Today, Congressmen Filemon Vela (TX-34), Michael McCaul (TX-10), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Beto O'Rourke (TX-16), Pete Gallego (TX-23), and Blake Farenthold (TX-27) introduced H.R. 1108, The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2013. This bipartisan bill gives U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the authority to enter into public-private partnerships with local governments and private sector entities. 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.
"Securing our ports of entry and facilitating trade across the border is critical to our vibrant local economy," said Congressman Vela. "This bill is a win-win for consumers and taxpayers, allowing CBP to use all the available resources at their disposal to maximize trade between our two nations while improving efficiency."
The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2013 aims to provide alternatives to CBP so restricted federal funding does not prevent them from carrying out their duties efficiently and effectively. This flexibility allows CBP to leverage its limited resources and acquire additional tools and financing to speed up the flow of traffic at border ports of entry. These partnerships will support the construction and maintenance of CBP facilities and infrastructure and provide funding to hire addition staff at ports of entry.
"Every day, over a billion dollars in commerce flows across the U.S.-Mexico border, making Mexico one of our most important trade partners and a crucial partner in supporting the U.S. economy and jobs," said Congressman Cuellar, Member of the House Appropriations Committee. "Because of the crucial role CBP plays in supporting the efficient and effective flow of goods between our two countries, we must leverage every available resource to make sure that CBP has the tools it needs to do its job well, keep lines short and move goods and people across the border efficiently. I look forward to working with my colleagues, Senator John Cornyn, Congressmen Michael McCaul, Filemon Vela, Beto O'Rourke, Pete Gallego, and Blake Farenthold to respond to the needs of local stakeholders in both the public and private sectors and speed up the flow of traffic at our ports of entry."
"Our land ports of entry must be secure and they must provide for the free flow of commerce. Both are vital to our economic and national security," said Congressman McCaul, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. "Allowing CBP to partner with local governments and private stakeholders will maximize the value of limited taxpayer resources, and it will enable the private sector, which drives our economy and creates jobs, to proactively improve the efficiency of cross-border operations."
"Our ports of entry are the foundation of El Paso's economy. The $80 billion in trade flowing through them each year and the $2 billion Juarenses annually contribute to our local economy help support 100,000 jobs in the region," said Congressman O'Rourke. "The safe, efficient and predictable movement of goods and people across our borders is central to creating a 21st Century border policy. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act will provide effective new tools to CBP to improve infrastructure, expand capacity, and increase staffing at our ports of entry without creating any new costs for the federal government. I am proud to be part of this bi-partisan legislation that will help El Paso and other border communities thrive and I will do everything I can to get it passed."
"I represent a district that runs 800 miles along the Texas-Mexico border and includes five points of entry," said Congressman Gallego (TX-23). "I'm happy to support avenues that modernize our ports, improve security, and facilitate trade and commerce. Better infrastructure allows trade and commerce to move more efficiently helping small businesses and local economies flourish."
"With ever increasing demands on our CBP by growing trade traffic, the private sector has stepped up and offered to help alleviate delays and improve border security, and help pay for it," said Congressman Farenthold. "All we have to do is say yes. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act improves service, saves money, and is a yes to a good, cost effective public-private partnership."
"The Border Trade Alliance applauds this bipartisan group of leaders for seeking innovative ways to fund border infrastructure and enhance staffing levels at our ports of entry. In a time of constrained federal budgets, we must acknowledge that the federal government won't always be able to develop infrastructure along our borders to keep pace with the volumes of trade our country conducts with Canada and Mexico. Engaging the private sector and local communities to seek solutions along our borders is the right move at the right time. The BTA stands at the ready to help advance this needed bill through the legislative process," said Jesse Hereford, Chairman of the Border Trade Alliance in San Antonio.
"Our company owns an international bridge port of entry spanning the border with Mexico. This legislation provides a viable and creative bi-partisan tool to help respond to our country's fiscal needs by stretching our resources to secure us economically and physically. We look forward to the president signing this legislation," said Sam F. Vale, President of Starr-Camargo Bridge Company.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced companion legislation, S. 178, The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2013 on January 30, 2013.