TBC urged to support new immigration bill, and land ports of entry bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consultants to the Texas Border Coalition have asked the group’s members if they want to support two new bipartisan pieces of legislation in Congress, one proposing immigration reform and the related to land ports of entry.

The immigration bill is called “The Dignity Act of 2023” and has been filed by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, and U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Republican from Miami, Florida. 

The land ports of entry bill is called the “Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act.” Its joint authors are U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, Texas, Tony Gonzales, a Republican from San Antonio, Texas, Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from McAllen, Texas, Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat from New Mexico, and Escobar.

“TBC is looking to endorse two bipartisan bills related to ports of entry and immigration recently introduced by leaders in the border delegation,” said William K Moore, a Washington, D.C.-based partner with Vianovo, which advises TBC.

“These two proposals answer TBC’s frequent calls for bipartisan action on immigration and ports of entry. While TBC members probably will not agree with every provision, it makes sense to endorse initiatives that respond to our advocacy.”

Moore is asking TBC members to advise him by 5:00 pm Monday if they have any objections to endorsing the proposals.

Former TBC education and workforce development committee chairman Blas Castañeda is urging everyone he knows to support the two bills. “We need your help,” Castañeda said via email. “Please spread the word (about these bills) as this message is being sent all over the country for support.”

The Escobar/Salazar legislation

Vianovo’s Moore said The Dignity Act of 2023 would:

•    Fund border infrastructure and technology without funding a border wall,

•    Increase CBP personnel

•    Codify the new Shelter and Services Program for local governments and non-governmental organizations to assist arriving migrants

•    Provide $10 billion over five years to upgrade ports of entry,

•    Legalize 11 million undocumented persons, create a renewable legal statue for undocumented agricultural workers,

•    Provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers,

•    Reform asylum to emphasize processing in Latin America,

•    Phase in E-verify requirements for businesses,

•    Mandate visa overstay reporting,

•    Reform temporary worker programs (H2-A, H2-B, H4, LPR)

Moore provided a link to a more detailed summary of The Dignity Act of 2023. Click here to read it.

One of the supporters of The Dignity Act of 2023 is El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser. He said:

“In El Paso, we live the effects of our broken immigration system every day. I thank Rep. Veronica Escobar and Rep. María Elvira Salazar for working together on bipartisan immigration reform, which we have needed for decades. 

“The Dignity Act of 2023 addresses critical deficiencies in our immigration system – creating legal asylum, citizenship, and work pathways, while providing much needed funding and workforce for our ports of entry, in a manner palatable to both sides of the aisle. 

“Current policies are not only affecting border communities anymore, but our entire country. It is time for compromise, and it is time to move forward on immigration reform.”

Escobar, pictured above, described the The Dignity Act of 2023 as “historic.” She said it makes “meaningful reforms” to several aspects of the nation’s immigration system.

Escobar listed these bullet points:

  • It manages the border by reforming outdated immigration processes;
  • It ensures Border Patrol agents are back out on the line instead of performing administrative tasks;
  • It invests $10 billion in infrastructure and technology at our land ports of entry;
  • It ensures El Pasoans don’t shoulder the cost of housing migrants by making the Shelter and Services Program permanent;
  • It creates additional pathways to citizenship, including through the new Dignity program, Certified Agricultural Worker status, and an option to pursue citizenship through service in the armed forces for interested Dignity recipients; 
  • It grants legal status to undocumented immigrants already living in the United States with the possibility of earning citizenship; 
  • It establishes new pathways for asylum seekers and creates new regional processing centers in Latin America; 
  • It creates new legal pathways for economic migrants and unaccompanied minors.

“Decades of congressional inaction on immigration law has real consequences, and the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes requires a bipartisan solution,” said Escobar. 

“I have seen the toll our broken immigration system has on federal personnel, local representatives, nonprofits, and the migrants themselves, and the need for a realistic, common-sense compromise could not be more urgent. 

“These challenging times call for both compassion and action, and the Dignity Act of 2023 offers a bipartisan, meaningful approach that restores dignity to people who have tried to navigate a broken system for far too long.”

Escobar added: “With the introduction of this legislation that Representative Salazar and I have been working on since December 2022, it is our hope that Congress seizes the opportunity to solve the immigration challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Rep. Salazar said The Dignity Act of 2023 consists of four core principles: (1) stopping illegal immigration; (2) providing a dignified solution for undocumented immigrants living in America; (3) strengthening the American workforce and economy; and (4) ensuring the United States remain prosperous and competitive in the future.

The Florida Republican said The Dignity Act is based on the biblical principles of Dignity and Redemption. She said it would restore law and order to the nation’s immigration system and support American workers. 

Salazar said the bill was written in consultation with American businesses leaders, agriculture and farming industries, the faith-based community, immigration reform groups, and border security experts.

