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Home | Tag Archives: trump’s wall

Tag Archives: trump’s wall

Trump backs off tariff threat, says Mexico will help stem tide of Central American migrants headed for U.S.

President Donald Trump announced Friday evening that his administration has reached a deal with the Mexican government over immigration and the punitive tariffs he threatened to impose on Mexican imports have been postponed indefinitely.

“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico. The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended,” he tweeted. “Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”

The deal includes the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols program across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson. The controversial program requires some migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings. The United States said on Friday that with the expansion, it will work to speed up adjudication of asylum claims and removal proceedings.

That program began in California in January and was expanded to the El Paso ports of entries in March. It’s drawn the ire of immigrant rights groups and immigration attorneys who argue the policy affects an immigrant’s ability to have adequate representation because shelter space is limited in Mexico and it’s unclear where their clients are staying.

Lawyers also say their clients face threats and have expressed fear of living in border cities that are prone to violence.

Mexico will also deploy units of its national guard throughout the country, with an emphasis on its southern border, and will make greater efforts to address human trafficking and smuggling.

“Additionally, the United States and Mexico commit to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including information sharing and coordinated actions to better protect and secure our common border,” according to the statement.

The State Department added that if “expected” results are not reached, both countries will take further actions and will continue to discuss the issue over the next few months. The statement did not give exact benchmarks for what the Trump administration would consider success on Mexico’s part.

The news brought relief to Texas lawmakers and economists from both sides of the aisle who had urged the White House to reconsider the use of tariffs, citing the long-term economic damage Texas would incur.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, cheered the decision and congratulated the president on reaching a “solid agreement.” Brady, the the ranking member on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, said last week the tariffs could have jeopardized the pending United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade pact seen by some lawmakers and economists as a much-needed improvement to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The outcome is a strong win for Texas and America. I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass USMCA without delay so that American companies and workers can reap the benefits of this updated and modernized agreement,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he was pleased with the agreement.

“I am optimistic that this announcement will bring confidence back to Americans,” he said.

Jon Barela — CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico — called the announcement “great news”.

“Uncertainty is the enemy of jobs, investment, and economic development. Congratulations to the negotiators in the U.S. and Mexico for their efforts to protect the borders and promote job growth and prosperity,” he said. “Predictability, free trade, and secure borders are not mutually exclusive concepts.”

The tariffs were scheduled to begin June 10 and Trump said he would increase them to as high as 25% by October if Mexico didn’t do more to stem the tide of migrationthrough that country by immigrants whose ultimate destination is the United States.

This week Customs and Border Protection announced that in May about 133,000 migrants were apprehended or surrendered to border agents on the southwest border. Approximately 11,400 more were deemed inadmissible at ports of entry. The total represents an increase of about 32% from April.

The tariff threat came after Mexico recently became the United States’ largest trading partner, though it has been Texas’ top trade partner for several years. Through March, more than $150 billion in trade passed through the countries’ ports, according to trade data analyzed by WorldCity. The U.S. exported $63.95 billion worth of goods and imported $86.63 billion worth of goods from Mexico. Texas’ ports at Laredo and El Paso are the the two busiest on the border, with $55.8 and $18.6 billion passing through those regions during that time frame.

Read related Tribune coverage

Abby Livingston contributed to this story.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Migrant apprehensions continue to surge on Texas-Mexico border

The surge of unauthorized migration that has the U.S. Border Patrol sounding alarm bells continues to rise to modern-day records, according to government statistics released Wednesday.

Across the southwest border, about 133,000 migrants were apprehended or surrendered to border agents on the southwest border in May, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Approximately 11,400 more were deemed inadmissible at ports of entry. The total represents an increase of about 32% from April.

The El Paso and Rio Grande Valley areas continue to see the largest influx of migrants — the vast majority of whom were unaccompanied minors or families from Central America who are seeking asylum in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Del Rio area is becoming the latest hot spot for migrants; agents in that sector have also seen apprehensions increase by the thousands each month.

About 49,880 migrants crossed the border in the Rio Grande Valley, a 35% increase over April. Another 38,630 came through the El Paso sector, which also includes New Mexico — a 43% jump since April; and about 8,560 crossed in the Del Rio sector, representing a 46% increase.

From October, when the government’s fiscal year began, through the end of May, the number of migrant family-unit apprehensions in the El Paso sector increased by about 100,000 – about 2,100%, compared to the same time period during the 2018 fiscal year. In Del Rio, agents apprehended 15,600 more families from October to May compared to the same period in 2018, a spike of 1,034 percent.

The surge of migrants at the southern border has led President Donald Trump to issue his latest threat toward Mexico. Last week, Trump announced he would slap tariffs on all imports from Mexico as soon as next week unless the Mexican government halts the flow of migrants through its territory.

Border Patrol stations, which are designed to hold a relatively small number of people for short periods, have been overwhelmed and have been forced to construct temporary facilities to hold and process migrants. Last month agents unveiledmassive, 500-person tent facilities in El Paso and the Rio Grade Valley city of Donna to deal with the crush of migrants; about two weeks later Customs and Border Protection announced that they needed more space and planned to build even more facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

On Tuesday, the agency announced it also has erected tents in Eagle Pass, part of the Del Rio sector, where overall apprehensions have increased by 200 percent this fiscal year.

