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Borderlands: US-Mexico migration deal expires, Officials intercept rare bug in corn shipment from Mexico

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: U.S.-Mexico migration deal expires on Sept. 6;  Columbus, NM, gets new improved port of entry; rare invasive beetle species found in shipment of corn; and Marco Grajeda named director of New Mexico Border Authority.

Mexican officials expect no new tariffs as US-Mexico migration deal expires

The 90-day migration policy deal between the United States and Mexico in which Mexican officials agreed to reduce the number of migrants crossing the southern border to avoid U.S. tariffs on its goods expired Sept. 6. 

Mexican officials are expected to meet with officials in the Trump administration during a key meeting Sept. 10 in Washington, DC.

President Donald Trump had threatened U.S. tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican exports if Mexican officials could not curb U.S.-bound migration along the border. A U.S.-Mexico deal was reached on June 7, giving Mexican officials 45 days to implement migration reduction measures.

“In three months of application, the program of Special Attention to the Migratory Phenomenon has had good results,” said Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference Sept. 6.

López Obrador added, “The law is being applied, the migratory flow has been reduced, human rights are being respected and the Mexican way of addressing the migratory phenomenon is being accredited with development, with investments for productive activities and creating jobs in the places of origin of the migrants.”

Mexican officials said that the number of migrants stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border in August was 63,989, down from 144,266 in May.

Trump recently thanked the Mexican government for reducing the number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S. southern border.

“I want to thank Mexico, the Mexican government, their great president of Mexico, for helping us,” Trump said to reporters Sept. 4, according to Reuters. 

In April, Trump ordered the reassignment of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to deal with migrants at ports of entry on the border with Mexico. 

The Department of Homeland Security redirected 750 CBP officers from the ports in El Paso, Laredo and San Diego to assist Border Patrol agents in processing undocumented immigrants. 

Wait times for commercial trucks increased dramatically — sometimes taking up to 12 hours —  at border crossings in El Paso, Laredo and McAllen in Texas, as well as Nogales in Arizona and Otay Mesa in California. 

New Mexico gets new $85.6 million border port of entry 

State officials hope a new, upgraded port of entry in the small border community of Columbus in southwestern New Mexico will facilitate more cross-border trade and travel in the region.

The new $85 million facility built by the U.S. General Services Administration includes a separate lane for commercial trucks, adds inspection lanes for autos and pedestrians and has more security features than the facility it replaces.

The much-anticipated ribbon cutting Thursday morning came after two years of construction that began in April 2017. The new port of entry replaces the old facility that opened in 1989. Since that time, the number of border crossers in Columbus has steadily increased and local residents welcome the expansion of New Mexico’s only 24-hour port of entry, according to a recent story in the Albuquerque Journal,

“Whenever New Mexico gets any border infrastructure it’s a plus for trade operations,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and chief executive of the Santa Teresa, NM-based Border Industrial Association.

“It gives companies another option in our region. Obviously, El Paso ports of entry are a big player in our economy, so this is another important piece of infrastructure to attract companies to our region,” Pacheco said during an interview with TV station KVEO.com.

The new Columbus port of entry went into operation around a year ago, but officials held a grand opening ceremony Sept. 4. Columbus is around 80 miles from El Paso.

Brownsville officials intercept rare bug in shipment of corn from Mexico

Agriculture specialists with CBP at the Los Indios International Bridge import cargo lot intercepted a rare “first-in-nation” pest in a shipment of corn.   

The bug was found Aug. 13 at the Los Indios International Bridge import lot when a shipment of fresh corn was referred to agriculture for inspection. Upon inspection of the corn, CBP agriculture specialists intercepted the pest, which was submitted for identification to a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist.

An invasive beetle species was intercepted at the Brownsville Port of Entry.

The initial identification was later confirmed by a national specialist as Cratosomus punctulatus Gyllenhal (Curculionidae), a pest not known to occur in the United States, and intercepted for the first time in the nation.

This insect belongs to the Curculionidae family, commonly known as snout weevils. Most weevils are plant feeders and many are serious pests of agricultural crops and forests.

Given the quarantine status of Cratosomus punctulatus Gyllenhal, the shipment of corn was reexported as a precautionary measure. 

“The work performed by CBP agriculture specialists at our ports of entry is a key element in safeguarding the agriculture of the nation by preventing the dissemination of pests and animal and plant diseases,” said Tater Ortiz, director of the Brownsville Port of Entry. “I commend our CBP agriculture specialists for the interception of this unique, first-in-nation pest.”

Marco Grajeda named director of New Mexico Border Authority

Marco Grajeda, a public servant with professional and family ties along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, has been appointed to head the New Mexico Border Authority.

Marco Grajeda

The New Mexico Border Authority is an executive agency that facilitates trade, job training and economic development efforts along the New Mexico border. It also works to improve travel and trade efficiencies at the ports of entry.

“We really want to focus on global trade and develop an ecosystem of businesses along the border that will create jobs and opportunity for New Mexicans,” said Alicia J. Keyes, New Mexico secretary of economic development.

“Marco has the background and expertise to help businesses that want to grow with imports and exports,” Keyes said in a release.

Grajeda said he wants to boost collaboration between southern New Mexico, El Paso and Juárez. He also wants to expand the benefits of border trade at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry with more private vehicle and commercial lanes and increased staffing. 

“We need to be able to move a higher volume of traffic through Santa Teresa,” Grajeda said.

Grajeda was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and has lived in El Paso and southern New Mexico. He previously worked for U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, assisting on issues from immigration to foreign trade.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is the Cross-Border Freight Market Reporter for FreightWaves.com. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1999. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas.

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