Press Release

Cuellar, Escobar Secure $2 Million to Assist U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission with Health Issues Unique to Southern Border

Commission to implement Binational Vaccine Deployment Strategy

Washington | Dana Youngentob, DC Press Secretary (202-340-9148), April 7, 2022

Washington, DC— U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) secured $2,000,000 in federal funding for the U.S. Mexico Border Health Commission (BHC) in the FY22 omnibus appropriations legislation.

The funding will support the commission’s goal to improve health and quality of life along the U.S.-Mexico border. The funding will also back the implementation of a binational vaccine deployment strategy. 

Specifically, the funding will be used to support border health programmatic activities through the Border Infectious Disease Surveillance (BIDS) program to enhance information systems, to facilitate communicable disease reporting, follow up on outbreaks and notifications to Mexican health authorities, to assist state, local, and international entities in their efforts to set appropriate public health communications protocols, and to develop assessments to better describe mobile border populations. The funding will also continue covering the administrative, human resources and infrastructure costs of the El Paso Office.

The funding is an increase of $900,000 from the FY2021 Appropriations Bill. 

“In South Texas, our communities along the border are interconnected with our sister cities in Mexicothousands of people and billions of dollars cross daily. Any strategy, especially one regarding public health matters, must be binational in nature and endorsed by both sides of the Rio Grande,” said Congressman Cuellar. “The U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission has played a key role in our efforts to mitigate the pandemic and establish a path to recovery. The language that I was able to secure in the Appropriations legislation, supports a binational COVID-19 vaccine deployment strategy that will ensure a full economic recovery in communities on both sides of the border.”

“With over 80 million cases of Coronavirus reported in the United States and over 5 million cases in Mexico since the start of the Pandemic, empowering the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to protect the lives, livelihoods, and economies of our border communities and prepare our region to confront future public health threats must be a priority for Congress and this Administration,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “We must employ a binational COVID-19 strategy to ensure a full economic recovery both at the border and beyond.”

The Commission was created as a binational health commission in July 2000 with the signing of an agreement by the Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States and the Secretary of Health of Mexico. In 2004, the Commission was designated as a Public International Organization by Executive Order of the President, thus the integration into OGA’s International Relations Division.

The BHC has brought together the two countries and their border states to address border health challenges by providing the necessary leadership to develop coordinated and binational actions that can improve the health and quality of life of all border residents.

The United States-Mexico border region is defined as the area of land 62.5 miles north and south of the international boundary. The population for this stretch of land is estimated to be approximately 15 million people, and is expected to double by the year 2025. Furthermore, the region is medically underserved with a population with pressing health and social conditions, higher uninsured rates, high rates of migration, and a high rate of poverty. 

The BHC is composed of the federal secretaries of health of the two countries, the chief health officers of the ten binational border states, and prominent community health professionals from both nations.

Cuellar also helped to secure language that encourages the United States to engage with its Mexican counterparts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine deployment strategy for communities on the border. This strategy will facilitate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic which had huge impacts on communities along the Southern border given that thousands of people and billions of dollars in trade cross the border daily regardless of international closures.

Cuellar previously co-sponsored legislation to protect border communities against the COVID-19 pandemic by amending the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission Act to direct the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to assemble a report on COVID-19 response along the border and create binational plans addressing COVID-19 and future infectious diseases. The full text of the legislation is available here.