Agents have also seen a significant number of undocumented immigrants traveling in large groups. Through the end of May, more than 180 groups of more than 100 people have been apprehended on the southwest border, according to a Border Patrol statement. That includes a group of more than 1,000 apprehended in El Paso last week.

On Memorial Day alone, agents in the El Paso sector apprehended about 2,200 migrants, including groups of 200 and 430.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Video+Info: Cornyn – HUMANE Act Would Address Crisis at the Border

WASHINGTON – Wednesday on the floor of the Senate U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) called on Democrats to support a real solution to the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border, like his HUMANE Act.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below:

“First, we need to get additional funding to the departments and agencies that are trying to manage this crisis and care for the migrants in their custody.”

“Without action here in Congress, funding could dry up by the end of this month, creating an even more dire situation.”

“But that’s not a fix. That’s a patch. Any sort of lasting change cannot be solved by a funding bill or by tariffs. It has to be solved by something only Congress can do, by passing legislation that addresses the root of the problem.”

“The HUMANE Act is bipartisan, it’s bicameral, and it would provide real relief for folks in Texas and other border states who are struggling to manage the crisis.”

“I know most of our Congressional Democratic friends have adopted the posture of reflexively standing against the President on anything and everything that he asks for.”

“I think this is a much better solution than tariffs on Mexican goods brought into the United States.”

“I would urge all my colleagues to take a serious look at the HUMANE Act so we can finally do our part, that only we in Congress can do, to stem the flow of Central American migrants who are flooding our borders and prevent criminals and human smugglers from infiltrating our country as they are doing now.”

Background on the HUMANE Act:

Improving Care of Children and Families at the Border:

  • Requires DHS to keep families together during court proceedings and provide additional standards of care for families being held in DHS facilities*
  • Improves Due Process for unaccompanied children and family units by prioritizing their claims for relief in immigration courts.
  • Provides safeguards to prevent unaccompanied children from being placed in the custody of dangerous individuals.
  • Requires DHS to continually update their regulations to prevent and combat sexual abuse and assault in DHS facilities.
  • Fixes a loophole in current law to allow unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries to be voluntarily reunited with their families in their home country.*
  • Clarifies that the Flores settlement agreement applies to unaccompanied children apprehended at the border.

 

Streamlining Processing and Increasing Resources at Ports of Entry:

  • Mandates the hiring of additional DHS personnel, upgrades and modernization of our nation’s ports of entry to expedite legitimate trade and travel.
  • Improves processing of humanitarian relief claims by requiring certain applications take place at designated ports of entry.*
  • Requires DHS to establish four or more Regional Processing Centers in high-traffic areas to process and house family units in a humane environment.*
  • Requires the Executive Office for Immigration Review to assign at least two immigration judges to each of the Regional Processing Centers that DHS is required to establish along the southern border.
  • Mandates a strategy and implementation plan from the Department of State regarding foreign engagement with Central American nations.

 

*Recommendation of the bipartisan DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council

 

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

Video+Gallery: Ropes, ladders, mass entry at US/Mexico border raises questions

On Saturday, June 1st , on my way to the radio show I occasionally host, I began to receive some very strange phone calls. I was being told that, along Border Highway, near Riverside High School, there were two ladders over the border fencing.

At first, I dismissed it. How could a ladder, much less two of them, be attached to the fence without Border Patrol being aware?

After receiving a few other calls that afternoon, I had to go out and see for myself. So, on my way home, I drove very slowly along Border Highway.

Even then, I almost missed it. I had to walk almost half-a-mile back to get where the ladders were.

Right there, in broad daylight, were two ladders – one appeared to be a rope ladder, and the other reminded me of an old collapsible metal ladder that one might have either in the Navy or at home to escape a second story fire.

How did these ladders get there? What happened to the people that put them there? I was curious.  Beyond that, the appearance of the ladders gave me an opportunity to talk with Border Patrol officials about something else that I had noticed.

For the past week, I’ve noticed that there haven’t been any Border Patrol agents along the fencing on Border Highway. I live in the Lower Valley and several times a day I drive Border Highway.

Not more than a week ago you would see marked SUV’s all along the fence. On the opposite side, in the westbound lanes, you would have marked El Paso Police Department units watching the border – as part of a funding grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

They were not there. I wanted to know why.

I reached out to Agent Baca, who is one of the Public Information Officers for the Border Patrol here in El Paso, about the ladders I saw and the lack of agents on the border.

As for the ladder incident, Agent Baca indicated that even though they were on both sides of the fence, they may not have been utilized by anyone.

Several scenarios were possible according to him: people could have put the ladders in place, and then been scared off by the amount of traffic; they could have been used, and the individuals were taken into custody.  (EDITOR’s NOTE: As of publication, Monday June 3rd, there have been no releases regarding the ladders, or anyone being taken into custody)

The ladders were removed by agents shortly after our conversation; however, even with his explanation, I still had a lot of questions about this whole situation.  I went back and did more independent research.

As I said, I live in the Lower Valley. I drive that stretch of highway daily. I know that there are times when there is little to no traffic on that part of Border Highway.

During the wee hours of June 2nd, I sat on the side of the road, where the ladders were the day before, and it was forty-nine minutes before the first car passed me – from just after two a.m. to almost three a.m. only two cars passed me. Two.

