Congress told border crossings need upgrade
Border crossings between the United States and Mexico have fallen into disrepair and are in need of upgrading, McAllen, Texas, Mayor Richard Cortez told the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security on Tuesday.
“We have an imbalance of investment and results on the border. Since 1993, we have increased our investment 800 percent in Border Patrol personnel, mobility, communications and technology. That effort between the ports has been successful; the Border Patrol intercepts 70 percent of lawbreakers across the border; in the El Paso sector, the success rate is 90 percent.
“In contrast, we have let the land ports of entry fall into disrepair. We currently have ports like the McAllen Hidalgo-Reynosa port of entry in which the electrical grid is outdated and the infrastructure is antiquated at a time when the most advanced technology and infrastructure is needed to secure our borders. Over the same period, the land ports budget has risen only 17 percent and our ability to intercept criminals only 28 percent of the time.”
Cortez said there are two ports of entry in McAllen — an old bridge, the Hidalgo port of entry; and the new Anzalduas International Bridge, which opened in 2009.
• For more on U.S./Mexico border issues and the U.S. government's efforts to address them, read 'Reinventing border security' from American Shipper's February issue.
But he said, “We’re not efficient because we don’t accept any commercial truck traffic.”
He suggests the federal government should begin southbound commercial truck inspections at the Anzalduas International Bridge and that Congress should begin laying the groundwork to fund northbound truck inspections at the Anzalduas International Bridge. Southbound inspections would help prevent the flow of guns and cash into Mexico, he said, and northbound truck traffic would stimulate the economy.
“Criminal cartels are exploiting our weakness,' Cortez said. 'According to the Department of Justice, 90 percent of the drugs smuggled into the U.S. enter through the land ports. The physical bulk cash that exits goes exclusively through the ports. There is no data on firearms, but anecdotally, the ports are where they too traverse the border.”
He cited Government Accountability Office estimates that the nation needs 6,000 new inspection personnel and more than $5 billion to bring the facilities up to snuff.
“We don't expect you to wave a fiscal wand and achieve this overnight. I do not advocate taking anything away from the Border Patrol. But if there are additional resources to be allocated, this year or next year, they should go to the ports of entry as a first priority,” Cortez said.