Congress Promoting New Cross Border Trade Bill

by Luis Montoya – Rio Grande Guardian

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.”

Presidio Port of Entry Project Underway

PRESIDIO, TX (KWES) –

Presidio officials said they want to find a way to stop being what they call.. the “forgotten” city, in order to do so they’re looking for ways to re-build their economy.

The renovated port of entry is Presidio’s big project right now. The city of Presidio said it’s been under discussion, now it’s finally happening.
Presidio currently has only one bridge with two way traffic, officials said this causes a headache for drivers during the busy times and are ready to start construction on the new port of entry.

“For the city of Presidio it’s an economic advantage,” said Marco Baeza, City Administrator for Presidio. “Currently our commercial traffic, we have problems with it, we have concerns with it.”

The city of Presidio said the problem is there’s not enough traffic. The current bridge has two way traffic, that’s why tourist are choosing different routes such as St. Teresa and El Paso.

The new bridge will accommodate southbound traffic and the current route will be for northbound traffic only. The city said they’re preparing for the holidays, that’s when they see the most traffic.

“For the last couple of years it’s been a big concern, at one point we had traffic that was backed up for miles,” said Baeza. “In the last few years the city has come out and offered water to the motorists, we have come out and put portable bathrooms out.”

Full Story at KTRE

Conference to Look at Border’s Future

Rolando Pablos, Guest columnist

“Bring a valid passport.” It is not every conference that reminds all guests to make sure they pack their passport, but the U.S.-Mexico Border Summit is not just any conference.

The summit, which will be hosted in El Paso and Juárez Aug. 3-6, is both regional and international.

Bringing together participants from our binational, tri-state North American Borderplex as well as business and government leaders from other communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, it creates an opportunity for attendees to engage in a timely, candid conversation about the challenges and opportunities along the border and to discover opportunities for collaboration.

Structured around the theme #OneBorder, this year’s summit recognizes and builds on recent efforts by The Borderplex Alliance and leaders from other border regions, to create a broad coalition to speak with one voice about issues affecting the U.S.-Mexico border. The coalition knows that with a united voice, we can better leverage regional expertise to influence policy debates on both sides of the border.

Conference attendees will have a chance to learn more about the #OneBorder efforts and take part in helping its agenda take shape. With speakers at the summit representing business, government, and community leaders from the CaliBaja Binational Mega-Region (which spans the California/Baja California border); Arizona; New Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, we know this summit will help to further #OneBorder’s collaborative efforts and grow its partnership opportunities.

Discussion sessions will cover a range of topics including balancing trade and security at the border, advancing innovation and entrepreneurship, developing a region or border-wide manufacturing supply chain, improving the quality of life in communities along the border, and managing life on the border in an election year.

With such timely topics driving the discourse, the summit is likely to spur creative and innovative ways we can all come together to tackle shared challenges and expand our potential.

More Details at El Paso Times

New Interstate Among Transportation Projects for West Texas?

The fight to fund road projects in West Texas is a never-ending battle, but Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance (MOTRAN) President James Beauchamp offered Midlanders news from the front lines Tuesday.

Speaking at the Petroleum Museum Brown Bag Lunch and Lecture Series, Beauchamp offered updates on existing projects, insights into forthcoming projects and shared what he considers the biggest issues facing West Texas transportation.

The following are highlights of Beauchamp’s MOTRAN update:

NEW DPS CENTER

Midlanders and Odessans long have struggled with long wait times at their respective Department of Public Safety offices to handle driver’s license issues. Beauchamp said plans are in the works to merge the Midland and Odessa facilities and that the new “mega-center” will be located somewhere between the cities.

Beauchamp said the new facility will have more lines than the current two centers combined and that six additional workers will be hired. The mega-center will allow residents to make appointments by smartphone. Participants will receive appointment notices on their phones, eliminating the need to wait extended periods of time at the facility.

The mega-center also will have greater accommodations for CDL testing.

Beauchamp said bids and proposals have been taken and that a decision will be made shortly.

DPS public information officer Trooper Justin Baker was unable to confirm the decision to merge the centers into a mega-center nor add any details by press time.

MEXICO AND NATURAL GAS

The grandest project is the continued work on La Entrada al Pacifico, a “state and federally designated trade corridor from Texas to Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico, and continuing to the Mexican Pacific port of Topolobampo in the Mexican state of Sinaloa,” according to a description on the MOTRAN website.