As for the lack of Border Patrol agents on the border, as they have been placed since the early 90’s as part of Silvestre Reyes’ ‘Operation Hold the Line;’  according to Agent Baca, the agents that would normally be along that stretch of Border Highway – as well as Paisano Drive – have been transferred to “assist with processing and caring for the large numbers of migrants crossing into the El Paso sector daily.”

Again, a good explanation, but one that seems contrary to all the information that the press and the public has been given.  We’ve already seen one video of 1,200 people crossing the border and coming through what is normally a locked passageway in the border fencing.

From Memorial Day (May 27) thru June 2nd, I made it a point to check for agents and their vehicles at various times along that stretch of road – from Downtown to Ysleta. While there were a couple of vehicle near or at the ports of entry, the majority of the border in between yielded the same result – no agents, no vehicles.

Every single day, Border Patrol agents are apprehending individuals coming into the United States. From the Customs and Border Protection’s information office, we are getting releases enumerating the flow, with pictures of large groups in custody.

Considering the stance of this country regarding this border crisis, aside from the unblinking eyes of the cameras, a large swath of our border was apparently left physically unwatched, leading to the video of the 1000+ migrants flooding ‘unchecked’ into the US, through a normally locked gate.

The entire situation leads to difficult questions.

If agents were stationed along the fencing, as has been the case for years, then would they have come over? Would those rope ladders have been put in place, and possibly used?

Amidst this ‘unprecedented flow,’ why is the fencing left unguarded? Why was this gate left open?

If the cameras are going to be stand-ins for agents, and the migrants are captured none-the-less, why have the agents spread every 1/4 along the fence/wall?

As we move forward in the next few days and weeks, we’ll be looking into these issues and working to bring answers to these questions to you.  Send me your tips, questions and anything else – steven@epheraldpost.com

Trump’s tariffs could hurt Texas, U.S. economies as much as Mexico’s, border leaders and analysts say

With a looming trade war with Mexico on the horizon, Texas’ proximity to its southern neighbor could spell economic trouble for the state’s consumers and workforce.

But it’s the added dynamic of how this country trades with Mexico that could do far greater damage to the state and national economies than President Donald Trump’s current trade battles with China or Canada, analysts warn.

Late Thursday, Trump announced he would begin imposing 5% tariffs on all products imported from Mexico on June 10 if that country didn’t do more to curb the flow of unauthorized immigrants traveling through Mexico on their way to the United States. Trump said he would increase it to as high as 25 percent by October if Mexico doesn’t act.

Since October 2018, when the federal government’s current fiscal year began, more than 460,000 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended on the southern border, surpassing 2018’s fiscal year total of 396,579. The administration has built temporary holding facilities in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley to house more immigrants and announced earlier this month that more would be built within a couple weeks.

The tariff announcement comes as the Trump administration escalates its trade war with China, which has led both countries to impose billions in duties on goods imported to their respective countries.

But the impact from tariffs on Mexican goods could have a deeper reach because of just how many U.S. products contain parts or labor supplied by both countries, said Shannon O’Neil, the vice president, deputy director of studies, and Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The way U.S. workers will be hit by this is very different. The imports coming in from Mexico have the highest percentage of U.S.-made products within them,” she said. “On average, 40 percent of products are made in the U.S. so those American workers that are making that 40 percent are going to get hit as hard as their Mexican counterparts.”

Some industries — including automakers — import and export products back and forth across the border more than once, which means those goods could be subject to multiple tariffs. For example, two of the top U.S. exports to Mexico are auto and computer parts, while two of the top imports from Mexico are auto parts and computers, according to trade data analyzed by WorldCity.

The threat by the president comes after Mexico recently became the United States’ largest trading partner — it has been Texas’ top trade partner for several years. Through March, more than $150.58 billion in two-way trade passed through the countries’ ports: The U.S. exported $63.95 billion worth of goods and imported $86.63 billion worth of goods from Mexico. Texas’ ports at Laredo and El Paso are the the two busiest on the border, with $55.8 and $18.6 billion passing through those regions, respectively.

That means the effect from tariffs will be felt first in border states, O’Neil said.

“Many of those jobs in those regional supply chains where goods and parts come back and forth across the border, many of those jobs are in Texas,” she said. “And the whole logistics industry, the people whose lives depend on trade that move things back and forth, all of those jobs will get hit as this trade gets more expensive.”

Ray Perryman, the president and CEO of the Perryman Group, said a 5 percent tariff, once absorbed through supply chains and market adjustments, could eliminate more than 400,000 U.S. jobs and cause economic losses he estimated at $41.5 billion in gross domestic product.

“If Mexico were to retaliate and impose tariffs on the U.S., which is likely, the effects would be even greater. Texas would bear the lion’s share of this loss given the extensive commerce that occurs between the state and Mexico,” Perryman said in an emailed statement.

Some of the state’s lawmakers and business groups condemned the president’s move and questioned its legality.

“[We] strongly opposes President Trump’s threat to impose unilateral tariffs on Mexican imports. Our analysis suggests the tariffs may not rest on firm constitutional or legal ground, and probably violate international agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement and those underlying the World Trade Organization,” said Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, who serves as chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, a group of elected officials and private sector leaders that advocates for more resources at the nation’s land ports.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the announcement could negatively impact ongoing negotiations between the United States, Mexico and Canada over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade pact seen by some lawmakers and economists as a much-needed improvement to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The President’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico is a dangerous mistake that will have significant consequences to our economy,” he said. “To properly address the crisis at the southern border, we need to invest in our ports of entry, including increasing personnel, improving infrastructure, and advancing technology.”

Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement saying that the situation at the border has reached a “breaking point” and he put the blame on Congress.

“I’ve previously stated my opposition to tariffs due to the harm it would inflict on the Texas economy, and I remain opposed today,” Abbott said. “Nevertheless, the President is trying to address this emergency. Now, Congress must do its job and start passing laws to fix our broken immigration system.”

An aide to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, added: “Senator Cornyn supports the President’s commitment to securing our border, but he opposes this across-the-board tariff which will disproportionately hurt Texas.”

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, said he understands Trump’s frustrations, but added there is still time to work on a solution before the tariffs are implemented in 10 days.

“The President has made it clear that Mexico must do more to stop this crisis at the border which seemingly has no end, and he is serious about taking whatever actions are necessary to find a real lasting solution,” said Brady, the ranking member on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. “Mexico is a valued ally and the new tariffs are not yet in effect, so there is a window here for both countries to find common ground. It is in both of our interests to do so, economically and for stronger security.”

O’Neil said Mexican President Andres Lopez Obrador has already tried to meet some of Trump’s long-standing demands that Mexico do more to curb the flow of Central American migrants.

“He has deported as many people [in less than a year] as [former President] Enrique Peña Nieto did in his last year,” she said. “But the number of people coming has increased so that is the challenge. And with many fewer resources [than the United States].”

Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek contributed reporting

Read related Tribune coverage

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Statement from Borderplex Alliance CEO Barela on President Trump’s Tariffs on Goods from Mexico

President Trump’s misguided plan to impose tariffs on goods from Mexico is a consumer tax on Americans that will lead to job losses in the Borderplex region and throughout America.

Uncertainty is the enemy of job creation, private investment and economic growth. The President’s comments create great uncertainty and businesses are looking to Washington for solutions, not counterproductive threats. President Trump’s actions also undercut his own efforts to ratify the USMCA at a critical time in its attempted passage.

Mexico is an economic and strategic ally of the United States. It is not a foe. Mexico is now America’s largest trading partner and between 5 to 6 million U.S. jobs rely directly on trade with our southern neighbor.

The Borderplex region is the fourth largest manufacturing hub in North America and the President’s actions will have a devastating impact on our local economy.  This action will also have dire consequences for jobs in the sophisticated supply chain between the U.S. and Mexico.  Jobs in states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will especially be at risk.

Every minute, there is $1 million in trade conducted between our two countries. If Mexico retaliates with its own tariffs on U.S. goods, the resulting trade war would not only have a chilling effect on our bilateral relationship, it will open the door for investment from other countries like China into Mexico.

Rather than threatening a close ally, President Trump should be working, in a bilateral fashion, to solve the migrant crisis while at the same time creating jobs, opportunity, and a more secure border.

Therefore, the Borderplex Alliance will continue to work with our elected officials to promote border security and cross-national commerce. We call on all sides to work toward a long-term solution that will stem unlawful crossings and bolster the economy on both sides of the border.

Author: Borderplex Alliance CEO Jon Barela 

***

The El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all local guest columns, open letters, letters to the Editor and analysis pieces for publication, to submit a piece or for questions regarding guidelines, please email us at news@epheraldpost.com

Trump says U.S. to impose 5% tariff on all Mexican imports beginning June 10 in dramatic escalation of border clash

President Trump on Thursday said he would impose a 5% tariff on all goods entering from Mexico unless it stopped the flow of illegal immigration to the United States, a dramatic escalation of his border threats that could have sweeping implications for both economies.

The White House plans to begin levying the import penalties on June 10 and ratchet the penalties higher if the migrant flow isn’t halted. Trump said he would remove the tariffs only if all illegal migration across the border ceased, though other White House officials said they would be looking only for Mexico to take major action.

After the 5 percent tariffs are imposed on June 10, the White House said it would increase the penalties to 10 percent on July 1 and then an additional 5 percent on the first day of each month for three months. The tariffs would stay at 25 percent “until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” a statement by the president said.

The economic consequences of Trump’s new plan could be swift and severe. Tariffs are paid by companies that import products, so U.S. firms would pay the import penalties and then likely pass some costs along to consumers. Mexico exported $346.5 billion in goods to the United States last year, from vehicles to fruits and vegetables. And many manufactured items cross the border several times as they are being assembled.

White House officials did not immediately explain how driving up the cost of Mexican goods might stem the flow of migrants. If the tariffs damaged the Mexican economy, more of its citizens would try to cross the border to find work in the United States, experts said.

“Mexico is our friend and neighbor, a partner in trade and security,” said Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Glenn Hamer. “The president’s announcement is baffling and, if carried out, will be terribly damaging.”

Mexico vowed a response that could pitch the Trump administration into a full-scale trade war with one of its largest trading partners. This comes just days after the White House and China imposed stiff penalties on each other’s exports.

At a press conference, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesus Seade, said the threatened tariffs would be “disastrous” and added that Mexico would respond “strongly.”

Trump has often tried to use tariffs and other import penalties as a way to pressure countries into changing behavior, but he has not yet done it on such a scale. In addition, he wrongly has said the cost of tariffs are shouldered by the countries that he targets.

