|Happy 2014! As we reflect back on the year that was, 2013 was a year of transition and results for the Border Trade Alliance (BTA).
This past year we hired Noe Garcia, III as the BTA's new president to give us a presence in Washington, D.C. With Noe's assistance and that of Garrick Taylor, our director of public policy, we have been able to provide you with new office space in the nation's capital, a re-designed website, and added eight new board members.
Here's a quick look at some of the 2013 highlights that we played a significant role in accomplishing.
The Department of Homeland Security approved an expanded New Mexico border zone to allow Mexican border crossers with valid Border Crossing Cards the ability to travel up to 55 miles into the U.S. without needing to stop for an I-94, allowing them to visit and shop in the cities of Las Cruces, Deming and Lordsburg. Kudos to former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich as well as former New Mexico Senators Domenici and Bingaman for their support. This approval was 10 years in the making!
CBP selected five Section 560 Reimbursable Fee Agreement pilots throughout the U.S., with four located in Texas. Of the four Texas pilots, the City of El Paso and South Texas Assets Consortium (STAC) are focused on increasing CBP staffing (and later much-needed infrastructure) at our land ports of entry. A special thank you to Acting CBP Commissioner Tom Winkowski, CBP Laredo Field Operations Director Gene Garza, Texas Senator John Cornyn and Border Congressmen Henry Cuellar, Filemón Vela and Beto O'Rouke for their continued support of our international trade, staffing and border infrastructure needs.
Also in 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that found that CBP's land ports of entry wait times are unreliable. The report made four specific recommendations that will help ensure more reliable wait time reporting: (1) determine and take steps to help ensure consistent implementation of existing wait time data collection methodologies, (2) assess the feasibility of replacing current methodologies with automated methods, (3) document its staff allocation process and rationale, and (4) develop outcome-oriented performance measures. BTA played a role in arranging stakeholder roundtables for the GAO to discuss wait times in the land border port communities.
We also held a very successful Mexico City Conference entitled, "Mexico Logistics Forum: Supply Chain, Security and Policy" with over 500 people in attendance. Thanks go to U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Wayne for hosting us in his home the evening before the conference. At the conference, we re-launched BTA Mexico, a separate organization to advocate in Mexico focused on our border staffing and infrastructure needs. BTA Mexico hired Angie Plascencia, who formerly worked for the late Bill Summers at the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.
2013 was a whirlwind of a year where the BTA advocated on your behalf and delivered with significant results. In 2014, we will continue to advocate for public-private partnerships at our land ports of entry, more CBP agents, and updated technology and infrastructure at our border. While we made strides in 2013, there is much more work to be done in 2014 to continue to help ease congestion and effectively move cargo, vehicles and pedestrian traffic at our land border ports of entry.
Jesse Hereford is chairman of the Border Trade Alliance. Founded in 1986, BTA is a grassroots, non-profit organization that serves as a forum for participants to address key issues affecting trade and economic development in North America.