside the base?

"All those homes and shopping malls are built by us Mexicans," said bus driver Mario Encinas, a native of Mexico who works at Fort Bliss.

"With real documents or not, we are the ones that do that work here and across the United States," Encinas told AFP, noting that he works on base "with real documents."

Fort Bliss is currently home to the army's Air Defense Artillery School and to several Patriot Missile batteries. But over the next several years most of the missile specialists will move to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Bliss will become home to the First Armored Division, which is relocating from Germany.

The changes will see the population at the 4,500 square kilometer (1.12 million acres) site more than double, from 14,122 to more than 30,000 by 2011.

New barracks, family housing and offices are needed, as are new sites for vehicle and weapons repair and maintenance.

"It's a 2.6 billion dollar expansion project, the largest current expansion of any military outpost in America," said Clark McChesney, director of the Fort Bliss Transformation Office.

The base expansion is also seen as a key for economic development in El Paso, the largest US city on the border with Mexico with a population of one million -- 80 percent Hispanic, overwhelmingly of Mexican origin.

El Paso is also one of the poorest cities in the United States, were the average annual family income is just over 30,000 dollars a year, low by US standards.

"The economic impact for El Paso will be 22 billion dollars, because of the increase of soldiers and the expansion in this base, between 2005-2013," McChesney said.

The city is expecting the Bliss expansion to indirectly create thousands of jobs off-base at shopping malls, restaurants, and myriad retail and service outlets.

El Paso and Ciudad Juarez (population 1.5 million) make a vast megalopolis separated by the Rio Grande river, which marks the border. The cities are linked by five bridges.

"We're located on the US-Mexico border, one of the largest international metro areas in the world," said Bob Cook, president of El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The region "provides a unique laboratory environment for homeland security companies to develop technologies that can enhance homeland or border security," he said.

McChesney insisted that all the Fort Bliss work is being done by qualified laborers with proper paperwork.

But on September 15, the El Paso Times newspaper reported that 12 construction workers were detained at Fort Bliss because they were in the country illegally or had fake work permits. Most of them were employed by subcontractors, officials told the Times.

Some 3,800 Fort Bliss soldiers are currently based in Iraq, including the sister of a downtown El Paso Mexican-American taxi driver.

"This is my sister, fortunately she already returned," said the driver, proudly showing passengers a photo album of the woman in uniform.

Hosted by
Copyright © 2007 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

1 comment:

blackblade said...

Well, i think is important talk about the future of the both nations, because such as united states use money on the border line, with the army, and had other problems like they not use the money in other things like education, I read on the blog About that Bush was questioned about link to federal funds, and he spend a lot of money on the other things well that´s the problem because the education between México and United States it´s similar, and they need the mexican because is cheaper use to mexican people without papers and don´t have social security number, or not need pay taxes, for this people like latins, know the people fight to defense that rights, like latins and chicanos and mexican people, well all of this only for a wall and the army on the border line, too its importan stop the violence on this part.