Even some White House officials were caught off guard by the announcement, though planning within the West Wing escalated on Thursday afternoon. Vice President Pence was in Canada on Thursday meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about ratifying an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico, but it’s unclear if Trump’s newest tariff threat could upend those discussions.

White House officials believe Trump has powers under a 1977 law to impose tariffs on all imports from certain countries if he cites a “national emergency.” And several months ago, Trump declared a national emergency along the Mexico border because of a surge in migrants crossing into the United States.

But the 1977 law has never been used to impose tariffs in this way before, and Trump’s new actions could face legal challenges due to the scope of companies that would be impacted.

The new tariff threat combines two of Trump’s favorite issues — immigration and trade — and comes as he has struggled to score victories on either one.

A central element of Trump’s campaign was his assertion that the United States was being “invaded” by people across the Mexico border, a sentiment that resonated with many supporters. He has tried to rework trade rules and build a wall to stop the flow of migrants, but so far his efforts have failed to stem the surge of people crossing the border. Crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border driven by Central American migrants seeking asylum have peaked to their highest level in more than a decade.

One senior White House official said there is broad support across the administration to push Mexico further by using tariffs to force action. Other aides, however, tried to talk Trump out of the idea, arguing that the threat would scare global markets and undermine passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA , which was just sent to Congress on Thursday by the White House. The trade deal aims to curb the type of tariffs Trump is now threatening to impose on Mexico.

The president teased his plans on Thursday morning, telling reporters outside the White House that he was preparing a “big-league statement” about the border surge, without going into detail.

“We are going to do something very dramatic on the border because people are coming into our country,” Trump said.

On Wednesday, more than 1,000 Central Americans crossed into the El Paso area to surrender to U.S. authorities, the largest group of migrants that U.S. border agents have taken into custody at a single time. Trump tweeted a video of the apprehension late Thursday, declaring that “Democrats need to stand by our incredible Border Patrol and finally fix the loopholes at our Border!”

Deportations by Mexican authorities have increased threefold compared with the same period last year, according to the latest statistics, but the vast majority of Central American migrants appear to be successful at evading arrest en route to the U.S. border.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned last year on a promise to decriminalize migration and told audiences it was not Mexico’s job to assist the United States with the “dirty work” of deportations.

Trump has backed down on previous threats aimed at Mexico. He abandoned his oft-repeated campaign promise to make that country pay for a border wall. Trump is now using the powers of his national emergency to redirect U.S. taxpayer funds for construction of replacement fences and barriers along the border.

In late March, Trump said he would immediately shut down the entire border if the Mexican government didn’t take more steps to prevent the flow of migrants, only to announce a week later that he would delay any action for a year. White House officials had spent days frantically trying to design how such a shutdown would be implemented.

The draft trade agreement sent to Congress on Thursday would, if ratified, replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The draft allows Trump to send a final agreement in 30 days, a timeline intended to pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who along with other Democrats wants changes to the agreement before any vote.

The top imports from Mexico include vehicles, electrical machinery, machinery, mineral ­fuels, and optical and medical instruments, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The United States also imports a large amount of agricultural products from Mexico.

March 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service said that the International Emergency Economic Powers Act had never been used before “to place tariffs on imported products from a specific country” but that it could be interpreted as giving the White House that power.

Along the Mexico border, U.S. agents have detained more than 100,000 migrants for each of the past two months, and the numbers in May are expected to be the highest yet.

In recent months, smuggling organizations have been moving large numbers of migrants from southern Mexico using “express buses” that reach the U.S. border in a matter of days. The buses make few stops and have lowered the costs for migration, making the journey faster, easier and cheaper for would-be customers.

U.S. officials say corrupt Mexican officials are allowing the ­buses to pass through highway checkpoints and in other cases facilitating their travel to the border by providing security escorts.

Mexican officials have said they’re doing everything they can to regulate the migration surge, and they provide police escorts in some cases to prevent criminal organizations from kidnapping and extorting families traveling with small children.

A Mexican official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said trade-related talks with U.S. officials have remained “positive,” and noted that López Obrador was also preparing to send the trade deal to lawmakers for approval. The official declined to say whether the White House has conditioned the deal on a migration crackdown by Mexican authorities.

Kevin Sieff in Mexico City and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

Authors: DAMIAN PALETTA, NICK MIROFF AND JOSH DAWSEY, THE WASHINGTON POST

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Border wall on private land near El Paso lacks necessary permits, local officials say

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — The organization that raised millions of dollars to construct a border barrier on private land over the Memorial Day weekend will be issued a cease-and-desist letter due to a lack of permits needed for the project, a spokesperson for the city of Sunland Park, said Tuesday.

The group, We Build the Wall, used millions raised from a GoFundMe page to fund construction of about a half-mile barrier near the Texas-New Mexico state line across from Mexico. The site is on land owned by American Eagle Brick Co. and is just a few miles from downtown El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso. The site is in the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso sector.

“The city has not provided any permits, it has not approved of the construction that has gone up already,” city spokesperson Peter Ibardo told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. “They built the structure without authority or any building permits from the city.”

Ibardo added that there were no site plans or recent surveys submitted to the city.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon are listed on the group’s website as part of the leadership team. Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage started the organization.

When asked at the site Tuesday about the permitting process, Kobach said the owner of the land went through the permitting process and that “official inspectors were on the property” before construction began. He said that the group hoped the project would be finished by late Tuesday or Wednesday.

