U.S. Rep. Will Hurd and two other congressmen visited Juárez on Thursday as part of efforts by Hurd to show lawmakers the importance of the border in helping the U.S. compete in the global economy.
Hurd was accompanied by fellow Republican congressmen French Hill of Arkansas and Ralph Abraham of Louisiana on a tour that included visits to Fort Bliss, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility and a Wednesday night ride with El Paso County sheriff's deputies in the Lower Valley. Hurdmet with business people Wednesday in Horizon City.
"I'm the only Republican on the border in Texas. So, it's important for me to educate my colleagues on what's really going on here," said Hurd, who was elected in November to represent an expansive congressional district stretching from his hometown of San Antonio to the eastern part of El Paso County.
Pete Gallego, a Democrat from Alpine who previously represented the district, announced Thursday that he would run again next year.
"Any opportunity I have to bring colleagues here to show them the importance of border security and international commerce. It's important," Hurd said. "El Paso is the safest city of its size in America and it's great to be able to show that and gain allies from all over the country on making sure that we fix these problems."
Hurd said that lawmakers sometimes have misconceptions about the border region.
"I think in general, I think there is a perception that the border is (that) this lawlessness prevails," he said. "And I say this, the folks protecting our border do a good job. We could always do a better job."
In their trip to Juárez, the congressmen visited an automotive manufacturing plant and had lunch at a restaurant before returning the El Paso. The wait to cross the border took 15 minutes going to Mexico and 35 minutes to return to the U.S., Hurd said.
Long waits to cross the international bridges are among the most frequent complaints that Hurd hears from El Paso business leaders, he said.
"I realize it's a big deal. The wait times are a huge issue," Hurd said in an interview after returning from Juárez.
"For me, we have a real competitive advantage in global trade with what's happening in northern Mexico," Hurd said. "If we're able to decrease the wait times that products, goods and services take to get across that border, it's a huge competitive advantage over China and India."