By Mario Conde
The County Board of Supervisors gave their support to a border enhancement bill at their Tuesday meeting. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) introduced S.3279 to provide a new authority for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enter into public-private partnership with either local governments or private sector entities to fund additional staffing and infrastructure improvements at land ports on entry. There has been no action taken on the bill. The legislation known as the “Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012”, would provide for alternative financing arrangements for the provision of certain services and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure at land border ports of entry, and for other purposes. The Board has in the past supported legislation supporting public-private partnerships to renovate and expand the Calexico West POE. CEO Ralph Cordova said that given the slow movement of this bill, it is recommended that the Board seek the assistance and support from the region’s congressional representatives such as Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) and California U.S. Senators Boxer and Feinstein. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said in a press release that U.S.-Mexican trade is being hampered by inadequate infrastructure and staffing at our land border crossings. “To mitigate this problem, I have introduced legislation that would allow Customs and Border Protection to improve conditions at our land ports of entry via partnerships with local governments and the private sector.” Cornyn said. He said the bill would also require the General Services Administration to establish a 90-day process for reviewing alternative financing mechanisms. “By reducing congestion at the border, we would facilitate greater bilateral trade and faster job creation in both nations.” He said. Bob Ham, County Intergovernmental Relations, said that the County needs to be proactive in moving forward with the Public-Private Partnership since it looks the federal government will not appropriate money for border infrastructure this year. Supervisor John Renison spoke about the statement made by Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) who said at the Calexico Chamber dinner that he would work to get a Port-of-Entry for Calexico and if there was any validity to that statement. Ham answered that Filner does want a new Port-of-Entry but the reality is that there will be no $300 million appropriation for the border this year. Ham said that Public-Private Partnerships are being supported by Congress people that are not located at the Border and it’s important to support initiatives like this one. City of Calexico officials are hopeful that the federal government will appropriate money for the new port of entry as they stated in a resolution passed early this year. Congressman Filner favors having the government appropriate money instead of outsourcing it to private companies.