Beauchamp said this trade route to the Pacific Ocean, combined with international pipeline projects, will be critical to the Mexican and Midland-Odessa economies by opening opportunities to sell and export natural gas.

Here in oil country, natural gas is an afterthought because of the limited market for the resource. “But in Mexico, we have opportunities,” he said. “No. 1, they are converting their power plants in Mexico to natural gas. That will be completed in late 2017 to 2018. So, that’s a tremendous natural gas market for us.”

Read About Interstate at Midland Reporter Telegram

Remaking Space Flight on the West Texas Landscape

After Blue Origin completed the third flight of its New Shepard launch system on Saturday, the spaceflight community applauded the effort. And on Sunday, after video emerged showing the dramatic firing of its engines just before the rocket would have struck the ground, the response was again approbation. This third test in a little more than four months demonstrated that Blue Origin has continued to progress toward its goal of launch, land, and repeat—the holy grail of low-cost spaceflight.

But among the cheers were also a few mutterings. What does it matter if all Jeff Bezos is going to do is take rich people on joy rides, some said. Or, if researchers want to do suborbital experiments, can’t they get those done in conventional aircraft flying parabolas? Others have complained that New Shepard’s propulsion module is relatively small and has only a single engine, and flying to suborbital space requires a fraction of the energy that getting into orbit does. In short, some critics say Bezos is just dabbling at the edges of space, not doing the hard stuff of going all the way.

This may all be true, but it misses the point. Much like Mercury represented America’s first tentative steps into outer space, so does New Shepard represent only a beginning for the company. New Shepard, after all, is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space who rode inside a Mercury capsule. It may or may not succeed, but Blue Origin aspires to be much more. It’s trying to build a scalable, reusable architecture from the ground up, and that takes time.

Reusability is the thing

Earlier this year, Ars visited Blue Origin’s rocket factory, and we had a chance to discuss the company’s ambitions with Bezos on Blue Origin’s factory floor. Bezos explained that he has built his company, from the beginning, around lowering the cost of access to space. Initially, he hoped to find a better way than chemical rockets to blast people off the surface of the Earth, but as yet no technology exists. And so Blue Origin has focused on making chemical rockets cost as little as possible, and that means reusing them.

Full Story at ARS Technica

Separated by a River, United by a Bridge

El Paso Times

Growing up on the border meant spending countless Sunday afternoons locked in an idle car, sometimes for hours, until it was our turn to say “American.”

Before crossing the international bridge back home to El Paso, we had spent the day at grandma’s house on the hill in Juárez. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends from both sides of the border would come together there every weekend. EVERYweekend.

Inside the blue adobe three-room house was a tiendita, or little store, where neighbors came to buy groceries, assorted candy, sodas in glass bottles, caguamas Carta Blanca and raspas in many flavors. The raspa, or shaved ice, soaked in lemon and sprinkled with powdered chili known as the changito was the greatest.

Corn tortillas and bolillo bread warmed up on the wood stove in the kitchen as our mothers sliced blocks of cheese and loaves of bologna. Abuela, or ‘Buelita as we called her, made salsa on the molcajete — the mortar and pestle made of volcanic stone.

The younger cousins hid in the armoire, or ropero as we knew it, in the combination bedroom-living room area during a game of hide-and-seek. The oldest ones sat on the counter at the tiendita listening to Menudo and Michael Jackson on the boom box.

Grandpa listened to novelas and soccer matches on his radio, and waved his cane around at all the commotion. ‘Buelita tied on her white apron and colorful head scarf as she shouted at everyone to settle down and go outdoors.

Full Story at El Paso Times

New Truck Inspection Program to Reduce Border Congestion

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — U.S. authorities began working Tuesday on Mexican soil for the first time to inspect trucks bound from Tijuana to the United States as part of a new enforcement program intended to reduce congestion and speed cargo across one of the nation’s busiest border crossings.

The joint inspections by U.S. and Mexican officials were launched after Mexican lawmakers overcame resistance and approved changes to the country’s firearms law to permit foreign customs and immigration officials to be armed on the job.

“The benefit is very simple — avoid double inspection,” Mexican Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray said at the joint facility in Tijuana’s Mesa de Otay section, a few blocks from the crossing.

