161124-world_trade_bridge 161214-anzalduas
The first commercial trucks crossed Anzalduas International Bridge in August, 2016.

MISSION, RGV – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar will be in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, Dec. 15, to promote the passage of the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act.

The legislation, which the two legislators authored, promotes public-private partnerships to boost staffing and make infrastructure improvements at U.S. ports of entry – without adding to the national deficit.

The legislation has been supported by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the Border Trade Alliance; the Texas Border Coalition; the Rio Grande Valley Partnership; Cameron County; the City of Eagle Pass; the City of Mission; the City of McAllen; the City of Harlingen; the City of Pharr; the Anzalduas International Bridge; the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge; the Pharr International Bridge; the Starr-Camargo International Bridge Company.

The Laredo event takes place at the World Trade Bridge, one of the busiest international bridges in the United States.

“On Thursday, we will receive U.S. Senator John Cornyn in this border city. We will talk about a bill that we both presented, he got it approved at Senate level and I did it on my side. It is a bill that’s going to help us in the border, at the ports-of-entry,” Cuellar, a Laredo native, told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“If there’s more business going on, it will definitely help us to move more trade. So, when President-Elect Donald Trump mentions a rejection of trade, a Republican (Cornyn) and a Democrat at the border (Cuellar) say we are going to improve our ports-of-entry and exit of the United States.”

Among the dignitaries expected to attend the Laredo event are U.S. Representative Will Hurd, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond and Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina.

The Valley event will take place at Anzalduas International Bridge. Many local dignitaries are slated to be involved with Cornyn and Cuellar at the Anzalduas event, including U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, U.S. Representative-Elect Vicente Gonzalez and Mayors Norberto Salinas of Mission, Jim Darling of McAllen, and Yvette Cabrera of Granjeno.

Following a private meeting with community leaders and stakeholders, Sen. Cornyn, Reps. Cuellar and Vela, and Rep.-Elect Gonzalez will tour the Anzalduas Bridge. Afterwards, they will hold a joint press conference at the bridge to discuss the new legislation.

Cornyn said that as federal resources remain scarce, port communities have sought alternate avenues to ensure essential needs are met in the face of continued federal inaction. He said the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act will allow U.S. Customs & Border Protection the authority to enter into innovative partnerships with local governments and private sector entities in order to better leverage limited resources to speed up the flow of traffic at international ports of entry.

“In Texas, the overwhelming success of these pilot programs has proven that we can significantly reduce wait times and increase efficiency at our ports of entry,” Cornyn said.

“Increasing opportunities for air, land, and sea ports of entry in Texas and across the country to engage in these partnerships will improve commerce and foster a stronger economy locally and nationally. I thank Representative Cuellar for his work on behalf of this bill in the House and I hope the President will sign it into law soon.”

Cuellar thanked border community leaders and transportation industry stakeholders for their input on the legislation. He said partnerships with local governments and the private sector will support improvements to border infrastructure and enhance staffing levels across port environments.

“I thank Sen. Cornyn for his bipartisan approach in working with me to pass this legislation,” Congressman Cuellar said. “My district includes the largest inland port in the country. 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 extends to the Rio Grande Valley. 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.”

Editor’s Note: Reporter Melva Lavín-Castillo contributed to this story from Laredo, Texas.