LAREDO, TX (February 18, 2014) The Laredo Chamber of Commerce hosted Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to a roundtable discussion over lunch on Tuesday, February 18.   Mayorkas was in town to join in the announcement of the recent approval of $62 M for infrastructure development at Laredo’s downtown bridges.  Also joining the Deputy Secretary in his visit to the Chamber was the Acting Deputy Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan.

 The one-hour meeting, held in the chamber Board Room, gave local business leaders the opportunity to interact with the two agency heads in a casual face-to-face setting.  Chairman of the Board Javier Moctezuma opened the meeting by welcoming the two dignitaries along with their delegation.  Secretary Mayorkas then followed by thanking the local group for making time to visit with him.  He expressed admiration at the working relationship that exists among federal agencies, local public agencies and the private sector, which bode for an efficient system of operations in handling crossings.  As the meeting progressed several issues of interest to the local participants were raised.  These included:  request for increased personnel to service the local points of crossing (particularly in light of the proposed hiring of 2000 new agents), increased investment in administrative staffing to support commercial crossings, and care to ensure that funding obtained through PPP’s (Public/Private Partnerships) is used to supplement and not supplant  upcoming projects.  Acting Commissioner McAleenan’s participation in some of these areas proved particularly helpful as he helped clarify some of the questions arising.  Both dignitaries agreed with the local group that statistics reflect decreasing levels of crime along the border and offered to support efforts to dispel any information to the contrary.

One area of particular interest to Secretary Mayorkas was the impact on the border by drilling activity at the Eagle Ford Shale.  In particular he inquired about workforce and infrastructure issues related to the growth.  As the group offered information on existing programs at the local ISD’s, LCC and TAMIU, which have resulted in response to needs of the energy industry, he proposed continued investment through PPP’s.

As the meeting came to a close, both Deputy Secretary Mayorkas and Acting Commissioner McAleenan expressed their commitment to assure the clear movement of people and cargo across the various points of crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Informed that a Chamber delegation would be traveling to Washington, DC, soon, Commissioner McAleenan invited the group to attend the CBP East Coast Trade Symposium scheduled for March 6-7, 2014.  He also offered to assist the group in scheduling meetings with agencies of interest while on their visit.

Accompanying Secretary Mayorkas and Acting Deputy Commissioner McAleenan were Rear Admiral of the Coast Guard June Ryan, who serves as Military Advisor to the Secretary, Robert Silvers, a member of the DHS staff, and CBP Commander Robert Harris, stationed at the local level.   Attending the session on the Laredo side were Chamber Chairman Javier Moctezuma, Chairman Elect David Newman, Board officers Susana Valencia (BBVA Compass), Mario Pena (IBC), Cassandra Wheeler (TAMIU) and Adelaido Uribe (Keystone Financial), and Chamber President Miguel Conchas along with Chamber Vice President Miriam Castillo.  Other industry representatives attending were Rolando Ortiz, President of the LDF, Sonia Villarreal, President of the Laredo Licensed U.S. Custom Brokers Association, Juan Barajas, President of the Association of Laredo Forwarding Agents, Jaime Loera, President of the Logistics and Manufacturing Association.

 The Laredo Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1915 is Laredo’s and Webb County’s longest running business organization.  It works constantly to create a business-friendly environment in the community.  The Laredo Chamber currently counts with 675 members within its rolls, representing every facet of the business community.  Over 80 percent of the Chamber membership is constituted by small businesses.