Congressmen Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Beto O'Rourke (TX-16) joined local community and business leaders to inspect obstacles impeding fluid transit and commerce over the highly trafficked Paso del Norte International Bridge. The thruway, connecting El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua, has suffered extended waiting times for commercial vehicles and travelers.
The two Congressional Representatives set off on a tour of the overpass area to investigate the port of entry. Both Cuellar and O'Rourke form part of a group of seven legislators that introduced the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act (H.R.1108) earlier last month in Washington DC.
The bipartisan bill authorizes the "Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter into agreements with persons for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide customs and immigration services at a land border port of entry". As federal resources remain scarce, entering into these partnerships will allow CBP to seek alternate sources of funding to ensure its essential needs are met. Federal law currently prohibits CBP from accepting any non-federal funding.
"Having lived most of my life on the US-Mexican border, I understand the importance trade has had on our community. More than a billion dollars in goods cross the US-Mexican border each day. It is our job in Congress to protect small businesses and reduce wait times at our ports of entry", said Congressman Cuellar.
He added, "We must take action while we increase the flow of commerce and improve the security and safety of the families and businesses that cross over our bridges to invest in their livelihood and economic security. For these reasons, I thank Congressman O'Rourke for allowing me to join him in this pursuit to convert the Paso del Norte Bridge into a beacon of our prosperity--both here and at home, throughout the State of Texas, and the greater United States of America."
"Nearly 6 million U.S. jobs are dependent on the trade between the U.S. and Mexico. In the El Paso region alone, more than 100,000 jobs are supported by the $80 billion in annual trade that crosses our local ports of entry. Long wait times at our border are stifling trade and the economic activity it helps generate. If we want to grow our national and regional economies, we have to reduce wait times at our ports of entry and foster the cross-border trade that our communities rely on. As the representative of another border community, Congressman Cuellar understands this reality and I am grateful for his support and partnership as we work to find solutions to this problem," said Congressman O'Rourke.
Congressmen Cuellar and O'Rourke were joined by El Paso County Judge, Veronica Escobar; El Paso Mayor, John Cook; Councilmember, Cortney Niland; Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce Chair, Kathleen Walker; El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO, Cindy Ramos-Davidson; Borderplex Alliance CEO, Rolando Pablos; El Paso Foreign Trade Association President, Stephanie Caviness-Tantimonaco; and Dennis Melonas, Executive Director for the El Paso Central Business Association.