The Obama administration has recently unveiled plans to widen the New Mexico border zone from 25 to 55 miles. This proposed change would allow Mexican citizens with border crossing cards to visit family, shop, and conduct business farther afield without filling out immigration form I-94. According to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the expansion will “stimulate commerce, trade, and tourism activity in the area,” while “maintaining ample safeguards to prevent illegal entry into the United States.”
Currently, the standard border zone along the nearly 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border is 25 miles into the U.S. Texas and California both have border zones of 25 miles, although Arizona’s was extended to 75 miles in 1999. Senator Jeff Bingaham of New Mexico states that “the existing limit of 25 miles does not give visitors many options…Expanding the travel zone to 55 miles will make it possible for communities like Las Cruces, Lordsburg and Deming to see greater economic benefirs from Mexicans traveling into the country.”
President Obama’s reelection bid may also benefit by the proposal to widen the border zone. New Mexico is a battleground state in the upcoming presidential election, and split its electoral votes evenly between Obama and George W. Bush in 2004.