updated 8/26/2005 9:59:13 PM ET 2005-08-27T01:59:13

The governors of New Mexico and its southern neighbor, the Mexican state of Chihuahua, agreed Friday to bulldoze or board up buildings in a semi-abandoned border town that is a haven for would-be immigrants and smugglers.

Gov. Bill Richardson and Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza also said they hoped to establish a police presence to end lawlessness 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 earlier this month.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano declared a similar emergency in her state.

Las Chepas is home to just 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.

“It’s a lawless area,” Moody said.

Skepticism about move
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 don’t ever plan to leave.

As he surveyed his front yard this week, complete with a lush and blooming rose bush, he said he didn’t understand why Richardson would want to demolish the town.

“It would be the same if it wasn’t here,” Castillo said of the situation.

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.

Espifanrio Ruiz, who runs one of the town’s three stores, acknowledged that hordes of migrants come through the town, but said the town isn’t much of a draw.

“There are no hotels here,” Ruiz said with a toothy grin.

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