A bipartisan coalition of more than 250 House members, led by Reps. Jack Quinn, R-NY, and James Oberstar, D-MN, sent a letter to President Clinton last week urging him not to open the border, as is scheduled to take place next January under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
NAFTA initially called for allowing Mexican trucks into U.S. border states in December 1995, but the Clinton Administration at the last minute put a hold on that provisions due to safety concerns about Mexican trucks.
"Extending access for Mexican trucks on U.S. roads in the near future would result in serious consequences for the traveling public and for businesses that depend on our roads to transport their goods," Quinn said at a press conference Thursday. He cited a recently released General Accounting Office report that indicated that only a small percentage of Mexican trucks coming into this country are inspected. Of those, 45% are put out of service.
"In 1999, the safety problems that have existed since 1995 are still here," Quinn said. "U.S. border programs have not significantly improved, and Mexican enforcement is virtually non-existent."
Organized labor groups support the coalition's position. Teamsters President James P. Hoffa says "the line in the sand has been drawn. Mr. President, we must protect America's highways and keep our families safe. Keep our border closed to Mexican trucks."
Lawmakers and the Teamsters also released a letter from the DOT Inspector General to Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama that outlined the failure of U.S. inspectors to prevent Mexican trucks from going beyond the current commercial zones along the border states. Mexican trucks have been stopped as far away as New York, North Dakota and Wyoming.