BIG Story: President Signs Cornyn, Cuellar Bill to Encourage Public-Private Partnerships at Ports of Entry into Law

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Anzalduas Bridge center of federal, and municipal officials meeting

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez,

As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition January 2017.

Republicans and Democrats worked diligently and got the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act approved by President Obama.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) issued the following statements after their Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act, legislation promoting public-private partnerships to boost staffing and make infrastructure improvements at U.S. ports of entry without adding to the national deficit, was signed into law by President Obama:

Senator Cornyn stated: “Pilot programs like these already underway in Texas have reduced wait times, increased efficiency and improved commerce at our ports of entry. I’m pleased President Obama signed this bill into law so more ports of entry can benefit, and I thank Congressman Cuellar for shepherding it through the House of Representatives.”

On December 15, 2016, during a gathering that took place at the central office of the Anzalduas Bridge, U. S. Senator John Cornyn stated, “We are here not for any other reason other than to serve the public.’ He continues, “There’s a lot of attention given to the border but not enough attention given to the benefits of our location next to our third largest trading partner which is Mexico.”

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He also said that while there are concerns about security, he believes security is job number one. “I couldn’t agree more that our mutually beneficial trading relationship with Mexico creates an awful lot of employment and not just in Mexico but in the United States.” He said, “And I dare say there are many senators and congressmen all the across the country who just simply don’t realize how many jobs are created in their district or their state because of the trucks and the traffic and the trade that crosses this international border.”

Sen. Cornyn and Congressman Henry Cuellar started this in 2014 to get the pilot project going to demonstrate that this concept works. “But now with this cross-border trade improvement act will become a permanent feature of our law,” he stated.

He also pointed out, that this is not just going to benefit the border between Mexico and the United States, it’s going to help the port of Houston, airports, and the northern border because everybody’s got the same challenges. Not enough money from the federal government to maintain and develop and expand the infrastructure and the staff to keep the flow of legitimate trade and travel and commerce goal.

“So I’m delighted to be here for this fantastic event.” Congressman Henry Cuellar, who has dedicated much of his time to make this project successful said, “I thank Sen. Cornyn for his bipartisan approach in working with me to pass this legislation. Every day, billions of dollars’ worth of goods crosses the Texas-Mexico border, including $284 billion in trade at our nation’s largest customs district in my hometown of Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. South Texas is a powerhouse for world trade, and this law will help increase the amount and efficiency of commerce at our border ports of entry.”

He also said that the State of Texas has 29 official ports of entry, that includes land ports, sea ports, airports, and rail. “These 29 official ports of entry in Texas add more than $631 billion back to our economy.” He said, “All these ports of entry helped Texas be the 10th … Texas run the country by itself, and sometimes we think Texas is a country by itself, the Republic of the State of Texas will be the 10th largest economy in the world. So, this means a lot.”

Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas thanked everyone for attending this important event. “I want to welcome you to the City of Mission and to the Anzalduas bridge which has been a real dream for us.” He continues, “I’ve been working on this bridge since 1998 when I became mayor, so it has been a dream come true for us.”

Jim Darling, McAllen mayor, said that it was an exciting day because they were talking about a public-private partnership that both Senator Cornyn and Congressman Cuellar have generously worked on and spent a whole lot of time and effort in getting the act passed.

He said, “This new law, the public-private partnership allows us as bridge owners, for instance, to pay overtime U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel.” He continues, “To make sure that shoppers coming from Monterey ready to spend their money in our community don’t have to wait long hours waiting to cross.”

Vicente Gonzalez, the newly elected Congressman, said, “I certainly want to thank Mayor Jim Darling, Mayor Salinas, and Mayor Hernandez who’ve taken a very active role in our region and on the border.” He continues, “Obviously, we’re working in a bipartisan way and in a regional way that I think maybe has never happened to this extent in the past.”

Rigo Villarreal, the superintendent of McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge and the Anzalduas International Bridge, said, “I thought a lot about this morning, and I wrote a couple of notes. They say that to have a dream, you must be asleep. And I think by seeing the wonderful people here today I’m dreaming. So, I pinched myself earlier, and it’s a real dream, especially when today is the seven-year anniversary of the Anzalduas International Bridge, which I found out thanks to Hilda Cavazos, the Administrative Supervisor for the bridge.

In attendance, Congressman Filemon Vela, Mayor of Hidalgo Martin Cepeda, Mayor of Harlingen Chris Boswell, Mayor of Pharr Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, Mayor of the City of Los Indios, Rick Cavazos, Mayor of the City of San Benito Celeste Sanchez, Dr. Armando Ocaña, Mission city commissioner for Mission. From CBP board of directors Efrain Solis, and assistant board of director Dave Moreno.

The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act developed with input from border community leaders and transportation industry stakeholders. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act gives U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) the authority to enter into innovative partnerships with local governments and private sector entities.

As federal resources remain scarce, port communities have sought alternate avenues to ensure essential needs are met in the face of growing demand. This authority allows CBP to leverage limited resources better to speed up the flow of traffic at international ports of entry. Partnerships with local governments and the private sector will support improvements to border infrastructure and enhance staffing levels across port environments.

The legislation has been endorsed by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Border Trade Alliance; Texas Border Coalition; Rio Grande Valley Partnership; the City of Laredo; Webb County; the Laredo Chamber of Commerce; Cameron County; City of Eagle Pass; City of Mission; City of McAllen; City of Harlingen; City of Pharr; Anzalduas International Bridge; McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge; Pharr International Bridge; and the Starr-Camargo International Bridge Company. TBB