The Weslaco Chamber of Commerce hosted its monthly Good Morning Weslaco event on Wednesday, June 8, featuring guest speaker Nancy Becker, Customs and Border Protection Port Director for the Progreso and Donna International Bridges.
Becker began with a brief history on Customs and Border Protection and how it was formed under the Department of Homeland Security. Rather than having individual agencies at the different ports of entry working separately, Customs and Border Protection combined the customs, immigration and agriculture inspection agencies, which includes Border Patrol. Becker reported that on a typical day, Customs and Border Protection inspects a total of nearly a million passengers and pedestrians at each international border, and seizes roughly 12,000 pounds of narcotics. In 2010, Customs and Border Protection inspected 352 million travelers at each port of entry.
Becker also discussed the impact border violence has had on international travel and trade. Though it initially decreased, she says that it’s beginning to level out and the growth in international trade is still there. Different methods have been employed to expedite the wait time at the ports of entry, including a pre-screening process that have been set up with international partners.
“We have to push our borders out,” remarked Becker. “We can no longer wait until the cargo or person is at the port of entry to try to determine whether or not it’s legitimate. Because of the increase in international trade business we have to be smarter about how we process and perform inspections.”
Becker also talked about the Trusted Traveler program, designed to expedite the wait time at international bridges. With all the goods and people that enter into the U.S., over 100 rules and regulations from various government organizations must be met, which is why crossing over can be time consuming, especially during the holidays. Becker discussed several Trusted Traveler programs such as SENTRI and FAST Driver, which require specific documents that comply with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). These documents are issued in the form of a card which contains a microchip inside. Transponders located in the driving lanes scan the card during your wait in line to inspection. This reduces the amount of time Border Patrol agents spend in verifying each traveler or commercial truck driver.
Though not all of our local bridges have these systems in place, Becker says it’s only a matter of time before each port is updated with the latest technology. She was also thankful to the business community for their support and cooperation, and feels that all the communities need to work together to promote economic development for the entire region.
“Without partners in the business community, we could not succeed,” stated Becker. “We are all in this together.”
For more information about the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, visit www.weslaco.com.
Caption: Nancy Becker, Port Director for the Progreso and Donna International Bridges speaks at Good Morning Weslaco, held at Savory Perks Coffee House in Weslaco on June 8.