Border Leaders Argue Southern Ports Ignored

The Texas Border Coalition, an advocacy group comprised elected officials, community and business leaders from the Texas-Mexico border, today pleaded once more that the federal government pay greater attention to the southern border of the U.S. And this time crime and immigration weren’t the issues.

A Government Accountability Office assessment of Customs and Border Protection staffing at the nation’s northern ports revealed that while those are almost fully manned, a severe shortage remains on Texas border ports with Mexico, according to a TBC statement sent to members of Congress today. The report indicates northern ports of entry are understaffed by less than 300 agents. This comes after a recent study indicated the country as a whole was understaffed by as many as 5,000.

“If the nation’s land ports are short-staffed by up to 5,000 inspectors, and only 280 of that shortfall is on the northern border, it should be obvious that the U.S.-Mexico land ports of entry have been shortchanged,” said Monica Weisberg Stewart, chairwoman of the TBC’s Committee on Immigration and Ports of Entry.

The impact of the shortage, she continued, “Is to suffocate the U.S. economy, a result that is intolerable and must be changed.”

Despite last year’s decline in global trade, the U.S. witnessed more than $300 billion in goods pass through its ports with Mexico. Through the first five months of this year, Texas’ two largest inland ports, Laredo and El Paso, were ranked 6th and 15th, respectively. Through May, the El Paso port had already seen $27.7 billion in trade, compared to $18.9 billion during the same period last year. Laredo saw $73.4 billion in trade during the first five months of the year, compared to $55.1 billion in the same period of 2009.

Along with more personnel, the TBC has also advocated at length for better technology and upgraded infrastructure at Texas’ land ports to facilitate commerce between the two nations.

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