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Congressman Duncan Hunter
More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have written to President Bush, asking him why the Department of Transportation apparently is ignoring what the legislators want.
The issue was raised by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who circulated the letter dealing with plans to hurry along with a “demonstration” project to allow Mexican truckers access to U.S. roads. Specifically, the letter raised concerns about federal agency actions – apparently despite what Congress wrote into the law.
“The U.S. Congress and the American people seriously question the ability of Mexican motor carriers and drivers to adhere to our country’s strict safety rules, as well as the administration’s preparedness and willingness to ensure Mexican truck drivers obey our homeland security and immigration rules,” said the letter.
“As such, Congress mobilized to speak against it. Congress had already passed H.R. 1773, the ‘Safe American Roads Act of 2007,’ which passed overwhelmingly 411-3, and related language in P.L. 110-28, the FY07 supplemental appropriations act. Both pieces of legislation provided strict measures to ensure that the Department of Transportation and the pilot program would adhere to security guidelines and that an independent panel would assess their progress in ensuring American safety,” the letter continued.
“However, even after you signed the supplemental into law, the Department of Transportation arrogantly declared that these standards had already been met, that no independent assessment would be needed, and that the pilot program would proceed as planned,” the members of Congress said.
“If Congress believed that the provisions in the supplemental had already been met, then there would have been no need to incorporate such language. The Department of Transportation should not stand above the law.”
Joe Kasper, a legislative assistant to Hunter, told WND the 114 signatures on the letter make a statement to the president not to move forward with the cross-border trucking program right away.
The proposed test, he said, “certainly presents safety and security risks” that need to be addressed.
“From a safety perspective you have unregulated Mexican truckers and drivers entering the U.S. and freely operating on U.S. roadways. Their motor vehicle standards are not as strong as they are in the U.S., and you could have unfit motor vehicle traffic traveling on U.S. roadways,” he said.
As for security, “the concerns are abundantly clear. You can carry any type of contraband or illicit cargo into the United States already. The idea that you would add one more complication to the already porous border just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
The letter from Hunter and others is telling the president to get it right, Kasper told WND.
“The Cross-Border Demonstration Program would give Mexican truck drivers unfettered access to the United State without a demonstrable way to verify their identity, immigration status and length of stay in the United States,” the letter said. “It is also unclear which law enforcement personnel have the responsibility, authority and training to check a Mexican driver’s status and enforce compliance with the federal laws once they are in the United States.”
The letter warned the action would open “major loopholes” in law enforcement procedures.
“We understand the administration’s duty to adhere to our obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but this must never come before our duty to maintain the security and welfare of the American people,” the letter said.
Kasper said something as simple as language could create issues. A Mexican driver unfamiliar with English-language instructions on highways could create an unacceptable risk of accidents.
“Mr. President, we understand your intention to fully implement the provisions of NAFTA by opening our southern border to commercial traffic. However, those interests should not be put ahead of our public safety, homeland security, and economic vitality. We strongly urge you to suspend plans for the Cross-Border Demonstration Program until these serious issues can be addressed,” the letter concluded.
As WND reported earlier, the White House has been pressing the Senate on the issue, seeking to derail the House-approved “Safe Roads” plan.
Sources within the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation confirmed in background conversations that the panel has put on hold taking any action on the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, the bill the House passed May 15.
At the encouragement of the White House, the senators on the transportation committee are taking the position that the requirements of the Safe American Roads Act were wrapped into the provisions of H.R. 2206, the Iraq supplemental funding bill, signed May 25 by President Bush.
An unhappy Todd Spencer, executive director of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, believes the Bush administration “has preordained that the Mexican truck demonstration project will begin regardless who objects.”
“Simply put, the Bush administration has turned a tin ear to both the public and the Congress and there are no objections which can put a stop to the DOT plans,” he told WND.