WESLACO, Texas – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has been asked to help get international ports of entry in South Texas open again to Mexican shoppers and tourists.
The border bridges have been closed to Mexican visa holders since late March, in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Cruz appeared on a webinar hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. While much of the focus was on the impact of COVID-19, there was also questions about infrastructure funding, schools reopening and a relief package in Congress.
The question about Mexican shoppers and tourists was authored by veteran broadcaster Ron Whitlock. He framed the question this way:
“In a recent podcast we aired, Dennis Nixon, president of IBC Bank warned that the border region’s economy would collapse if the border bridges were not re-opened to Mexican visa holders. A visit to downturn Brownsville will show his prediction is accurate. The place is dead.
“As you know, Senator, our Valley’s retail economy depends greatly on Mexican shoppers and tourists visiting SPI, shopping in our malls, eating in our restaurants and staying in our hotels.
“Our bridges have been closed since late March. What are you doing to persuade the Administration to reopen our Valley ports of entry to Mexican shoppers and tourists?”
Sergio Contreras, president of RGVP, recalibrated the question and pitched it to Cruz. The senator responded:
“It has obviously been a big challenge and the Valley does so much commerce with Mexico. It is a huge economic engine. We started the year with a big victory. For those of us who believe in trade and free trade and fair trade, and I am a proponent, a strong proponent, of international trade, we started with a big victory with the passage and signing of the USMCA, the U.S-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“As you all know, I worked very closely with you guys and with Texans across the state to build support for the USMCA. It took a lot of effort to to get the support in Congress to get behind that agreement. It was an important victory. I think it will produce real economic benefits for the Valley and for Texas and for the country.
“Unfortunately, shortly after that was when COVID hit. That has imposed an enormous burden in terms of dramatically reducing traffic and commerce as well. What I would say is we have to follow medical science and reasonable prudence. We obviously want to limit the spread of the disease. We have seen in recent months in South Texas, some of the infection rates going up. That has obviously concerned me. I know you guys are concerned about it. I’m certainly concerned about it.
“So, there is a balance where you want to keep people safe but at the same time we need to make sure we are allowing our economy to survive and people’s families to have the resources they need. And so what I would say is it is a balance. We certainly hope the more Mexico sees progress in its own COVID rates and COVID numbers, the more we are confident we are able to have cross border traffic without a significant risk of increasing the virus levels, I think the more you will see commerce grow, but that is going to take time before officials have confidence in that.”
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