Colorado Border School conference in Aurora to discuss border security, gangs, drug trafficking

Colorado Border School sounds like an illegal immigration forum. But founder Pam Faraone, a chaplain with the Southwest Border Sheriffs Coalition in Texas, insists that's not the case. "Border School really isn't about immigration," she says. "It is the rest of the story about the issues of border security."

And the rest of the story, she and others say, has to do with transnational gangs, terrorists and drug trafficking.

The two-day conference will be held at the Aurora Mental Health Center, 11059 East Bethany Drive in Aurora, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $100 at the door, or $50 for law enforcement officers.

This is the ninth conference Faraone has put on since she and her supporters -- who she describes as "a group of current and retired law enforcement officers, and other experts and officials, who are focused on the need for border security" -- staged the first one in El Paso in May 2009. The point, she says, is to "present the truth" through sessions on topics such as "Narco-Terrorism in the 21st Century" and "Gun Running Operations of the Drug Cartels," and allow people to make their own decisions about what to do about it.

"We believe that people will be motivated to contact Washington -- motivated to action -- to try to get something done about our porous southern border," she says.

Richard Valdemar, a retired Los Angeles sheriff, says the southern border represents "the most dangerous challenge to our security." On Saturday at 8 a.m., Valdemar will give a presentation about what he calls "the unholy trinity, which is the alliance between American street gangs, Mexican drug cartels and international terrorists."

What does he mean? "The drug cartels are not operating without security and weapons, which they procure from international terrorists," Valdemar explains.

Other speakers include Rusty Fleming, the producer of the documentary Drug Wars, about drug-related violence in border towns; Captain Jaime Kafati, a Denver sheriff who will be giving a talk called "A Global View to Transnational Gangs;" and Tiffany Hartley, the wife of the man who was killed last month by Mexican pirates while Jet Skiing. The couple were from Colorado but had recently moved to Texas. The Texas sheriff who investigated the case, Sigi Gonzalez, will also speak.

For more on Immigration, read this week's cover story, "Disappearing Act."