From the Chairman: Common Interest
It’s not clear how it happened but on March 6, without warning, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official in New Mexico ordered the livestock port of entry at Columbus to shut down because border violence was too much of a threat to USDA inspectors. The local official said he was following directions from a regional official and the regional official pointed to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and a general State Department travel advisory. No one had a good explanation for why other ports were allowed to stay open.
In some ways the details didn’t matter, the result was the same: a severe blow to the local economy and area stability. Worse, two months later when the LFC held its meeting in Columbus, the manager of the associated Luna County Stockyard said the port was still closed with no sign of when it might reopen.
Luna County and the cattlemen of Chihuahua, Mexico, have invested substantial resources into upgrading the port into a safe crossing that meets all standards. Along with the merchants of Columbus and Palomas, Mexico, they were being hit hard by the closure. They brought their concerns to the committee, and the committee took the issue to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
State legislators were joined by New Mexico’s congressional delegation in pressuring federal officials to resolve the issue. Local parties offered solutions that included heightened security and access through the stockyard to eliminate the need for inspectors to go through Palomas. Finally on June 3, three months after it was shut down, the USDA authorized veterinarians to resume inspections at the port of entry.
The reasons behind the closure might still be murky but it is clear that cooperation – between local leaders in both Mexico and Luna County and among New Mexico’s elected representatives – was key to getting it reopened.
Senator John Arthur Smith