But Ibardo later said the permit was only picked up Friday before the long holiday weekend, was incomplete when it was submitted and that site inspectors tried to visit the property last week but were turned away.

Kobach said construction for the project cost between $6 and $8 million and began late Friday. The group had raised more than $20 million as of Monday. Kobach said the site was kept a secret to avoid protests and said the group was looking to expand its project to other parts of the border, including California and Texas.

Ibardo said a timeline on when the situation could be resolved is unclear but that the project will be treated like any other that needs city approval.

“There are a lot of moving pieces to this, it caught everyone off guard,” he said.

He added that it’s unclear if the International Water and Boundary Commission, which oversees water and boundary issues between the United States and Mexico was made aware of the construction. We Build The Wall did not immediately respond to a request for comment later Tuesday afternoon.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agents apprehend 2,200 on Memorial Day

While the nation paused to reflect during Memorial Day, Border Patrol Agents were busy taking  more than 2,200 migrants who entered the country illegally into custody.

According to Border Patrol officials, Memorial Day was the busiest recent day of enforcement activity for El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agents during the ongoing influx.

The 2,200 apprehensions included two large groups and many smaller ones. 

 The busy day began in the boot heel of New Mexico with a large group of over 200 illegal aliens apprehended near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry just after 2 a.m.   

 A second group, which officials say was one of the largest processed in El Paso Sector thus far with over 430 people. This group crossed the border just west of Bowie High School at around 7 a.m.   

Group at Antelope Wells | Photo courtesy Border Patrol

By the end of the day, the El Paso Sector Agents had apprehended over 2,200 migrants, with 1,850 of those being taken into custody in the geographic area between Executive Boulevard and Midway Street in El Paso.  

“U.S. Border Patrol Agents continue to deal with this influx of illegal aliens entering our country with no respect for our immigration laws,” the emailed statement from Border Patrol officials read.  “This fiscal year to date the El Paso Sector has arrested over 130 thousand illegal aliens, compared to over 16,000 during the same time last fiscal year.  The numbers continue to rise and agents see no end in sight for this current situation.

Officials added that the groups were comprised of mostly Central American families and unaccompanied children.

All were taken into custody for processing to include initial medical screenings;  they will then remain in U.S. Border Patrol custody until they are processed accordingly. 

Toddler apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border dies in El Paso after weeks in hospital

A 2½-year-old Guatemalan boy apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border died Tuesday night in El Paso after several weeks in the hospital, according to the Guatemalan Consulate and another person with direct knowledge of the case.

The boy, who was not identified, arrived at the border with his mother days after now-acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan held a news conference near a crowded holding facility in El Paso on March 27 to warn that a surge of Central Americans was pushing the system to the “breaking point.”

The boy is the fourth migrant child to die since December after being apprehended at the southern border and taken to the hospital. All have been from Guatemala, a Central American nation experiencing severe drought and poverty, and where smugglers have been offering discounted trips to families traveling to the United States.

Record numbers of families from Guatemala and other northern Central American countries are surrendering at the border and seeking asylum, with nearly 100,000 crossing in April, the highest monthly total in a decade. The White House has asked Congress for $4.5 billion in aid and increased enforcement, saying the influx is risking lives, while advocates for immigrants have raised concern about health and safety conditions in cramped federal holding facilities.

The Washington Post confirmed the death with two sources, including Guatemala’s Consul Tekandi Paniagua, who covers the El Paso area. Another source confirmed the death on the condition of anonymity.

Paniagua said the boy, who had spent three days in federal custody, appeared to have developed a form of pneumonia, but the death remains under investigation. The El Paso medical examiner’s office and the hospital declined to comment.

It is unclear when the boy fell ill. A Customs and Border Protection official familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the CBP apprehended the boy and his mother on April 3 near the Paso Del Norte Bridge.

On April 6, the official said, his mother alerted agents that he was sick. An ambulance took him to Providence Hospital in Horizon City that day, and officials transferred him the next day to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso.

On April 8, federal officials formally released the family from Border Protection custody with a “notice to appear” in immigration court.

CBP officials are required to notify Congress of a death in custody within 24 hours, and it was not immediately clear whether officials would do that when The Washington Post inquired about the death because the boy had been released from custody.

Later, an official said they would notify lawmakers.

After two Guatemalan children died in December, Homeland Security officials expanded care for children at the border. They have required health screenings of all children in custody and deployed scores of medics and equipment to the border to quickly triage new arrivals, some arriving in groups of 300 at a time.

Hundreds of people have been taken to the hospital. Some have arrived with preexisting health concerns, including influenza and liver disease.

Two weeks ago, U.S. border agents along the Rio Grande recovered the body of a 10-month-old boy after his family’s raft capsized while crossing the river near Eagle Pass.

On April 30, a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor from the southeastern state of Chiquimula suffered a severe brain infection and died after several days in federal custody. He had been apprehended more than a week earlier and transferred to a Health and Human Services shelter. His was the first known death in HHS custody.

In December, two young Guatemalan children died after being apprehended by CBP. Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, died of complications from influenza B infection, and Jakelin Caal, 7, died from a bacterial infection.

Among the worst crowding is in the El Paso sector, where on March 27 agents held almost 3,500 migrants in custody, well above capacity, and some families were held under a bridge.

Paniagua said the consulate has warned families in Guatemala that the trip is risky.

