LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- The governors of New Mexico and its southern neighbor, the Mexican state of Chihuahua, agreed yesterday to bulldoze or board up buildings in a semi-abandoned border town that is a haven for would-be immigrants and smugglers.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat, and Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza also said they hoped to establish a police presence in the dusty Mexican community of Las Chepas, which is considered a staging ground for migrants and drug and human smugglers.
It was the governors' first meeting since Richardson, citing growing violence, declared a state of emergency in New Mexico's four border counties this month.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, declared a similar emergency in her state.
Las Chepas is home to a dozen full-time residents. Border Patrol agent Rick Moody said agents monitor the area with a tower-mounted camera and watch as a daily caravan of old school buses ferry people along a dusty washboard road into the town.
When the migrants leave, they often are jumped by ''border bandits," Moody said.
''They tell them to just keep walking north and don't look back," Moody said. ''We've tried to apprehend some of these bandits."
But there are just too many places to hide and too few roads in the area, he added.
For Leopaldo Castillo Rodriguez, 66, Las Chepas is more than a trouble spot a stone's throw from the border. He and his wife have lived there for 22 years and said they do not plan to leave.
Others in the town said they were upset that they were hearing of Richardson's plans from reporters and not their own government.
''People here don't know what's going on," Francisco Apalaca Ruiz said as he stood outside of a small store in the dirt-road town.