On June 17, 2020, Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agents conduct operations at the Highway 86 checkpoint near Tucson, Ariz. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Jerry Glaser)

CBP Year in Review: Agency Adapts to Secure and Facilitate Essential Trade and Travel Amid Pandemic

U.S. Customs and Border Protection today released the Trade and Travel Report: Fiscal Year 2020, which describes measures the agency took to protect the American people, safeguard our borders, and enhance the nation’s economic prosperity in the latest fiscal year.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, CBP took great strides to further secure and facilitate lawful trade and travel in Fiscal Year 2020,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy Miller. “In the middle of a pandemic, the steadfast men and women of CBP protected the American public from counterfeit and unsafe medical products, implemented the updated U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, expanded touchless travel, and took extraordinary action to combat the horrors of forced labor.”

After a decade of continued growth in international travel, the COVID-19 pandemic sharply reduced travel to and from the United States. In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP processed nearly 238 million passengers in the land, air, and sea environments. To protect the American people, CBP expeditiously implemented five presidential proclamations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across U.S. borders. CBP also took early action to ensure that personnel at U.S. ports of entry were equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate the risk of exposing travelers and the CBP workforce to the virus.

During the pandemic, CBP continued to introduce technologies to create a traveler experience that is secure, straightforward, and best-in-class. For example, CBP further expanded the use of biometric facial comparison technology to meet a Congressional mandate, enhance security, promote touchless travel, and help restore consumer confidence in traveling. More than 23 million international travelers participated in CBP’s facial biometrics process in Fiscal Year 2020, which was double the proportion of total international travelers that participated during Fiscal Year 2019.

CBP also continued to expand transformative initiatives that deliver more secure and efficient travel:

  • Despite the temporary closure of enrollment centers, membership in CBP Trusted Traveler Programs grew to 9.6 million individuals, including more than 7.1 million members of Global Entry;
  • Processed 9.4 million travelers through the Preclearance program and announced the expansion of that program to new locations; and
  • Selected 25 new public and private sector partners for the Reimbursable Services Program, which enabled CBP to process more than 1.3 million travelers and 215,000 vehicles at ports of entry.

Although the pandemic caused a slowdown in global trade, CBP processed more than 32.8 million entries valued at $2.4 trillion in Fiscal Year 2020. Early in the pandemic, CBP established a COVID-19 Cargo Resolution Team to facilitate the entry of critical medical supplies while ensuring that those supplies were authorized and safe for use. To prevent criminals from exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to sell counterfeit, unapproved, and unsafe PPE and pharmaceuticals, CBP seized:

  • More than 12.7 million counterfeit face masks;
  • Nearly 180,000 prohibited COVID-19 test kits; and
  • More than 38,000 prohibited chloroquine tablets.

Throughout the pandemic, CBP has remained focused on its mission to promote a level playing field for American businesses, protect consumers, and reduce trading costs. In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP:

CBP also supported U.S. jobs and a more competitive North America by implementing the U.S.-Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). The USMCA modernized $1.5 trillion in annual trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico by updating rules of origin, customs administration and trade facilitation provisions; intellectual property rights protections; and fair labor conditions.

The ongoing e-commerce revolution drove a 28 percent increase in low-value shipments and a 219 percent increase in air cargo in Fiscal Year 2020. To enhance accountability in the e-commerce environment, CBP expanded its innovative e-commerce data pilot, published an e-commerce compliance guide, and issued an administrative ruling to clarify the duty-free status of certain low-value shipments. CBP also harnessed technology to enhance its trade mission in other areas, including by:

  • Earning a $15 million Technology Modernization Fund award to update the Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE, an import/export system that last year saved the trade community $1.4 billion and saved CBP $358 million through reduced processing times;
  • Launching five Blockchain programs with the aim of securing and streamlining legitimate trade; and
  • Expanding the use of non-intrusive inspection technology (NII), which generates up to $17.5 billion in economic benefits for the trade community and up to $1 billion in government cost savings every year. CBP’s 6.4 million NII inspections at U.S. ports of entry in Fiscal Year 2020 interdicted 470,000 pounds of illicit narcotics and $11.54 million in undeclared currency.

In addition to interdicting illicit drugs and currency, CBP remains committed to containing emerging and rapidly-evolving biological threats to U.S. agriculture, American consumers, and the environment. In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP agriculture specialists intercepted more than 91,500 harmful pests and more than 1.1 million prohibited plant materials, meats and animal byproducts during cargo and traveler inspections. CBP also recorded 106 significant encounters of biological materials through the newly-established BioThreat Exclusion Program.

Read more at CBP

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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