Our View: Expansion of travel zone is good for area
The announcement last week by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano proposing to extend the border zone in New Mexico from its current 25 miles up to 55 miles is great news for Las Cruces businesses, and will put them on a more level playing field with competitors in Texas and Arizona.
The change would allow Mexican nationals holding Border Crossing Cards to travel to Las Cruces, Deming and Lordsburg, which are all beyond the current 25 mile restriction. That could mean up to $51 million a year in increased sales, create up to 343 new jobs, and increase annual tax revenue by up to $2.57 million, according to an assessment conducted by NMSU Economics Professor James Peach.
Under current law, El Paso gets all the benefit from visitors crossing the border to shop, dine or conduct business in the United States. Las Cruces residents wanting to meet with friends or family visiting from Mexico and entering the country with BCC cards have to drive to El Paso to legally hold those gatherings. Security must always be a top priority for any program designed to ease border travel. In the case of the Biometric Border Crossing Cards, Mexican nationals must undergo background, fingerprint and security checks to qualify. Card holders can stay within the border zone for up to 30 days without having to obtain form I-94.