“We have reiterated the message that trips to the United States, in the condition in which the Guatemalan families are undertaking them, is highly dangerous,” Paniagua said in a statement. “We’ve seen four cases in a row of children who have lost their lives in this way.”

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: MARIA SACCHETTI AND ROBERT MOORE, THE WASHINGTON POST

Report: Slowdowns at border ports of entry could cost Texas billions

Increased wait times at Texas’ ports of entry could cost the state more than $32 billion in gross domestic product in just over three months, according to a report released Thursday.

The report, conducted by the Waco-based Perryman Group, says that the border region alone could take a hit of nearly $2 billion, while the state could lose about 292,000 jobs over the next year as a result of the federal government’s decision to divert customs officers from the state’s international bridges to help the U.S. Border Patrol handle a surge of migrants.

“As a major exporting and importing state with an extended southern border, Texas is particularly hard hit by the border slowdown. In fact, the state is responsible for about 35% of all trade with Mexico,” the report states. The study was commissioned by IBC Bank in conjunction with the Texas Association of Business, Texas Border Coalition, Texas Business Leadership Council and the Border Trade Alliance.

The the economic losses laid out in the study would represent the loss of one-third of the country’s total trade trade with Mexico over a three-month period.

The slowdown in the international bridges began in late March after former Customs and Border Protection commissioner and current interim Department of Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the agency was diverting 750 customs officials from Tucson, Laredo, El Paso and San Diego to help U.S. Border Patrol agents process the record numbers of immigrant families who are crossing the border to seek asylum.

Ray Perryman, the president and CEO of the Perryman Group, said the study assumed an average increased wait time of 30 percent at Texas ports of entry — a figure that came a survey of industry professionals.

Nationwide, the study predicts about $69 billion in gross domestic product could be lost, with manufacturing, transportation and utilities and the wholesale trade industries taking the biggest hits. Perryman said any delays at the border can affect businesses in every corner of the country.

“For example, Michigan is a long way away [from the border] but they make a lot of things in Michigan with goods that flow back and forth on the border.”

Many industries also use “just-in-time” practices, ordering goods as needed to avoid storage or inventory costs Perryman said. Companies that use that model are also going to be affected if they don’t have the necessary inventory already on hand.

The study was released just after reports that Mexico surpassed Canada and China to become the United State’s biggest trade partner during the first two months of 2019.

Two-way trade with Mexico was about $97.4 billion through February, according to WorldCity, a Florida-based company that tracks trade data using U.S. Census information. Trade with Canada and China stood at $92.4 billion and $90.4 billion, respectively.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Gallery+Story: CBP gives tour of Temporary Immigrant Processing Center

With the large surge of Central American families and unaccompanied children arriving in El Paso in the last year, officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have exceeded their capacity on numerous occasions.

In order to respond to the large number of families and unaccompanied children crossing illegally along the U.S./Mexico Border between Texas and New Mexico, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened two facilities, which are ready for use immediately.

Members of the media were given a tour of the facilities on Thursday.

One of the facilities is located in Northeast El Paso, behind the main headquarters of the El Paso sector, and the second is located in Donna, Texas which is near McAllen.

According to the U.S. Border Patrol, apprehensions for unauthorized immigrants in the El Paso sector have increased by more than 300 percent.

Additional complications occur when the CBP’s current holding facilities are primarily meant for unaccompanied men, not family units.

This has led to national attention and criticism regarding how and where CBP temporarily holds the Central American immigrants while they wait to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the Department of Homeland Security if they are unaccompanied minors or Non-Governmental Organizations such as nonprofits such as churches and the Annunciation House of El Paso.

“There are not enough agents on the line,” Ramiro Cordero, Border Patrol Agent and Special Operations Supervisor said. “The agents are now processing aliens, processing families. Escorting individuals to hospitals, transporting, feeding, changing diapers – that is not the job of a Border Patrol agent. So, we are moving on – so we are building facilities such as what you see behind me to alleviate and help the process flow a little bit smoother and quicker.”

The facilities – known as “soft-sided temporary” facilities – are provided by Deployed Resources LLC of Rome, New York, according to the CBP. They are currently contracted for a cost of $36.9 million for a four-month base period; with an additional four months if needed.

Cordero said when an individual is taken to the facility, they will enter the small support soft-sided building first – which is approximately 12,300 square feet. There they will enter, and be medically screened upon arrival.

From there, they can use the shower facilities, which contain 32 stalls; which are divided into two separate sections for men and women.

If a family unit arrives and they need to bathe their children, CBP will not get involved in the process, but will allow the parent to decide how the child should be bathed.

Then they will be issued bracelets which will have designated colors. The colors will direct them to the temporary holding facility.
The holding facility is broken up into 4 sections and each section can hold up to 125 individuals.

Each section, or pod, contains 8 porta-potty toilets, with the ventilation leading outside. The toilets are going to be cleaned daily by outside contracted companies.   Additionally, each facility has 4-hand washing stations; and 125 vinyl covered sleeping pads as well.

In the center of each pod stands a 7-foot guard tower which will be staffed 24-7.

Each pod will contain at least 1 medical technician, a doctor and a medical professional who will either be contracted or who will be a certified EMT or Medically licensed CBP officer or U.S. Coast Guard member.

The pods are air conditioned and each pod will have video surveillance. There are cameras on each corner of the pods.

