- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A bipartisan group of more than 100 House members is urging President Bush to halt a plan to give Mexican truckers full access to U.S. roads, saying it would compromise national security and provide a way for foreigners to enter the country illegally.

“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 a letter signed by 114 House members and sent to the White House on Monday.

The letter was drafted by Reps. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, and Nancy Boyda, Kansas Democrat, and co-signed by 61 Democrats and 51 Republicans.

“I believe our roads will be less safe with this program, and this isn’t theoretical; it’s a probability,” Mrs. Boyda said. “It does make me furious.”

She said yesterday that she wasn’t aware of any White House response to the letter.

Mexican-registered trucks are allowed to make deliveries and pickups in the United States only within special commercial zones that extend up to about 70 miles inside the border.

Several months ago, Mr. Bush announced a Department of Transportation test program that would permit 100 Mexican-based trucking companies to travel anywhere in the United States. An equal number of U.S. trucking companies would be allowed to make deliveries and pickups in Mexico.

Participating Mexican companies must be insured with a U.S.-licensed firm and meet all U.S. safety standards.

The program was designed to simplify a process that requires Mexican truckers to stop and wait for U.S. trucks to arrive and transfer cargo. The Transportation Department says the process wastes money, drives up the costs of goods and leaves trucks loaded with cargo idling inside U.S. borders.

Opponents say the program would give Mexican truck drivers unfettered access to the United States without a demonstrable way to verify their identity, immigration status and length of stay.

They also said it is not clear which law-enforcement agencies would have the authority and responsibility to check a Mexican driver’s status and enforce compliance with the federal laws.

“I am disappointed that DOT is moving forward with the implementation of its cross-border trucking program,” said Mr. Hunter, a presidential candidate. “There is a bipartisan consensus amongst Congress that Mexican truckers should not be provided immediate and unrestricted access into the United States.”

In an attempt to delay the program indefinitely, the House in May approved the Safe American Roads Act by a vote of 411-3. The measure, sponsored by Mrs. Boyda, placed a series of restrictions on Mexican trucks and their drivers.

The department hopes to begin the program by the end of the year, said Melissa Mazzella DeLaney, a spokeswoman with the Transportation Department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“We’ve met and exceeded every requirement put into place for this program, and we will continue to do so as the cross-border trucking demonstration program moves forward to lower costs for American consumers and make our economy more competitive,” Ms. DeLaney said.

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