EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – If Cindy Ramos-Davidson had her way, she would put many of the border’s movers and shakers on an airplane and fly them to Washington, D.C.

There, the delegation would make the case for more personnel and technology at ports of entry, more federal infrastructure money for border communities and immigration reform to fill a growing number of vacant jobs in the services and other industries.

Then she would put the delegation on another plane and have the same discussion about trade in Mexico City.

“When you look at us, we’re El Paso-Juarez-New Mexico, we’re one huge region. So much comes through our region that we all need to do a better job of talking, communicating and informing each other about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and how we need to do it together,” said the CEO of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Cindy Ramos-Davidson, CEO El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (Border Report photo)

Ramos-Davidson was among the panelists of a binational trade forum sponsored Wednesday by the El Paso Community Foundation and the Mexican consulate in El Paso. The meeting at the foundation’s office marked the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that business leaders from Juarez and El Paso met in a single place. Participants vowed to schedule future summits and fine-tune regional business advocacy efforts.

The forum shed light on a region where trade volumes are good but could be better if cross-border cargo inspections were faster and more trucks could be diverted away from the urban sprawl.

“We have a line of new manufacturing plants wanting to come in. But if we have 10, 12, 15 new maquiladoras sending cargo (to the United States), our international bridges will collapse,” said Nora Yu, president of the Juarez Customs Brokers Association. “We need more infrastructure on the ports that we have and also develop the ports in Tornillo (Texas) and Santa Teresa (New Mexico) if we want to look to the future.”

Commercial trade volumes at El Paso area ports of entry. (U.S. Department of Transportation graphic)

Thor Salayandia, president of the Juarez Chamber of Industry, agrees that bottlenecks are not unusual in Juarez due to cargo trucks waiting to cross into the U.S.

“This not only brings about losses for the export industry when you have to pay drivers to wait in line, but also increases the risk of further air pollution,” he said.

The U.S. federal government has earmarked $600 million for improvements at the Bridge of the Americas and the City of El Paso is also planning improvements around the Ysleta Port of Entry.

Yu echoed Ramos-Davidson’s call for El Paso and Juarez business leaders to rally around a common agenda and take the case to federal officials in both countries.