Former California State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny sees her current role as Senior Policy Advisor at UC San Diego’s Center for US-Mexican Studies (USMEX) as a continuation of her decades-long interest in building greater understanding between the United States and Mexico in the context of promoting thoughtful public policy discussion.
USMEX, founded in 1979 to study Mexico and the full range of issues affecting economic, social and political relations between Mexico and the United States, spearheads UC San Diego’s engagement with Mexico. Over the years it has become a “go-to” source for rigorous academic research that can be applied to the creation, implementation and evaluation of public policy.
Ducheny has established deep ties to the San Diego-Imperial County-Baja California mega region since moving here from the Los Angeles area in 1979 after earning a B.A. in History from Pomona College and a Juris Doctorate degree from Southwestern University School of Law. With the support of her husband Al Ducheny, she opened a small law office in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego, serving many immigrant families and other South County residents in immigration, family law and general civil and criminal matters, while volunteering with other local civic activists to improve public services in this underserved community.
In 1990, she was moved to seek elected office to continue representation of South San Diego families and was elected to serve on the San Diego Community College board. Over the following two decades, she continued her public service as a member the California State Assembly from 1994 to 2000 and the California State Senate from 2002 through 2010. During those years, in recognition of her hard work and insightful policy analysis, she became Chair of the State Budget Committees in both Legislative Houses – the first Latino and first woman to hold these powerful positions.
Throughout her Legislative career, Ducheny worked to strengthen the Mexico-U.S. relationship by promoting environmental, business, health and cross-border infrastructure initiatives. She spearheaded organization of bi-national meetings that lead to formation of the 10-state Border Legislative Conference, created a policy discussion forum for State Legislators from the Three Californias, and enacted legislation to establish the Office of Binational Border Health among many other initiatives to improve the quality of life for residents of the Border region she represented.
“Without a doubt, Senator Moreno Ducheny has fostered a more accurate public image of Mexico, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans,” said then Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Eduardo Medina Mora when presenting her with the Mexican government’s prestigious Premio Ohtli in the summer of 2014. “The more fluent relationship that we enjoy, as a result of her dedication, has brought a better understanding and greater acknowledgement of the important contributions our community makes to the U.S.”
Later in 2014, her expertise in Border environmental issues was recognized by President Barak Obama when he appointed her as the U.S. government’s public representative to the North American Development Bank/Border Environmental Co-operation Commission.
She and the team at USMEX are proud to have Southwest Airlines as a community partner in their quest to build the West Coast’s most influential research team dedicated to cross-border issues. Led by renowned faculty and researchers from USMEX and the School of Global Policy and Strategy, the team is engaged in research to identify targeted solutions to cross-border challenges and convene practical workshops on critical economic and policy issues confronting our region. Simultaneously, the program is developing a core group of graduate students from both sides of the border, who will join the ranks of over 600 noted alumni prepared to enter careers in areas where solutions to traditionally local issues must be forged in an international context.
“When you live in an area like ours you understand it is one large metropolitan area, not two,” Ducheny said. “It is globally competitive, secure and environmentally sustainable only if we develop joint solutions and confront challenges together. It is not competitive, secure or sustainable for either of us if we try to stand alone.”