There is also a laundry trailer with 40 washers and dryers; storage containers for detainee property; two 1,200 KVA generators for electrical services; and a refrigerated trailer for food storage and preparation.

According to the CBP agents, the El Paso sector alone has apprehended 94,000 individuals since October 1 of last year; compared to 13,000 individuals in the previous year during the same time frame. That’s an average of about 580 apprehensions a day Cordero said.

Roger Maier, spokesperson for the U.S. CBP, said on average they are processing 600 to 850 individuals per day.

On Wednesday alone, Border Patrol agents took custody of 243 immigranats, made up of family groups with small children and unaccompanied juveniles. This group was picked up at around 1:30 a.m. near the Antelope Wells port of entry in New Mexico.

Just 40 minutes later agents apprehended another group of 219 people at the border wall near downtown El Paso. Then on Thursday morning another 209 immigrants were apprehended yet again at Antelope Wells.

These facilities, Cordero said, will help. And, ideally – Maier said – an individual should be turned over to the appropriate agency within 72 hours.

“This is something we are doing because we have gotten to capacity,” Cordero said. “We have already exceeded our capacity and we need to have this in place so we can have people in humane places and we can transfer them in and out of the process. We at the border patrol are the first interaction – the first piece of the puzzle – our job is to enforce the law and our job is to process them and turn these individuals to someone else – in this case ICE enforcement removal operations.”

While the facility is currently meant to house family units, Cordero added that this could change in the future – depending on the situation and the circumstances.

Earlier this year the CPB and the U.S. General Services Administration had proposed to build a facility that would house as many as 800 people, which according to media reports, could have been the Hoover Manufacturing Facility.

But a group of business leaders in El Paso launched a campaign against the move under a Change.org petition, Action El Paso, asking the federal government to include city leaders in the conversation.

According to the petition business leaders are asking the following be adhered to before the GSA and CBP move forward with constructing the facility:

The community must be allowed to provide input on where the facility will be built. The federal government cannot come in and uproot El Pasoans’ quality of life, regional economy, and community cohesion for its own gains.

The community must have assurances regarding how this center will be staffed. We have seen too many instances where inadequate staffing has resulted in neglect and mistreatment of children and families.

The community must have assurances regarding how the health and well-being of families held in the processing center will be prioritized. It is a travesty that families are denied fundamental rights and basic dignities, such as a bed and access to health services, because processing facilities have been so poorly planned.

When asked about this, Maier said he wasn’t sure what the status of the facility was at the moment.

“That was a centralized processing center that we were looking to stand up – but  that’s taking longer than expected for a number of reasons – so this (temporary soft sided shelter) is our quick response to that. But that’s still in the works – yes.”

Author: Alex Hinojosa  | Gallery: Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post

Pentagon set to expand military role along U.S-Mexico border

The Pentagon is preparing to approve a loosening of rules that bar troops from interacting with migrants entering the United States, expanding the military’s involvement in President Trump’s operation along the southern border.

Senior Defense Department officials have recommended that acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan approve a new request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide military lawyers, cooks and drivers to assist with handling a surge of migrants along the southern border.

The move would require authorizing waivers for more than 300 troops to a long-standing policy prohibiting military personnel from coming into contact with migrants.

The Pentagon has approved only one previous request to waive the policy since the beginning of Trump’s recent border buildup, in order to provide migrants with emergency medical care if required. There are about 2,900 active-duty and 2,000 National Guard troops along the border.

Shanahan is expected to sign the request on Friday.

According to internal Pentagon documents obtained by The Washington Post, the requested expansion of military activity along the border would cost an estimated $21.9 million through the end of fiscal year 2019.

In a sign of the sensitivities surrounding a move that might be seen as putting troops in a law enforcement role, the documents note that military personnel would remain in a “segregated driver’s compartment” when driving migrants to detention facilities. Customs and Border Protection officials would provide security on those trips.

Likewise, when they are asked to distribute food to migrants in detention facilities and periodically “document the provision of care” of those detained migrants, they would be accompanied at all times by law enforcement personnel.

As part of the proposal, military attorneys meanwhile would assist with deportation hearings in New Mexico, Louisiana and New York.

All of those activities, the documents note, require Shanahan to “grant a temporary exception to the ‘no contact with migrants’ policy.’ ” The documents also note that military personnel are barred from undertaking law enforcement activities in keeping with the Posse Comitatus Act.

The request comes as an unprecedented surge of Central American families arriving at the U.S. southern border pushes American agents to “the breaking point,” according to DHS officials. Last month, U.S. authorities processed more than 103,000 migrants, the highest one-month total in more than a decade.

Border Patrol officials say overwhelmed agents are being pulled away from their law enforcement duties because they are so busy caring for migrant parents and children. The shortage of drivers and agents who can chaperone migrants to hospitals has been especially acute.

In the El Paso area, where the strain on Border Patrol resources has been greatest, groups of migrant families who cross the border to surrender to authorities sometimes wait for hours because there are no agents to come pick them up with vans and buses.

CBP officers have been reassigned from ports of entry to drive vehicles and perform other support roles for border agents, but that has exacerbated wait times for commercial trucks and passenger vehicles crossing from Mexico.

Read related Tribune coverage

Authors: GREG JAFFE, MISSY RYAN AND NICK MIROFF, THE WASHINGTON POST

Maria Sachetti and Paul Sonne contributed to this report.

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/

 

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