If we can more efficiently and safely move goods through our international ports of entry, we will strengthen Texas’ economy, creating jobs and improving the supply chain not only for our state but also for our nation.
The mayors of Hidalgo County are lending their support to two transportation bills whose goal would be to increase efficiency of cross border commercial traffic while enhancing border security.
The effort to support the bills — filed by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who serves as the chair of the House Transportation Committee — is being led by McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos.
“I felt it was important to express support for Chairman Canales’ bills, which would be beneficial to McAllen and all of Hidalgo County,” Villalobos said via a news release Thursday.
To further bolster support for the legislation, 21 of the county’s 22 mayors signed onto the letter, dated April 3.
“If we can more efficiently and safely move goods through our international ports of entry, we will strengthen Texas’ economy, creating jobs and improving the supply chain not only for our state but also for our nation,” the letter states.
The two bills — HB 3805 and HB 4422 — take strides in addressing both longstanding issues regarding binational trade, as well as more recent problems that arose in the wake of Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s multipronged border safety initiative.
HB 4422 calls for state officials to conduct a study of “public safety, border security, and (the) modernization of transportation infrastructure from the Texas-Mexico border crossings onto the state highway system,” according to the bill’s text.
The study would be conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety in conjunction with local law enforcement, academic researchers and transportation industry stakeholders.
HB 3805 would go toward creating a new funding category in the state’s transportation code.
The new funding would be allocated for highway infrastructure projects located along the border that would “provide greater security in the movement of goods … onto the state highway system,” or mitigate congestion in other modes of transportation, such as airports and railroad crossings.
The Rio Grande Valley is the only border region in the state whose international ports of entry are not connected to an interstate highway system.
Plans to expand Interstate 69 to the region’s land ports have stalled for years, leaving local leaders trying to plan projects themselves.
These bills represent a bold new strategy in the effort to secure the border. We ask that you revisit the state’s approach to border security and consider the opportunities that Rep. Canales is proposing.
In Cameron County alone officials have identified more than $2 billion in highway projects, according to testimony Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. delivered to a U.S. congressional delegation last summer.
Some 65% of goods entering the United States from Mexico enter the country via a Texas land port, Cameron County Precinct 3 Commissioner David A. Garza testified at that same hearing.
In Hidalgo County, the Pharr International Bridge has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s largest ports for importing produce.
Last spring, however, the produce trade came to a screeching halt when Abbott mandated that DPS inspect all commercial vehicles entering the country.
Other crossings, such as at Anzalduas and the bridges in Brownsville, also saw brief shutdowns or delays.
By some estimates, the debacle cost more than $200 million per day.
“It cost millions of man hours and literally warehouses not having any type of produce or shipments to process,” Leopoldo “Leo” Chow, a member of a Mexican trucking trade group said at the time.
The standoff continued until the governors of the four Mexican states that border Texas capitulated to Abbott’s demands that Mexico do more to ensure border security.
“Nuevo Leon is going to compromise to increase security,” Nuevo Leon Gov. Samuel Alejandro Garcia said during a joint news conference with Gov. Abbott in Laredo last April.
The Mexican leader pledged to implement security checkpoints and increased patrols on his side of the river.
Canales’ HB 4422 appears to address some of the tensions that arose between local leaders and the governor’s office as a result of Operation Lone Star’s halt of binational commercial traffic.
The bill specifically references the governor’s $4 billion security policy, saying that the study should “bolster border security initiatives that support Operation Lone Star or similar state security efforts.”
The study will also look to “fortify law enforcement response efforts near border crossings that maximize oversight, inspection, and public safety resources,” according to the bill’s text.
“These bills represent a bold new strategy in the effort to secure the border,” Villalobos wrote in his letter to Abbott.
“We ask that you revisit the state’s approach to border security and consider the opportunities that Rep. Canales is proposing,” he said.
To find a comprehensive list of bills filed — and the status of those bills — visit MyRGV.com and click the 88th Texas Legislative Session tab, which has an interactive spreadsheet and a comprehensive list of AIM Media Texas’ legislative coverage.