Cornyn Bill to Address Staffing Shortages at Ports of Entry Advances in Senate

Bipartisan legislation I introduced to strengthen border security and address law enforcement shortages at ports of entry throughout the country advanced in the Senate this week. The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019 was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and now awaits a vote by the full Senate.

When CBP officers are pulled off their posts, we run the risk of legitimate trade and travel grinding to a halt. Nowhere do we feel this more acutely than in Texas where we have more Ports of Entry than any other state. This bill aims to address the ongoing crisis at the border while protecting the flow of trade through our ports.

Background:

The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019 would fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry by directing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire no less than 600 additional officers a year until the agency’s own staffing targets are met. It also authorizes the annual hiring of mission support staff and technicians to support the CBP so officers are able to focus their efforts on law enforcement priorities and lawful international commerce. Additionally, the bill 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.  Texas is home to some of the nation’s busiest border crossings including ports of entry in Laredo, Brownsville, and El Paso, Texas.

According to an analysis of CBP data, there is a shortage of almost about 3,300 CBP Officers nationwide. To bridge that gap, 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. CBP currently has 23,898 CBP Officers on board, but their workforce staffing models have indicated a need for 27,251 CBP Officers – a gap of over 3,300.

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. These overstretched law enforcement officials play a particularly important role in combatting drug trafficking. For example, according to CBP’s 2013-2017 Opioid Seizure Data, 88 percent of all opioids seized by Customs and Border Protection are discovered at ports of entry.

The legislation has received support from a broad coalition of groups, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the American Association of Port Authorities, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Airports Council International and the American Association of Airport Executives.

 

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