Seen from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter, traffic passes between Mexico and the United States at the San Ysidro port of entry. (John Moore / Getty Images)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will have the chance to team up with private organizations to modernize and expand border crossings under a five-year pilot program authorized by the newly signed fiscal 2014 spending bill.
The bill allows CBP to accept donations of property and services needed to update facilities at land ports of entry along the border, according to an explanatory report. Beforehand, however, the bill requires CBP and the General Services Administration, which acts as a landlord for most federal agencies, to spell out their respective roles, identify possible risks and publish procedures for evaluating projects.
By one CBP estimate, it will take some $6 billion to fully modernize the ports of entry, which are more than 40 years old on average and straining under increased traffic. But new federal construction money has been scarce in recent years, although the spending bill includes $295 million for border projects in Texas, New Mexico and Southern California.
The new bill “gives the opportunity for money to go where it’s needed,” said Monica Weissberg-Stewart, chairman of the immigration and border security committee for the Texas Border Coalition, an advocacy group in favor of more private sector involvement.
Under a spending bill approved last year, CBP recently signed agreements to provide increased services in return for fees at Miami-Dade County, the City of Houston Airport System and three other locations.