Adios? Budget bill could end Mexican cross-border program

WASHINGTON — America’s controversial, but ongoing Mexican cross-border truck program may once again come to a halt if an omnibus budget bill in the U.S. House introduced Monday is passed.

The program, active since 2007, allows select Mexican carriers to haul freight beyond the longstanding 25-mile commercial restriction zone at the border.

Though Congress tried to down the Bush administration’s pilot program to open the border in the 2008 appropriations, the Bush administration found a loophole in language that prohibited the "establishment" of a program, saying since the program was already established, there was no ban on continuing it.

Bush ignored unions and special interest groups that tried
to halt the Mexican truck pilot. It’s unlikely Obama will do the same.

Then, in September of last year, a Democratic-controlled Congress voted to end the program, but then-President Bush vetoed that bill and DOT officials said they would extend the program for another two years.

Now under an Obama administration, it’s more likely the two-year pilot project will come to an end.

Section 136 of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill’s Transportation Title states, "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act may be used, directly or indirectly, to establish, implement, continue, promote, or in any way permit a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico."

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, who along with a group of other protectionist agencies like Public Citizen, spent years fighting the program, arguing it made America’s roads unsafe. Hoffa applauded the House for including the ban.

"Shutting down the border is the right thing to do," Hoffa said. "There’s no guarantee that trucks or drivers from Mexico are safe. Until there is, dangerous Mexican trucks should not be allowed to drive freely on our highways."

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