CBP hiring bill advances in the Senate

Bipartisan legislation that aims to strengthen border security and address law enforcement shortages at ports of entry has advanced in the Senate.

The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019, which unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs late last week, directs the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire a minimum of 600 additional officers at airports, seaports and land ports of entry per year until the agency’s staffing targets are met.

Currently, there is a shortage of almost about 3,300 CBP officers nationwide, according to an analysis of CBP data.

“When CBP officers are pulled off their posts, we run the risk of legitimate trade and travel grinding to a halt,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who introduced the bill. “Nowhere do we feel this more acutely than in Texas where we have more Ports of Entry than any other state,” he added.

Texas has some of the nation’s busiest border crossings including ports of entry in Laredo, Brownsville, and El Paso, Texas.

The bill also calls for 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, and also bill “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.”

"This bill aims to address the ongoing crisis at the border while protecting the flow of trade through our ports,” Cornyn said.

It now must be approved by the full Senate.

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