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[Congressional Record: March 13, 2002 (Extensions)]
[Page E333]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []
                               speech of

                         HON. SOLOMON P. ORTIZ

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                        Tuesday, March 12, 2002

  Mr. ORTIZ. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairman Sensenbrenner and 
Ranking Member Conyers for bringing HR 1885 to the floor today. The 
issue of border security and the extension of section 245(i) are truly 
important issues, and I'm glad that they are being addressed. I support 
HR 1885, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, for 
many reasons, namely because it insures safety for the people within 
this country's borders. This bill provides the tools necessary for the 
U.S. Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to better 
serve the American people.
  The bill also has a provision to extend the border crossing card 
deadline for residents along the Southwestern border of the United 
States. This extension will provide a much-needed boost to the 
economies that have suffered since the tragic attacks of September 
11th. After the attacks, Congress stopped work on a stand-alone bill 
with bipartisan support to extend the deadline for one year to October 
1, 2002. With this extension, shop owners that were forced to close 
their doors after the deadline passed will once again be able to open 
them. People granted the extension can use their border crossing cards 
to go to school, to go to work, to go shopping, or to just merely visit 
their families. They will continue being productive members of society 
of the border economy.
  The Southwestern border, according to a recent U.S. Chamber of 
Commerce report, has a population of 6.2 million people in the U.S. and 
approximately 4.3 million people in Mexico. The buying power of border 
residents is immense and the economy of South Texas depends on their 
participation in our market place. In my district alone, 75-80% of 
Brownsville's downtown retail sales normally come from people crossing 
the border. Since September 11th this number has dropped. This same 
report also cites the border crossing card deadline as one of the main 
reasons that fewer people are crossing the border. The economic effects 
of the attacks in September were bad for the country; they were 
devastating for the Southwestern border.
  The Southwestern border is vitally important to the United States. It 
is the gateway to the United States from Latin America, it is the port-
of-entry for one of our most valued trading partners, and it represents 
the rich diversity of immigrants on which this country was founded. 
This bill is an excellent first step in recognizing that fact. Again, I 
thank Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. Conyers for their actions.