Bipartisan legislation Rep. Cuellar and Sen. Cornyn co-authored would allow CBP to seek alternate sources of funding to increase speed and efficiency at our ports of entry
Texas Border Business
WASHINGTON—Congressman Henry Cuellar’s (D-TX-28) legislation, H.R. 875, the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016, passed the U.S. House unanimously on voice vote today. Congressman Cuellar was the lead House sponsor of this bill and it will now need to be passed by the U.S. Senate* before being sent to the President.
Congressman Cuellar and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced to give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the General Services Administration (GSA) the authority to enter into innovative partnerships with local governments and private sector entities over the next ten years to boost staffing, make infrastructure improvements and speed up the flow of traffic at U.S. ports of entry without adding to the national deficit.
The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act builds upon work Congressman Cuellar and others, through the Appropriations Committee, did in 2013 and 2014 to ease delays and improve infrastructure at our nation’s land and air ports of entry.
Trade and travel to the U.S. has been increasing significantly over the years, yet staffing levels at U.S ports of entry have been stagnant. In 2014, Congress authorized over $255 million to increase the CBP workforce including 2,000 new officers, however, CBP has been struggling to hire these officers due to attrition and the amount of time it takes to bring on new officers.
In addition, our land ports of entry face numerous funding challenges and implications including a $5 billion capital improvement need. This challenge is only met by an average annual appropriation of $146 million, meaning it will take 34 years to meet this $5 billion need. Not meeting this will lead to undersized facilities, outmoded technologies, officer safety issues, longer wait times, higher transport costs, supply chain issues, less throughput, all meaning adverse economic impacts.
Seeing the needs at our ports of entry and the increase in trade while working with our colleagues and stakeholders, Congress, through the House Appropriations Committee in 2013 and 2014 authorized pilot programs to give CBP, the private sector, and state and local governments the ability to enter into public-private partnerships to find innovative solutions to ease delays and improve infrastructure at our nations ports of entry.
Section 559 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which Congressman Cuellar authored along with Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman John Carter, authorized a pilot program in which CBP could enter into agreements to receive donations of property or non-personal services at ports of entry.
Since 2013, CBP has entered into reimbursable service agreements with 29 stakeholders at land, sea, and air ports of entry, which have contributed to more than 125,000 additional processing hours to meet stakeholder needs, amounting to 3 million travelers and nearly 460,000 vehicles.
The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016 will:
- Expand on this pilot program in a number of ways and authorize it for another 10 years.
- Remove the limit on the number of reimbursable service agreements at air ports of entry
- Require the development of procedures to institute year-round review of proposals for donation agreements at ports of entry and set a deadline for CBP to decide on proposals
- Assist CBP in the hiring process by allowing a waiver to polygraph requirements for certain eligible veterans of the military
This legislation is based on input from border community leaders and is 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.
“My district includes the largest inland port in the country,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Every day, billions of dollars’ worth of goods cross the Texas-Mexico border, including $284 billion in trade at the Laredo Customs District, based in my home town of Laredo, Texas, and which stretches to the Rio Grande Valley.
“Since 2013, CBP has entered into reimbursable service agreements with 29 stakeholders at land, sea, and air ports of entry, which have contributed to more than 125,000 additional processing hours to meet stakeholder needs amounting to 3 million travelers and nearly 460,000 vehicles. The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016 would expand on this pilot program and authorize it for another 10 years.
“South Texas is a world leader in trade, and with this bill we will be able to increase the efficiency and amount of trade passing through our ports of entry. I thank my co-sponsors in the House, Rep. Will Hurd and Rep. Beto O’Rourke, as well as the lead sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Cornyn for his help in writing this bill and ushering support in the Senate. I also thank Homeland Security Chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady in seeing this bill completed and passed.”