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Home | Tag Archives: trump’s border

Tag Archives: trump’s border

Long delays at border bridges bring anxiety for businesses as Holy Week begins

It took Ciudad Juárez resident Norma Martinez about 90 minutes just to get halfway through the pedestrian line at the Paso Del Norte Bridge bridge Saturday afternoon on her way to shop for clothes, umbrellas and other goods she resells at her store across the Rio Grande. She said her young son’s feet began to hurt, so the people in front of her allowed her to skip ahead.

Otherwise, she said, they probably would have waited more than two hours to get through U.S. Customs. Normally, Martinez said the line is about 30 or 45 minutes.

She’s just one of the thousands of border residents that have been forced to grapple with a drastic increase in bridge wait times after President Donald Trump’s latest effort address a growing influx of immigrants — many of them Central American families with children — who cross the border to seek asylum.

The Department of Homeland Security said last month it was redirecting 750 Customs and Border Protection officers from the ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego to assist U.S. Border Patrol agents in processing undocumented immigrants. The reassignments have caused massive delays at international bridges for pedestrian, vehicular and cargo traffic in the weeks leading up to Holy Week.

That has merchants concerned about how the administration’s decision to pull hundreds of agents away from their duties at the international bridges will impact the city’s retail sector — especially now at the beginning of Holy Week, one of the busiest seasons for cross-border shopping.

“We are really concerned. Historically Mexican nationals shop a lot during the holidays, especially with the Easter holidays right around the corner,” said Cindy Ramos-Davidson, the CEO of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Shoppers in downtown El Paso on April 12, 2019. Julian Aguilar/The Texas Tribune

Jon Barela, the CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico, said Mexican shoppers are responsible for 15 to 30 percent of El Paso’s retail trade, depending on the time of year.

And since federal officials pulled agents from bridge duty, Ramos-Davidson said average wait times for passenger vehicles at El Paso’s international bridges have reached 160 minutes or more, about three times the normal wait.

She said international travelers, mainly from Ciudad Juárez or Chihuahua City, will still likely brave the long lines, but they might decide that shopping is less of a priority than visiting family. The chamber, which has 1,300 members in the El Paso area, recently conducted research and found that more than 50 percent of Mexican tourists won’t cross only to shop if wait times are more than about 45 minutes, she added.

After making it across the bridge Saturday with her son, Martinez said she’ll likely cut back on the number of trips they make to shop in Texas.

“After what we saw today we’d probably think more about making the trip,” she said. “Maybe we’ll come once a month” instead of two or three times.

Commercial industries are also going to feel the effects of the slowdown, Barela said, due to the time tractor-trailers have to spend in line. One business member of the Borderplex Alliance that supplies metal to factories in Ciudad Juárez is operating at about 30 percent of his normal output because of the wait times, Barela said. The employer even had to send some employees home at the height of the slowdown, when according to Barela, wait times reached about 12 hours at some ports.

He said he’s hoping Congress will come together and find the will to reform the nation’s immigration system when it realizes the situation not only affects the border, but industries nationwide.

“Sometimes you need a crisis to encourage people to act and that’s where we’re at right now,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said last week that 545 of the 750 reassigned CBP officers were from the Laredo field office, which has significantly challenged the remaining officers in his district. The Laredo customs district is the country’s No. 1 inland port and saw about $229 billion in two-way trade in 2018. That was followed by the El Paso customs district at about $77.4 billion.

Cuellar said he met with incoming U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez last week and urged him to replace the reassigned officers with supplemental officers from other South Texas field offices.

“We look forward to the arrival of sufficient CBP reinforcements within the week. Congress must work with the Administration to create a strong immigration framework, which can process migrants without sacrificing U.S. commerce,” he said in a statement.

After threatening to close the border with Mexico over the influx of undocumented immigrants, Trump backed off last week and said instead he will impose tariffs on imported automobiles next year if the Mexican government did nothing to stop the flow of migrants.