“Our broken immigration system is frustrating Americans, causing people to suffer, and fracturing our country — economically, morally, socially, and politically. A solution is long overdue,” Salazar said. “I am proud to introduce the new and improved, bipartisan Dignity Act. This bill gives dignity to the border agents who need support, the job creators who need employees, the American people who need secure borders, and those who currently live in the shadows.”

The Cuellar/Gonzales/Escobar/Gonzalez/Vasquez legislation

Vianovo’s Moore said the Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act. would establish a trust fund that will be used to:

(1)    construct new ports of entry,

(2)    expand and improve existing ports of entry,

(3)    procure technology for inspecting and processing traffic passing through ports of entry, and

(4)    hire U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff.

Moore said it would also establish a Land Port of Entry Modernization Oversight Board to advise the Department of Homeland Security on how to use the trust fund and to review the trust fund’s expenditures.

He said the trust fund money would derive from customs and immigration user fees and surcharges that would theoretically be backfilled by annual appropriations.

Moore provided a link to a more detailed summary of the Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act. Click here to read it.

U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz, a Republican from McAllen, is the only member of Congress from the Texas-Mexico border region that has not signed on to the Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act.

The Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act has won the support of the Border Trade Alliance. Its president, Britton Mullen said: 

“The Border Trade Alliance applauds Rep. Cuellar and this bipartisan group of lawmakers for prioritizing the needs of our land ports of entry. Modern, properly resourced ports of entry are essential to the economic health of the entire country. We look forward to working with Rep. Cuellar and the cosponsors to see this important legislation through to passage.”

The legislation has also won the support of the Texas Trucking Association. Its president and CEO, John D. Esparza said:

“The Port of Laredo is the number 1 inland port along the US-Mexico Border, with more than 5.5 million trucks crossing the border in 2022. In order to keep up with the growing volume of freight crossing the border daily, it’s essential we invest funds into improving and expanding infrastructure at ports of entry across Texas, as well as along our nation’s borders more broadly. Mexico is and will continue to be our top trading partner – we must plan for reliable and dependable infrastructure to be in place. We applaud Congressman Henry Cuellar, a true champion of the trucking industry, for his forward thinking in planning for increased demand, versus reacting to it once it’s too late.”

The five members of Congress who authored the Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act said it would establish a trust fund that would be used to (1) construct new ports of entry, (2) expand and improve existing ports of entry, (3) procure technology for inspecting and processing traffic passing through ports of entry, and (4) hire U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will also establish the Land Port of Entry Modernization Oversight Board to advise DHS on how to use the trust fund and to review the trust fund’s expenditures.

The five authors of the legislation have all offered comment. 

Rep. Cuellar said:

“While waterway-based ports of entry have long had the benefit of a consistent source of federal resources via the authorization of a similar trust fund, our overburdened land-based ports of entry have struggled. The LPOE Modernization Trust Fund Act is needed to properly redistribute much needed resources to LPOE facilities and to ensure the United States’ long-term economic prosperity through international trade.

“The LPOE Trust Fund will expand, improve, and construct new U.S. ports of entry and support infrastructure to accommodate high volumes of commercial, vehicle, and pedestrian traffic. It will also help critical transit and trade facilities more efficiently complete the inspection and processing of commercial, vehicle, and pedestrian traffic. I applaud my fellow border colleagues for working together in a bipartisan manner to support crucial investments in our land port infrastructure.”

Rep. Gonzales said:

“Land ports of entry do not just serve as the frontlines for defending against illicit smuggling of drugs and other contraband – they are essential to facilitating international trade and boosting our nation’s economy. The Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act will ensure there are resources available solely dedicated to making much needed improvements to our nation’s land ports of entry infrastructure. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues across the aisle to introduce this important legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Rep. Escobar said:

“The infrastructure at our ports of entry is in dire need of upgrades. We live in a country where our airports are revered in our communities, offering world-class customer service without sacrificing comfort or security; I want that same sentiment expressed when it comes to our ports. I’m thrilled to join my fellow co-sponsors of this legislation to use funds to make the necessary investments to modernize the technology and infrastructure at our ports.”

Rep. Gonzalez said:

“South Texas is one of the main arteries for trade and tourism in the nation, but its ports of entry sorely need to be expanded and updated to accommodate the travel demand and increasing traffic in the region.

“I’m proud to partner with Congressman Cuellar to advance legislation that would provide federal funding to adequately staff, update, and create additional ports of entry in the United States. We have made historic investments in our nation’s infrastructure in recent years, and we can’t let our land ports of entry fall by the wayside any longer.”

Rep. Vasquez said: 

“The benefits of modernizing the ports of entry in New Mexico, like the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, are undeniable with cutting edge x-ray technology allowing ports to scan every commercial vehicle crossing into the U.S. border. I’m proud to introduce legislation that supports our land ports of entry and border communities.”

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