SPECIAL REPORT: Lawmakers call for halt to Mexican pilot program

| 7/3/2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 - The continued push to launch a cross-border program with Mexican motor carriers, despite recently enacted legislation, met with staunch opposition from members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

In a bi-partisan, united front, more than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives - with close to a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans - signed a letter to President Bush that expressed "grave concerns" on the administration's continued push to get the program rolling and urged suspension of the program.

The letter was delivered to the president Tuesday.

"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," House members wrote in the letter.

The fact that both parties in the House are concerned about the cross-border program isn't a big surprise.

In May, the House overwhelmingly passed HR1773, the Safe American Roads Act of 2007, with a vote of 411-3. That bill outlined several steps the Department of Transportation would have to comply with before opening the border and provided for independent oversight of the program.

While HR1773 has yet to surface in the Senate for consideration, some of its language was rolled into the Senate's version of the supplemental war funding legislation that was signed into law by the president.

The fact the president signed restrictions on the program into law was not lost on those who signed the letter.

"However, even after you signed the supplemental (legislation) into law, the Department of Transportation arrogantly declared that these standards had already been met, that no independent assessment would be needed, and that the pilot program would proceed as previously planned," the members wrote in their letter.

"If Congress believed that the provisions in the supplemental (legislation) had already been met, then there would have been no need to incorporate such language. The Department of Transportation should not stand above the law."

The letter ran down a plethora of problems facing the program, such as how laws and regulations will be enforced, and loopholes that will allow violators to disregard U.S. laws.

"Congress and the American public must be convinced the Department of Transportation is meeting the provisions recently passed into law before moving forward with this program," the members wrote.

Until that happens, the members urged the president to suspend plans for the program until "these serious issues can be addressed."

- By Jami Jones, senior editor