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.