Cornyn, Hutchison introduce bill to facilitate critical updates at U.S. ports of entry

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on June 7 introduced the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012, which would provide new authorities for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enter into public-private partnerships with either local governments or private sector entities to fund additional staffing at ports of entry, according to a press release from the U.S. Senate.

The bill would also require the General Services Administration (GSA) to expedite review of alternative financing arrangements submitted by these partnerships for infrastructure improvements, ensuring that proposals no longer sit on desks in Washington for decades, the Senate notes in the press release.

“One bright spot for the U.S. economy has been our nation’s trade with Mexico, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades and now supports roughly 6 million U.S. jobs. But in order to continue to foster this important business relationship and create more jobs and growth, action must be taken to update our land ports of entry, which lack the infrastructure and staffing necessary to support such robust levels of trade,” Sen. Cornyn said in a written statement. “This legislation, which results directly from the input of local stakeholders, reflects the fiscal climate in Washington, recognizes that the status quo for our ports of entry is unacceptable, and facilitates positive changes without spending taxpayer dollars.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues, Sen. Hutchison, Congressman Cuellar and others, to advance this legislation in Congress.”

In the same written statement, Sen. Hutchison added the following: “Reducing border wait times and facilitating cross-border trade are two of my top priorities. This legislation will go a long way toward addressing these problems and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find common-sense solutions for our border communities and businesses.”

Background (Source: U.S. Senate)

  • Since NAFTA took effect in 1994, U.S. exports to Mexico have increased by 289 percent, while U.S. imports from Mexico have increased by 432 percent.
  • Approximately 6 million American jobs depend on trade with Mexico, including more than 460,000 Texas jobs.
  • In 2011, Texas sent more than $86 billion in merchandise exports to Mexico—roughly twice the amount sent to Canada, China, and Brazil combined.
  • Land ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexican border have not kept pace with the rapid expansion of bilateral economic ties.
  • Texas border cities, which have requested that bridges stay open longer and include more lanes for traffic, have explored innovative funding options, including public-private partnerships.
  • The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012 would allow Customs and Border Protection to create such partnerships with local governments and private companies or associations, in order to improve services and conditions at our land-border ports of entry.

Support for the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012

  • Border Trade Alliance
  • Texas Border Coalition
  • Rio Grande Valley Partnership
  • Judge Carlos Cascos, Cameron County
  • Mayor Beto Salinas, City of Mission
  • Mayor Richard Cortez, City of McAllen
  • Mayor Chris Boswell, City of Harlingen
  • Mayor Martin Cepeda, City of Hidalgo
  • Mayor Leopoldo “Polo” Palacios, City of Pharr
  • Mayor Raul Salinas, City of Laredo
  • Mayor Ramsey English Cantu, City of Eagle Pass
  • Sam Vale, Owner, Starr-Camargo International Bridge Company
  • Sparks Family, Owners, Progresso International Bridge