“[Closing the bridges] is off the table now, but what anxiety does it create in the market? Will people try to rush things into the market before the bridges close?” said Ken Roberts, the president of WorldCity, Inc. a Florida-based company that analyzes trade data and business trends. “That creates traffic on the border. The biggest factor is the uncertainty.”

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Cornyn Urges Acting DHS Secretary to Prioritize Efficiency of Trade, Travel at Texas Ports of Entry

WASHINGTON— On Wednesday U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan urging him to prioritize efficiency at Texas’ ports of entry as he develops a strategy to address the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border:

“The diversion of frontline CBP personnel from these ports, and the threat of a possible closure in the future, threatens to have a debilitating impact on the overall health of Texas’ economy,” Sen. Cornyn wrote.

“Some Texas ports of entry have reported cross-border wait times in excess of seven hours, resulting in lost revenue and perished goods. In the coming days, many individuals on both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border will begin to celebrate the Semana Santa holiday, a time of historically increased travel which will result in further strains and likely increased wait times at our most active land border crossings.

“As you develop a long-term strategy to deal with the concerning trends on our southern border, I ask that you strongly consider all available options at your disposal to ensure that Texas’ ports of entries may operate as efficiently as possible. The legitimate trade and travel coming through those arteries not only impacts the economies of both Texas’ border region and state, but also the flow of goods throughout the entire nation.”

***

Full text of the letter is below.

***

April 10, 2019

The Honorable Kevin McAleenan

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20229

 

Dear Acting Secretary McAleenan:

I am writing to you today to express my deep concern regarding the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border. I share your desire to secure our nation’s border and stem the flow of illegal immigration, while also ensuring the free flow of legitimate trade and commerce.

In response to the current situation on our southern border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) circulated a memorandum on April 1, 2019, outlining a new operation to address the ongoing crisis. This memorandum directed the temporary reassignment of personnel and resources from across Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) organization (many of which were assigned to southern land ports of entry) to process arriving immigrants and asylum seekers. Many of these officers, who had been working tirelessly to process perishable goods and travelers, have now been faced with managing a national migrant crisis. I strongly agree the current trends at our southern border are unsustainable and I recognize the severe strain this increase in apprehensions and asylum claims has put on our men and women in uniform. While I support CBP’s unwavering effort to effectively meet its mandate, I am gravely concerned about the consequences that the recently announced diversion of resources is having on our nation’s ports of entry.

As you know, the State of Texas is home to 29 air, land, and sea ports of entry – more than any other state in the nation. Many of these ports of entry, particularly those on our shared border with Mexico, are some of the busiest ports in terms passenger and vehicle processing volume in the United States. The diversion of frontline CBP personnel from these ports, and the threat of a possible closure in the future, threatens to have a debilitating impact on the overall health of Texas’ economy. Some Texas ports of entry have reported cross-border wait times in excess of seven hours, resulting in lost revenue and perished goods. In the coming days, many individuals on both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border will begin to celebrate the Semana Santa holiday, a time of historically increased travel which will result in further strains and likely increased wait times at our most active land border crossings.

As you develop a long-term strategy to deal with the concerning trends on our southern border, I ask that you strongly consider all available options at your disposal to ensure that Texas’ ports of entries may operate as efficiently as possible. The legitimate trade and travel coming through those arteries not only impacts the economies of both Texas’ border region and state, but also the flow of goods throughout the entire nation.

Thank you for your continued service to our nation. I look forward to working with you moving forward to address the problems that our CBP personnel continue to face on a daily basis.

Sincerely,

/s/

 

Reps. Cuellar, Escobar Introduce Resolution Condemning Trump’s Threat to Shut Down Border

WASHINGTON— Representatives Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Veronica Escobar (TX-16) introduced H.R. 287, a resolution condemning President Trump’s recent threat to shut down the United States-Mexico border.

