Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and John Cornyn (R-Texas) today introduced bipartisan legislation to address personnel shortages at ports of entry on the southern and northern borders, as well as in the interior.
The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019 would fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry by requiring U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire no fewer than 600 additional officers a year until the agency’s staffing needs are met.
According to an analysis of CBP data, there is a shortage of nearly 4,000 CBP officers nationwide. This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the authorization of CBP officers – possibly exceeding 2,000 officers – to be voluntarily reassigned to sectors across the southwest border. If these reassignments continue, they could lead to staffing shortages at other critical land ports of entry, medium and small airports and seaports. Reduced personnel numbers at other ports could threaten CBP’s capacity to carry out critical immigration, trade and health related inspections and to interdict illegal drugs shipments.
“Customs and Border Protection Officers carry out an essential national security mission by protecting our communities while facilitating the lawful trade and travel that drives our economy,” said Peters. “But potential staffing shortages at our ports of entry in Michigan and across the country, driven by reassignments to the southwest border, could seriously undermine Customs and Border Protection’s mission to detect and deter illegal activity, like opioid trafficking, and increase wait times for lawful goods coming into the country that businesses rely on. This legislation will help strengthen security at ports of entry across the country for years to come.”
“Texas is home to 29 air, land, and sea Ports of Entry – more than any other state in the nation – including the busiest inland port along the entire U.S.-Mexico border,” Cornyn said. “Our Customs and Border Protection officers have the important task of not only keeping us safe, but also ensuring that the legitimate trade and travel our economy relies on can continue to flow swiftly through our ports. This bill goes a long way to ensure CBP has the adequate resources, staffing, and infrastructure they need to help keep our ports safe and running efficiently.”
CBP currently has 23,465 CBP officers on board, but their workforce staffing models have indicated a need for 27,187 officers. In addition to hiring more CBP officers, the bill also authorizes the annual hiring of mission support staff and technicians to perform non-law enforcement functions in support of CBP. These professionals will allow CBP officers to focus their efforts on law enforcement priorities while supporting lawful international commerce through the nation’s ports of entry. The bill also requires reporting on infrastructure improvements at ports of entry that would enhance drug interdiction, information on detection equipment that would improve the ability of officers to identify drugs, and safety equipment to protect officers from accidental exposure to dangerous toxins.
The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of groups including the National Border Patrol Council, the National Treasury Employees Union, the American Association of Port Authorities, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Airports Council International and the American Association of Airport Executives.