The impact was difficult to gauge as U.S. and Mexican officials marked the occasion by letting a shipment of strawberries head to San Diego.

Trial runs last week cut waiting times in half, said Arazeli Penilla, compliance officer at Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc.

More at Houston Chronicle

 

The Border: A Model of Cooperation

by State Sen. Jose’ Rodriguez

The Borderplex region — El Paso, Juarez and Southern New Mexico — is unique in its size, location and proximity. El Paso, the 19th-largest city in the United States, and Juarez, the fifth-largest city in Mexico, are separated by the Rio Grande, which is no wider than a freeway. This region is known as the Paso del Norte (Pass of the North), the gap in the Southern Rockies where year-round, east-west and north-south passage is possible.

Like other border communities, the Borderplex is a hub of activity where residents of the United States and Mexico live, work, and play in close proximity, and where language, culture, social life and businesses interact. Each of these communities has its own flavor, whether it’s the sprawl from San Diego to Tijuana, El Paso and its symbiosis with Juárez, or the South Texas communities and their neighbors in Mexico across the widening, brush-trimmed Rio Grande as it flows southeast, meets the broad river delta, and joins the Gulf of Mexico.

Billions of dollars in commercial goods are created in and cross through these southern border communities, which are home to millions of residents. However, the infrastructure to support the trade, and more importantly, the people, has not kept pace with the growth.

This growth has accelerated since the 1990s, specifically, following the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In that agreement, it was acknowledged that industrial and population growth put pressure on the land, water and air of border communities. To address that, the North American Development Bank (NADB) and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) were created in 1994 to identify, fund and develop projects that would address the environmental and infrastructure needs in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Full Commentary at McAllen Monitor

Is There a Border Industrial Complex?

Border walls are the instruments of last resort in the armory of geopolitics. Their current proliferation on a global scale is an expression of failed diplomacy in response to conflict, persecution, and migration.

The Wall between Mexico and the US is now deeply ensconced in the consciousness of communities on both sides of the international boundary line. In the fortifications’ shadows lie the armies of law enforcement, equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry and advanced surveillance technologies. Behind them lurk an archipelago of detention, prosecution, and deportation facilities, all part of a justice system pressed into service for the “Border Industrial Complex” (BIC).

The facts about the fortification of the US-Mexico border are well-documented. The BIC is less well-known, but as pressures increase for even stronger border control measures, all citizens should be alert to the dangers posed by the unchecked growth of the BIC juggernaut.

Full Story at Huffington Post

Border Super Delegation Being Formed to Influence Washington

Discussions are underway to have a large delegation of elected officials, business and economic development leaders from San Diego to Brownsville and Tijuana to Matamoros visit Washington, D.C., and Mexico City on an annual basis.

Supporters of the initiative believe such a delegation would present a unified voice with a strong message about the issues that really matter along the U.S.-Mexico border region. They say U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rouke of El Paso put it best when he recently said: “When we fail to define the border to the rest of the world, to the folks in Washington, D.C., or Mexico City, we allow them to define the border for us.”

Informal discussions about a united border delegation making annual trips to the capitols of the U.S. and Mexico took place early last month when a handful of Rio Grande Valley leaders visited San Diego. On the trip were U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, Keith Patridge, president and CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation, Carlos Margo, executive officer of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative, and Mike Gonzalez, executive director of United Brownsville.

Gonzalez participated in further discussions in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, after he spoke on a panel discussion at the Wilson Center. The panel focused on a new report titled ‘Competitive Border Communities: Mapping and Developing U.S.-Mexico Transborder Industries.’ It was authored jointly by the Mexico Institute and North American Research Partnership.

Support from San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce


“We have been doing this for ten years. We brought 150 of our members and government leaders to D.C. to advocate for us, for a wide range of issues, from healthcare, military and defense, workforce development, energy and water, housing, transportation, and cross-border trade. It is really impressive. Each year when we come to D.C. and Mexico City our delegation keeps growing. One hundred and fifty this year. That is 20 more than we had last year,” Avila said, during the panel discussion.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Avila pointed out, has 2,500 members and includes 40 smaller local chambers. It represents companies of all sizes, from those with just two employees all the way up to Fortune 500 entities. Among its members are companies based in Mexico.

Full Story at Rio Grande Guardian