“Any potential closure of the border would cause extensive economic harm to U.S. markets and sever the bilateral trade relationship between the two countries,” the Reps shared via a Thursday morning news release.

Original co-sponsors of this resolution included Representatives Filemon Vela (TX-34), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), and Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).

Every day, both the U.S. and Mexico work cooperatively to secure the shared border and facilitate the efficient flow of goods and tourism, while curtailing the illicit flow of drugs, people, arms, and cash at ports of entry.

These operations serve as the backbone of bilateral interconnectedness— closing down any one of the ports of entry, let alone the whole border, would have a myriad of unintended and irreparable economic, diplomatic, cultural, and humanitarian consequences.

Congressman Henry Cuellar said, “Shutting down the border would have disastrous consequences for both the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. depends on Mexico for 60% of its produce, meaning that many Americans look to Mexico for access to healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, tourism between the two countries relies heavily upon the smooth operation of border infrastructure at ports of entry. In 2016 alone, spending by Mexican tourists in the U.S. totaled $20.3 billion. Furthermore, nearly five million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico, making it crucial to these domestic workers that the border remain open.”

He continued, “This resolution sends a clear message that we strongly oppose closing the U.S.-Mexico border. Shutting down the entire border would not only severely disrupt the flow of goods, but it would also hamper tourism and create economic chaos for both economies. We will continue to fight any executive action that stands to harm our economy and trade relations.” 

“President Trump’s reckless behavior is a true national crisis. Shutting down the border will absolutely devastate our economy; continuing to withhold aid to Central America will only increase the number of refugees at our doorstep; and, the cruelty of his approach to asylum-seeking families in pursuit of the American Dream is a violation of human rights and only makes a challenge much worse,” said Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.

“This resolution demonstrates that the American people and the U.S. House of Representatives will strongly stand against any attempts to close our southern border, sabotage our efforts to address the root causes of migration, and strip away due process and humane treatment for those seeking a better life.”

Full text of the resolution can be found here.

Offering Few Details, President Trump Asserts End to “Catch and Release”; Promises Tent Cities to Hold Migrants

President Donald Trump on Thursday doubled down on his intent to militarize and fortify the border against a caravan of Central American asylum-seekers slowly making their way toward the United States, saying his administration recently did away with “catch and release” for undocumented immigrants and plans to erect tents to hold future border crossers — including their children — until their immigration cases are resolved.

Trump offered no details on how his administration would be able to indefinitely hold families for long periods and still comply with a court settlement known as the Flores agreement that limits how long undocumented minors can be detained by the government. He also didn’t provide details on the number or location of the tents but said they’re necessary to stop a coming “invasion” of migrants.

“These illegal caravans will not be allowed into the United States and they should turn back now,” Trump said. “We’re putting up massive cities of tents, the military is helping us incredibly well.”

He also said any asylum seeker who throws rocks at U.S. military personnel will be considered to be carrying a weapon.

“Anybody throwing stones, rocks like they did to Mexico, and the Mexican military…we will consider that a firearm,” he said.

But despite Trump’s claim of ending catch and release, a shelter director in El Paso said just hours before the president’s speech that he was alerted by immigration authorities that more than 300 immigrants would be released into the El Paso community because Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials don’t have the space to detain the immigrants after they apply for asylum.

A current tent facility in Tornillo was recently expanded to hold 3,800 immigrants, up from the 400 or so the facility held earlier this year. That facility is designated as a holding center for unaccompanied minors who cross into the U.S. illegally.

It was the latest in a series of presidential declarations about immigration in the runup to Tuesday’s midterm elections. Last week, Trump said he was contemplating an executive order to end birthright citizenship — although constitutional experts say the president doesn’t have that power — then announced a military deployment to the southern border that started with a promise of 5,200 troops and has since increased.

Catherine Tactaquin, executive director for the California-based National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the move to send troops to the border is an “election-period stunt” that carries severe implications for border communities.

