International Commerce, Economies Impeded Due to Border Security
by Justin O'Brien
April 29, 2002
Urging active mayoral coordination to bring international focus to the plight of border cities and cross'border transportation and trade, Juarez, Mexico Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz presented his case for cohesive smart border security policy on April 18. Juarez shares the border with sister city El Paso, Texas.
Reyes comments contrast sharply to reports of improving economic conditions in some cities since the implementation of additional security measures following the September 11th attacks. Reyes said that it is regrettable that conditions are not improving at U.S.'Mexico border crossings where travel and commerce continue to experience severe difficulties.
Prior to September 11th, he said about 30,000 vehicles crossed the border daily in a process that took up to one hour. Now, Reyes said, delays of three to seven hours are the norm. In order to overcome these excessive delays pedestrian traffic crossing the border has increased from 7,000 per day to over 20,000 in Ciudad Juarez'El Paso with the length of time required to cross the border increasing from 5 minutes before September 11th to two hours now.
The human and environmental costs of these conditions have included many women having to give birth on the El Paso'Juarez pedestrian bridges as a result of delays. Additionally, two children, a 13 year old girl and 6 year old boy died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to emissions from idling trucks and cars during one such cross'border visit. Environmental conditions have worsened and air pollution critically increased due to the sheer numbers of vehicles caught in border crossing bottlenecks.
On the topic of physical terror threats to border crossings, in Ciudad Juarez'El Paso Reyes said 60 threats to international bridges have been received since 9/11. At first, the bridges were closed upon receiving the threats but a change in the closure policy was forced due to the resulting chaos in both cities. The reality is, he said, that trade, travel and tourism have been severely impaired and economic and social development in border cities and beyond are dependent on expeditious international trade.
Reyes explained that while he welcomed Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's recent announcement regarding the establishment of express lanes for industrial transportation at the Detroit'Windsor crossings, these policies must be applied to other important international border crossings. The establishment of express lanes occurred largely due to the influence of large corporations and the automotive industry in the Detroit region. Truck drivers for large corporations will have to undergo expensive security clearances but small business and the bulk of commercial enterprises have neither alternatives nor express lanes according to Reyes.