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U.S. Senator Heinrich calls for upgrades to Santa Teresa Port of Entry

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich has called on government agencies to finalize a feasibility study on the expansion and modernization of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. Anthony Moreno talked with the Democratic senator to learn more about why he feels this is a priority.


Anthony Moreno: Joining us now is US Senator Martin Heinrich. Senator Heinrich, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.

Senator Heinrich: Oh, great to be with you.

Anthony Moreno: You recently announced that you sent a letter to US Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration to call on them to complete a feasibility study to expand and modernize the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in Southern New Mexico. How important is this for economic development in our region?

Senator Heinrich: Well Santa Terrace has been a major economic driver in the state of New Mexico for a number of years, but really this potential has the ability to take it to the next level. What this study shows is that we should more than triple the capacity of Santa Teresa and that would dramatically increase the amount of economic development that that means for southern New Mexico and our ability to create a state-of-the-art port of entry with the highest security and the latest security in terms of interdicting contraband flowing in both directions. So, this really is a huge win win for the state of New Mexico and potentially we could see what is already a big part of our economy, more than triple.

Anthony Moreno: I want to follow up on that. You mentioned contraband, obviously, fentanyl, a major concern for a lot of folks in our region and across the country. An updated port of entry. How do you think that can make an impact?

Senator Heinrich: You know it. It allows us to build the latest technology at the front end. So, the kind of scanning technology that we really want to see across our entire southern border at every single port of entry, we can make sure that that's part of the design from day one as we expand the existing port of entry. And so that state-of-the-art scanning technology is our best defense in terms of interdicting fentanyl flowing north it's also our best defense. Interdicting things like firearms flowing south, which has been a huge challenge in recent years, I was able to put language into the gun safety bill that passed a couple of years ago now making it illegal to traffic firearms out of the country. And that was a huge focus and much, much of that effort grew out of what I was hearing from law enforcement and CBP on the southern border.

Anthony Moreno: There's certainly a lot of humanitarian concerns when you're talking about our ports of entry. There's concerns about folks who are seeking asylum turning themselves in. At ports of entry, how do you envision this port of entry in Santa Teresa being able to help alleviate some of those issues that border officials are dealing with right now?

Senator Heinrich: Well, it creates additional capacity, right? Which is we want people presenting themselves for asylum at ports of entry. We don't want them crossing in the middle of the desert, putting their lives at risk, you know, empowering the drug cartels and the coyotes who have been praying on many of the asylum seekers. So, this creates additional capacity on the border to be able to process people the legal appropriate way and to make sure that they're safe. In addition, we need to go back to the table on the border security and asylum improvement bill that that Donald Trump basically got many of my colleagues to walk away from just a few weeks ago, those fixes are still necessary and when we have an obvious Solution on the table supported by everyone from the Wall Street Journal and the Border Patrol union to the asylum and immigration lawyers. We shouldn't walk away from that. We should implement those changes.

This is the first of a two-part conversation with U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

Anthony Moreno serves as the Director of Content at KRWG Public Media. He also is host and executive producer for "Fronteras-A Changing America" and "Your Legislators" on KRWG-TV.