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Rubio, Nelson, Colleagues call for 500 more Customs officers
WASHIGNTON, D.C. – Florida lawmakers today called on Congress to provide the funding needed to hire an additional 500 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers next year to help address staffing shortages at many of Florida’s airports and seaports.
The lawmakers’ request came in a letter – led by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) – sent to the top Democrat and Republican members of the House and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittees.
“The Joint Economic Committee has found that while the volume of commerce crossing our borders has more than tripled in the past 25 years, CBP staffing has not kept pace with demand,” the lawmakers wrote. “Long wait times and delayed processing of goods discourage travel and create unnecessary barriers to trade, undermining economic activity in the United States. CBP estimates show that hiring an additional 500 CBP officers at ports of entry would increase annual economic activity by $1 billion and result in an additional 16,600 jobs per year.”
CBP officers are charged with enforcing U.S. customs, immigration and agriculture laws at air, land and sea ports across the country. They are separate from CBP Border Patrol agents who patrol the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to prevent illegal entry into the country.
Officials at many of Florida’s airports and seaports have, for years, raised concerns over the shortage of CBP officers in Florida, which they say often causes frustratingly long wait times for international travelers arriving in the state – discouraging some from ever returning.
CBP, itself, admits it needs to hire an additional 2,516 CBP officers to operate at full capacity. Congress approved $7.6 million for the agency to hire an additional 328 CBP officers earlier this year. Florida lawmakers want the agency to hire another 500 officers next year.
In addition to Rubio and Nelson, the letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Reps. Charlie Christ (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Val Demings (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Al Lawson (D-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Chairwoman Capito, Chairman Carter and Ranking Members Tester and Roybal-Allard:
We greatly appreciate the funding provided in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act to hire an additional 328 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. However, we write to express serious concern with shortages in CBP officers at ports of entry in Florida and request support to address this need.
CBP’s workforce staffing model shows a deficit of more than 2,500 officers. We have repeatedly heard from officials all across Florida about the need to close these gaps in staffing. These shortages are only exacerbated by additional demands on CBP resources, including temporary duty reassignments to the southwest border. We encourage you to provide the funding and direction necessary to hire at least an additional 500 new CBP officers in FY 2019 and ensure that air and sea ports of entry are sufficiently staffed to meet the ports’ needs.
The Joint Economic Committee has found that while the volume of commerce crossing our borders has more than tripled in the past 25 years, CBP staffing has not kept pace with demand. Long wait times and delayed processing of goods discourage travel and create unnecessary barriers to trade, undermining economic activity in the United States. CBP estimates show that hiring an additional 500 CBP officers at ports of entry would increase annual economic activity by $1 billion and result in an additional 16,600 jobs per year.
Further, as Congress looks at comprehensive approaches to combat the opioid epidemic in our country, it is critical that we provide CBP with the resources it needs to stop the flow of illicit narcotics. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a majority of illicit narcotics enter the United States at ports of entry. As traffickers become more sophisticated—and as proliferation and usage of harder-to-track drugs increases—shortages in CBP staffing at ports of entry only hampers our efforts.
We share your commitment to ensuring that our Nation’s borders remain safe, secure, and efficient for all users, while enhancing our global competitiveness through the facilitation of legitimate travel and trade. Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working with you on the FY 2019 appropriations process.