Border Trade Alliance applauds DHS move to extend southern New Mexico travel zone
Proposed rule change comes after years of advocacy for increased tourism and commerce in New Mexico border region
SAN ANTONIO – The Border Trade Alliance today announced its support for a Department of Homeland Security proposal to extend from 25 miles to 55 miles the zone in New Mexico that Mexican Border Crossing Card holders can enter without having to obtain form I-94.
“This is a tremendous victory for southern New Mexico and especially the communities of Lordsburg, Deming and Las Cruces that can now more fully participate in the opportunities for legitimate commerce that their close proximity to the Mexican border offers,” BTA President Nelson Balido said. “The Department of Homeland Security should be applauded for proposing to install a cross-border travel policy that is reflective of the unique nature of the southern New Mexico border region while ensuring that security is not compromised. The BTA will be giving the proposal our full endorsement during the comment period and we will be urging stakeholders from across New Mexico to do the same.”
Under existing rules, Mexican nationals possessing a Border Crossing Card are required to obtain form I-94 before traveling north into New Mexico beyond 25 miles. Obtaining the card requires secondary screening by Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry, resulting in costs and delays to Mexican travelers while diverting CBP resources away from more pressing inspections.
Las Cruces’ Erin Ward, a previous BTA chair, credited New Mexico’s congressional delegation and community and business leaders for the DHS proposal.
“This change is a long time coming,” Ward said. “Leaders from the local, county and state level have been urging federal officials for over a decade to expand the cross-border travel and shopping zone in southern New Mexico. Our members of Congress deserve tremendous credit for working in a bipartisan fashion to make this happen.”
The rule change would bring southern New Mexico into parity with Arizona. In 1999, the federal government allowed Mexican nationals with a Border Crossing Card entering at certain ports of entry to travel as far north as Tucson without obtaining the I-94.
Luna County Commissioner Jay Spivey said the proposed rule change “will mean that our friends in Mexico can now sleep in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores and visit friends and family in our area with fewer hassles than they’ve previously encountered at our border. This is great news for Luna County.”
Andres Silva, a BTA board member and the mayor of Deming, hailed the plan. “It has become increasingly rare, unfortunately, for good news to come from Washington, especially when it has to do with the border. But today’s announcement is evidence that with a united voice, border-area communities can be heard at the highest levels of government,” Silva said. “I am especially pleased that Democrats and Republicans have come together to develop a policy that will boost southern New Mexico’s retail and tourism business.”
The BTA’s Balido also commended retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman for his work. “Sen. Bingaman deserves special recognition for making this issue and southern New Mexico economic development a priority in his last year in the Senate.”
DHS notice of proposed rulemaking: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2012-19458.pdf
A column by BTA President Nelson Balido on the need for the travel zone change from February 2012: http://www.thebta.org/btanews/time-is-right-to-expand-border-travel-zone.html
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About the Border Trade Alliance
Since 1986, the BTA has served as a grassroots, non-profit organization that provides a forum for discussion and advocacy on issues pertaining to the environment, border development, quality of life and trade in the Americas. A network of public and private sector representatives from the United States, Mexico and Canada, BTA’s core values include a commitment to improving the quality of life of border communities through trade and commerce.