“There are well-documented cases of an increase in racial profiling, stress and tension” when troops are sent the border, Tactaquin said. “You can imagine what that kind of [military] presence can mean.”

The military operation, which has been dubbed “Faithful Patriot” will send between 7,000 and 15,000 troops to the U.S-Mexico border, 2,000 of whom are either en route or are already in Texas, according to federal officials. A Department of Defense fact sheet on the operation provided to The Texas Tribune shows that soldiers will be deployed from at least nine states and more than a dozen military installations to “coordinate operation, engineering, medical, and logistic support” with the Department of Homeland Security.

Along the border, the arrival of active duty military forces is making some residents nervous.

Bishop Garrison, an Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and currently serves as the interim executive director of the Truman National Security Project, a progressive policy think tank, was stationed at El Paso’s Fort Bliss during his military service. He said border residents have a reason to worry about their cities turning into militarized zones in the coming days.

“It’s hard for anyone to say with any complete certainty that we will see ‘Red Dawn’ or we’ll see something more akin to a training exercise, we really don’t know,” Garrison said, referring to the 1980s movie in which a tranquil Colorado town becomes a war zone after a foreign invasion. “To think we need the military to step in and handle this in any way, without even fully knowing what the issue is at hand, is absolutely ludicrous. I can only imagine how stressful and scary this might be.”

Bishop said the mission outlined in the Defense Department fact sheet seems intentionally broad, “because they don’t know what kind of issues they are going to encounter,” he said. “Anything could pop up that they would need to then argue that they had authorization to do or to handle.”

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said previous deployments of the National Guard and state troopers to the Rio Grande Valley created a negative image of border communities as “unsafe.”

“The publicity of the National Guard and Department of Public Safety and the politics of saying, ‘I’m going to protect the border,’ the main effect to me is hurting local border communities,” Darling said. “The border crisis is really a crisis of our immigration policy and foreign policies in Central America.”

In nearby Progreso, a small town on the Rio Grande, chain-link gates have been installed on the pedestrian walkways of an international bridge connecting the town with Nuevo Progreso, Mexico.

B&P Bridge Company, which owns the crossing, put up the gates Saturday after being approached by Customs and Border Protection, said Julie Guerra-Ramirez, the company’s bridge director.

“By no means was it a mandate,” she said. “It’s all in preparation in case the caravan decides to come this way. All we’re doing is taking precautions.”

Sandra Cavazos, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection’s office on the bridge, declined to comment about the installation of the gates.

As the migrant caravan makes its way through southern Mexico, migrants who have already reached the border have recently started camping out on the international bridge connecting El Paso and Juarez as they wait to present themselves at the port of entry and request asylum. Customs and Border Protection officials have been stationed at the bridge for months and have routinely turned back would-be asylum seekers before they cross the international boundary. Agency officials say that’s because they don’t have room to process the influx of immigrants seeking safe haven.

Garrison, the El Paso military analyst, said trade and everyday cross-border travel at the international bridges could be affected by the troop deployment.

During a press conference announcing the operation on Monday, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said his agency would try to “maintain lawful trade and travel to the greatest extent possible.” But Garrison said it’s unlikely that daily commerce won’t be affected.

“I am incredulous, I find that very hard to believe,” he said.

Texas would be the hardest hit by any slowdown. From January to August of this year, the Laredo customs district, which includes the Rio Grande Valley, has processed more than $153 billion in two-way trade with Mexico, according to WorldCity, a Florida-based company that analyzes trade data. The El Paso district, which includes New Mexico, has processed almost $52 billion.

U.S. Rep Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said he doesn’t expect the military deployment to affect cross-border trade in his district.

“I don’t see it happening,” he said. “Trade has a lot of influence and I think the day that trade is impacted, the president and the administration on the other side of the aisle will have their own pressure to deal with from large corporations, from the energy sector to agriculture. I think you’ll see a change of policy just from that pressure.”

Hannah Wiley and Teo Armus contributed to this story.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

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