EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The federal government has put Ray Provencio in charge of El Paso’s ports of entry at a time lawful cross-border trade reaches record levels in the region and Mexican drug cartels flood America with the deadly drug fentanyl.

But whether it is checking cars for contraband at the international bridges between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, or speeding trucks with valuable licit cargo across the border, the 24-year U.S. Customs and Border Protection veteran and El Paso native says he is up to the challenge.

“We have a lot of new, great technology on the way. We have good trained professional officers helping interdict and stop the flow of dangerous drugs impacting our nation and our youth,” Provencio said. “Our goal is to stop contraband overall: whether it’s fentanyl or it’s an orange. We’ll do our best to prevent anything that could negatively impact the U.S., the U.S. economy or even the world” from coming in.

CBP officials on Tuesday formally swore in Provencio as El Paso port director. He had been performing those duties on an acting basis following the departure of Beverly Good, who was reassigned to Baltimore and died from COVID-19 in 2021.

Chart courtesy University of Texas at El Paso

The pandemic through work stoppages, enhanced safety protocols and supply shortages cut trade volumes at the border nearly by half, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. Those volumes have rebounded to a historic $12.5 billion in the El Paso Customs District by August of this year.

“What we will continue to see is more on-shoring, near-shoring and reshoring as we begin to move innovation and manufacturing away from Asia,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “We are going to see more activity; that, in turn, will mean more jobs but of course, that also means more pressures on CBP, on our ports entry, on our community.”

Escobar has been working with CBP for the past few years to craft legislation aimed at improving contraband-interdiction technology and modernize ports of entry to more efficiently process cargo. Some $600 million in El Paso port improvements is included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, she said.

“(The Act) is not just to modernize but create more efficiencies so we reduce pollution, move people using more technology so we can address growth in a sustainable way,” Escobar said. “I know with a new port director like Ray Provencio we’ll have a very good partner in executing on that.”

Provencio also sees port modernization as a potential game changer for the U.S. economy.

Graphic courtesy UTEP Economics Department

“We are an integral part of the U.S. economy. We have to keep commerce flowing, make sure the supply chain is not impacted, that people get what they need wherever it is going and to make sure it’s safe. National security is a primary mission and we’ll keep the focus there,” he said.