San Luis Mayor implores Congress to fund port of entry

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection

President Trump and his team of economic advisers last month presented a budget outline for 2020. The proposed $11 billion gross budget authority for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) reflected the administration’s goals when it comes to strengthening our country’s cyber and physical infrastructure safety needs. Some of the money that has been requested would be directed to the San Luis Port of Entry in southwest Arizona.

Last year, President Trump included the port of entry in his 2019 budget outline, but the funds were not allocated in the final adopted budget. This year, Trump has put the port of entry back in his budget, asking for $248.3 million to help modernize and expand San Luis.

Now officials in the Yuma County community, including the town’s mayor, Gerardo Sanchez, working to ensure make sure the proposed budget item goes through. The nearly-quarter-billion-dollar funding would help to completely reconstruct the port of entry in order to handle not only the current flow of people and commerce but the projected higher numbers that are expected to flow through in years to come.

Mayor Sanchez recently penned a letter to both Arizona U.S. senators, Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Martha McSally (R), urging both to work with their colleagues in Congress to make sure the money is approved this year.

“We estimate that 70 percent of our sales tax revenue is directly attributable to our Mexican visitors and our experience has shown us that the number one deterrent to crossing the border is border wait times,” Mayor Sanchez said in a statement.

More than 2.5 million pedestrians pass through the San Luis port each year, making it the second-busiest non-commercial port in Arizona. Last October, the port of entry unveiled a series of renovations that cost $6 million and included new technology in a new building to analyze images taken by cameras that Customs and Border Protection officers review along with travelers’ documents. Altogether, 165 new cameras were installed in the new building.

But even with the new building and additions to the port, it remains congested, according to Mayor Sanchez. Wait times can exceed four hours at the busiest of times, he says.

“To get a full sense of what happens at the ports of entry, we also need to include southbound traffic, which means that more than 64,000 trucks, 6.4 million cars and 16.8 million people used our ports of entry as a gateway of choice between Arizona and Mexico,” Mayor Sanchez said.

The city of San Luis is currently working with its counterpart on the Mexican side of the border to advance a number of projects that will “greatly reduce congestion and enhance the safety of traveling public by allowing us to take a truly binational approach to traffic flow management.”

Nick Esquer

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