BY MARIO CONDE
Funding for the second phase of the Calexico Port of Entry Expansion is still up in the air as County and Federal officials keep lobbying to complete the second phase.
While the construction of the new Calexico Port of Entry is almost complete and on schedule for its March 2018 opening, there are concerns about the funding for the second phase that has yet been allocated by the federal government.
On August 4, 2017, Congressman Juan Vargas sent a letter to the Acting Administrator of the General Services Administration and the Acting Commissionaire of the United States Customs and Border Protection requesting the two agencies submit a budget addendum clarifying the Calexico West Land Port of Entry project funding priority for the fiscal year 2018 budget cycle. This request was made as an effort to
ensure that the project would be eligible to receive appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, avoiding potential hurdles due to the strict limitations on congressionally directed spending.
Congressman Vargas received a response from GSA on Tuesday, September 19, but GSA did not directly respond to Vargas’ request of a budget addendum. “They did not address the budget addendum, but GSA reaffirmed that the agency is committed to ensuring the Calexico LPOE has the necessary infrastructure to meet the nation’s security needs,” Imperial County Intergovernmental Relations Director Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter told the board of supervisors.
Terrazas-Baxter said that although the response from GSA was disappointing, since they didn’t directly address the request from Congressman Vargas, the county still plans to make it clear
to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees that funding for Phase II of the Calexico West LPOE Reconfiguration and Expansion project is a top priority. Funding has previously been requested from the Administration, and that there is precedent for Congress to fund GSA projects that were not enumerated in the President’s budget.
Congressman Juan Vargas said the federal government does not have the funding to complete the second phase of the POE but will continue working with GSA to get the rest of the funding.
“We have a lot of people working on this project so that’s why we think it’s best to appropriate the money right now so we don’t lose that expertise to start working on the second phase right away,” Vargas said.
County Supervisor District 1 John Renison agreed that the county will continue to seek the funding for the new port of entry and said that the funding for the second phase could not come until the Fiscal Year 2019-20. The Mexicali Port of Entry was fully funded in 2010 when Felipe Calderon was President of Mexico, but delays on the U.S. side caused the allocation to be pulled. The current federal administration in Mexico has not allocated any funding now that the Calexico POE is being built.
“There is no commitment from the federal Mexican government to fund their port of entry, and unless they don’t start building something in the coming months we will have a Port of Entry to nowhere,” Renison said.
Mexicali Mayor Gustavo Sanchez Marquez said that he hopes to have the new port of entry constructed soon since it’s important for the city and the region.
“The funding appropriation for the new port of entry belongs to the federal government and the State of Baja California, but we are closely following the situation,” Mayor Sanchez said.