Mr. O'ROURKE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to help introduce the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act (H.R. 1108), a bill that will create jobs and facilitate trade at no cost to the Federal Government. I am proud to join Congressman CUELLAR and MCCAUL in moving forward with this bipartisan bill.
El Paso, the city I represent, and other border communities rely on cross border trade for their economic vitality. Each year, $80 billion in trade flows through El Paso's ports of entry. Residents of our sister city, Ciudad Juarez, annually contribute $2 billion to El Paso's economy. In the El Paso region alone, this trade supports 100,000 jobs. Nationally, 6 million jobs are a direct product of bi-lateral trade between the U.S. and Mexico. Since 1990 this trade has grown by 600 percent and continues to increase each year. Unfortunately, capacity at our ports of entry has not kept pace. Despite increased staffing and use of technology, waits at our ports of entry are often unpredictable and unacceptably long. This harms our economy and our way of life along the border. We have friends and family and sometimes jobs on the other side and we need to be able to cross in a timely manner.
The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act is a proactive first step to finding a solution to this problem. By authorizing public-private partnerships, this legislation would provide The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) with effective new tools to improve infrastructure, expand capacity, and increase staffing at our ports of entry without creating new costs for taxpayers. For example, under this bill, the City of El Paso would have the ability to raise funds and enter into a partnership with CBP to cooperatively help fund increased staffing at our ports of entry. This could help keep all the lanes on one of our local bridges open for a longer period of time.
As Washington operates under serious fiscal constraints, we need this legislation more than ever. Earlier this month, as a result of sequestration, CBP officers along our border received furlough notices of 14 days. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has warned that failing to undo sequestration cuts could lead to 4 or 5 hour wait times at our ports of entry. The reality is clear--Congress is unlikely to provide the resources we need to facilitate the legal and efficient flow of goods and people across our borders. We need innovative policies that allow communities who depend on cross-border trade to find creative solutions to our fiscal problems. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act is such a solution. At a time of heightened partisanship, this legislation is proof that when Democrats and Republicans work together, we can advance common sense ideas.
We need a 21st Century border policy that not only secures our border, but also recognizes the significance the border and our partnership with Mexico represent for our country and the economy. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act is an important part of that policy. I urge all of my colleagues to join with me in supporting this critical legislation.