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Valley congressman announces funding plans for new McAllen courthouse, Brownsville port of entry

3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago Wednesday, July 08 2020 Jul 8, 2020 July 08, 2020 11:20 AM July 08, 2020 in News - Local

Federal courthouses and ports of entry could soon be funded if the U.S. Senate approves a bill that cleared the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar announced Wednesday. A McAllen federal courthouse and a Brownsville port of entry are part of those plans.

Cuellar announced two different allocations delineated in the 2021 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill.

"It's not going to happen by tomorrow, but it will speed up the process. It will be some years, but the funding will make a big difference," Cuellar said.

A billion dollars were designated for the construction of seven federal courthouses, and another $2.8 billion was set aside for thirteen land ports of entry.

A new federal courthouse in McAllen is overdue, Cuellar stressed. The downtown multi-level building currently in use was originally designed as office space. Up to $198 million dollars will be allocated for the construction of a new facility, but the amount could be less if the donated land from McAllen is counted.

Out of all the courthouses expected to get funding, Cuellar said McAllen's is more active when looking solely on felony and Class A misdemeanor cases. The court handled 2,282 cases last year. Which is 2,234 more than what went through the Kentucky's Bowling Green division.

The ports of entry are also listed in the appropriations bill. They appear in order or priority. Brownsville's Gateway International appears as number nine, below El Paso's Bridge of the Americas. Both could see an improvement in their site and design, but it won't include new construction.

It could be years before the Valley's port of entry will be redesigned. Cuellar says he expects those designs will factor in all forms of traffic.

"We're hoping that the new ports of entry reflect the third dimension which is which is trade, tourism and immigration," he said.

Immigrant families and children crammed into small holding spaces at ports of entry during the surge last year. CBP acknowledged their facilities were designed to process single adult males.

"If you go, for example, to the Hidalgo port of entry, I've been there several times. You will see that you have people waiting in offices and using bathrooms that belong to the people who work there," Cuellar said.

Though the bill passed the House, Cuellar said he would be working with his counterparts in the Senate to get the bill approved by them, too.

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