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— Fasano responds, "The primary mission of CBP is to combat terrorism and to prevent instruments of terror from entering or leaving the United States.... Our goal is to secure our Nation's borders, but to achieve it in a way that does not stifle the flow of legitimate trade and travel.... In regards to the proposal about U.S. officials working in Mexico to pre-clear commercial trucks, CBP currently does not pre-clear commercial cargo on foreign soil in any mode of transportation. We do have the ability, as guests of foreign governments, and where CBP has formal agreements in place, to request and be present during sea cargo exams at foreign locations. However, this process is not an exemption from CBP processing/inspection once the cargo arrives in the U.S. In the trucking environment, due to the distance, time, and accessibility of the cargo from where it is loaded until it crosses the border, the safeguarding of the cargo is significantly more difficult to accomplish. Thus, this operational model would not significantly enhance the cross-border movement of low-risk cargo into the U.S."

The economic development council has met with U.S. officials from the Border Patrol, Caltrans, the San Diego Association of Governments, and other agencies to pitch these ideas. "They're always very polite," Escobedo says, "and they listen to all our petitions."

But Escobedo says the answer to those petitions seldom changes. "They say, 'It would be impossible, for homeland security reasons, to authorize that.' "

Fasano says that's not a pat answer. "To secure the border and protect our nation is not an excuse but rather the core mission of CBP. Tighter border security continues to result in the seizure of large quantities of narcotics, the apprehension of immigration fraud and smuggling, and the arrest of individuals with outstanding felony arrest warrants."

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