April 3, 2014
The Arizona Republic
Our View: House delegation works together, gets start on needed ports staffing increase
Arizona can celebrate a big win along the border. The credit goes to the state's U.S. House delegation. Last month, eight members signed a letter seeking additional Customs' officers at the ports of entry.
They asked for 500 new officers, which is what Arizona needs.
They got 170. Well, it's a start. It will help.
Federal improvements to the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales produced a vastly expanded facility that has to be properly staffed to be useful. Closed lanes and limited operating hours don't cut it.
What's at stake is national security (smugglers increasingly use ports) as well as Arizona's ability to grow its trade relationship with Mexico. Texas is actively competing to divert the Mexican produce that has long come through Arizona borders. Arizona has to be competitive.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, says the Mariposa port alone needs 250 additional Customs officers. Yet the federal commitment to boost staffing in our state is a "great step in the right direction," he says.
What's also impressive is that our House delegation worked across party lines to make this happen. Republican Rep. Matt Salmon took the lead on the letter to the Department of Homeland Security. It was signed by fellow Republicans Trent Franks, David Schweikert and Paul Gosar. Democrats signing were Kyrsten Sinema, Ron Barber, Raul Grijalva and Anne Kirkpatrick.
But this was just a start. The delegation needs to continue working together to help Arizona build trade infrastructure so it can reap the commercial potential of its international border.