Press Release

Cuellar, Cornyn, Border Delegation Send Bipartisan Letter Demanding DHS Plan for Re-Opening Ports of Entry

Washington | Charlotte Laracy, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Alexis Torres, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), October 2, 2020

Laredo, TX – Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and U.S. Senator John Cornyn led a bipartisan letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf expressing concern with continued travel restrictions at our southern ports of entry and demanding a plan to restore normal operations. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ, along with U.S. Representatives Will Hurd (TX-23), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Michael McCaul (TX-10), and Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02),  joined the letter. Read the full letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf here.

They wrote: “We fully appreciate the difficult balance that DHS must strike between protecting its officers and the public against COVID-19, and facilitating the economic and social needs of border communities.  However, DHS has provided little public insight into how it weighed the costs and benefits of these extended travel restrictions. We worry the longer lines at ports of entry and inability to social distance in pedestrian lanes may actually increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, and DHS has not provided sufficient information to show how they are mitigating these risks.

“Furthermore, DHS has not publicly articulated a plan for returning to normal operations, or set forth any benchmarks that must be reached before the travel restrictions can be partially relaxed or completely lifted. While we understand that DHS is currently forced to adapt to a constantly-changing situation, all four southwest border states—Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California—have developed phased reopening plans. DHS should develop the same type of plan to better provide local communities with a basic idea of what to expect in the coming months.”

“Finally, DHS has not adequately communicated with local governments, businesses, and the general public about the travel restrictions. Although CBP has engaged in local outreach efforts, many of those efforts seem to have focused on “essential” businesses. So-called “non-essential” businesses—which comprise critical parts of the local economies—are often left under-informed about why the restrictions have been imposed and when they may be lifted.”

Last week, Congressman Cuellar sent a letter to House Leadership, urging them to establish a program for enhanced COVID-19 health screenings at Land Ports of Entry (LPOEs) in the next COVID-19 Emergency Response Relief Package. The program would allow the DHS Secretary to utilize public-private partnerships to help provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection the necessary personnel, equipment, testing and medical expertise to conduct these health screenings. Read the full letter to House leadership here. 

In September, Congressman Cuellar held a press conference to discuss his proposal to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would work to reduce or eliminate restrictions on non-essential travel while limiting the further spread of Coronavirus at the southern border. DHS continues to extend non-essential travel restrictions but has not provided a plan to resolve the issue. The continual 30-day extensions of the travel restrictions prolongs economic devastation in our communities.  Read his remarks from the press conference, which includes the proposal to DHS, here.