Ken Salazar Biden Ambassadors (copy)

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speaks during the annual state of Colorado energy luncheon July 26, 2018, in Denver.

We have a big problem at the border and maybe it takes a moderate, commonsense Colorado Democrat to help solve it. Ken Salazar, President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as ambassador to Mexico, could be just the right person for the job.

Children from Mexico, Central and South America suffer at our border after making long and dangerous trips to get there. Too often they languish in cages established with Biden’s cooperation when he served as second-in-command to President Barack Obama.

We know Colorado and other states struggle to resolve the opioid crisis because Mexican drug cartels treat our border as a joke. The lack of serious border enforcement works well for traffickers who transport and trade young sex slaves the way cartels traffic in drugs.

Since Biden took office, border problems have only grown worse. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador worked alongside his close friend, President Donald Trump, to control the border in the interests of Mexico and the United States.

Obrador, better known in Mexico as AMLO, exudes a lack of warmth for Biden and has shown no serious interest in working with him. He is one of only three world leaders who refused to congratulate Biden until the electoral vote was cast and validated. AMLO has backed off assisting with U.S. drug interdiction in Mexico since Biden took office.

If Biden cannot repair this relationship, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico must find a way. Mexico is too important of an ally and trade partner — and too much a source of illicit trafficking — for tension to persist between the two country’s presidents.

Salazar seems like an excellent choice for this role. He grew up in Colorado’s San Luis Valley speaking Spanish as his native language in a region with a rich Latino heritage. Colorado knows and trusts Salazar, who has served as the U.S. secretary of the Interior, state’s attorney general, U.S. senator, and a businessman who launched the Denver branch of a major law firm.

Most importantly, Salazar has diplomacy skills. He likes people, they like him, and he reaches across the political aisle.

In the likelihood the Senate confirms this nominee — and it’s hard to imagine another outcome — the U.S. and Mexico will want to know where Salazar stands on border enforcement. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have shown themselves inept on the issue, and they need someone with Salazar’s mind and character to help right the ship.

Since his days of public service, Salazar’s party has made the border a faux race issue to emotionalize Americans out of defending their best interests. We don’t know what Salazar thinks of that, we only know he took a reasonable approach to the border when serving in the Senate.

Here’s what Salazar said on his 2004 campaign website while serving as attorney general and running for the Senate:

“I support stronger border enforcement and efforts that would crack down on illegal human trafficking. A bipartisan effort in the Senate, which I believe provides a good platform for this important discussion, would strengthen national security, fix the current visa system, improve economic stability, and provide an opportunity for some presently undocumented workers to gain legal status.”

He reiterated this platform in an interview with the former Rocky Mountain News in 2004:

“I support stronger border enforcement and efforts that would crack down on illegal human trafficking.”

Salazar voted in 2007 with 44 other Senate Democrats for $3 billion to place border fences and customs requirements along the United States and Mexico border. The amendment instructed the secretary of Homeland Security to establish 100% operational control of the border.

Salazar voted for 23,000 additional full-time customs and Border Patrol agents. He voted for 700 miles of fence, 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 105 ground-based radar and camera towers, and four new border drones to monitor migration trends.

Salazar’s vote demanded the secretary of Homeland Security detain undocumented immigrants apprehended crossing into the United States unless mandated by a specific humanitarian circumstance.

Salazar voted to improve employment eligibility verification among immigrants. He voted to increase the detention of immigrants who overstay visas or reenter the United States without proper documentation.

Salazar helped this state when Democrats and Republicans reliably voted to put our country’s interests first. Let’s hope we have the same old Salazar if we task him with improving relations with our friend and neighbor to the south.

The Gazette editorial board

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