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[Congressional Record: October 12, 2001 (Extensions)]
[Page E1886-E1887]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []
                      STATE OF EMERGENCY AT BORDER
                         HON. SOLOMON P. ORTIZ

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                        Friday, October 12, 2001

  Mr. ORTIZ. Mr. Speaker, thanks to the gentleman from Califorfiia, Bob 
Filner, for organizing this special order series.
  Living on the border is never easy.
  NAFTA--commerce in the 1990s--brought lower unemployment, a larger 
tax base for border communities.
  Like the nation, South Texas affected by national economy . . . so 
the economy been hurt by the dip in the national economy.
  Increased inspections as a result of heightened security have 
resulted in longer wait times (sometimes more than four hours), that

[[Page E1887]]

discourage thousands of Mexican citizens who legally cross into the 
U.S. to shop and conduct business along the border.
  As former law enforcement officer, a border member--understand the 
need for security.
  Say this only to illustrate small part of the picture that affects 
the border economy.
  Weekend after the attack on the United States, barge hits the only 
bridge connecting South Padre Island to the mainland of South Texas.
  Accident added even more to the burden of a faltering economy.
  On Wednesday, immigration inspectors began checking the ID of each 
pedestrian against databases of 19 federal agencies, adding much more 
strain to an already difficult situation.
  Finally, with Congress not extending laser visa deadline flow of 
traffic and commerce across our borders considerably slower.
  Join my colleagues in asking President Bush to declare a state of 
emergency along the border in response to these assorted body-blows to 
the border economy.
  The hostilities of September 11--and the resulting increased security 
throughout our nation--affected all of us . . . but they affect those 
who live on the border most profoundly.
  Need to protect borders--ensure that terrorists who would do us harm 
not enter U.S. via our neighbors.
  Stories of economic hardship in the past month are heart-wrenching.
  Need for relief along the border in the economic stimulus package is 
  In the Brownsville-Matamoros area: Traffic at bridges has decreased 
40% (causing area bridges to lose almost $5,000 daily) and businesses 
along the border are seeing sharp declines in sales; border crossers 
face increased border wait times for vehicle and pedestrian traffic; 
the causeway accident has had a major impact; under-staffing of Border 
Patrol and Customs agents continues to cause concern; lack of attention 
and sensitivity to border community are also concerns; and the laser 
visa deadline has only exacerbated the situation and will have drastic 
effects as the holiday season nears.
  The Brownsville-South Padre Island airport is feeling the direct 
impact of the terrorist attack on airport revenue: As is the case 
elsewhere in the country, passenger traffic there is down about 35%; 
the airport projects their annual cost for new security measures alone 
$632,000--an unbudgeted, unfunded cost which equals 35% of the annual 
airport budget, and the overall cost, of all these factors, to the 
airport will be $845,000.
  Border economies require immediate help.
  Low-cost loans and grants, and other forms of help, are urgently 
  Everything is affected--tourism, airports, maquiladora production and 
Brownsville merchants.
  Here is an example of how intertwined the U.S.-Mexican economies are: 
Mexicans who come to the U.S. to shop derive much of that money from 
Winter Texans, who cross the border about six times while they are in 
the Valley.
  This combination of factors means Winter Texans will cross less, 
therefore spend less--with a result of less income for Mexicans to 
spend in the U.S.
  I urge the Ways and Means Committee, as well as the House leadership, 
to consider economic relief for the border communities in the upcoming 
stimulus package.