Peters and Cornyn Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Staffing Shortages at Ports of Entry

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and John Cornyn (R-TX) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen border security and address personnel shortages at ports of entry. The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act would fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry by requiring U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire no less than 600 additional officers a year until the agency’s staffing needs are met. Michigan and Texas are home to some of the nation’s busiest border crossings including ports of entry in Detroit and Port Huron, Michigan and Laredo, Brownsville and El Paso, Texas.

“Dedicated Customs and Border Protection officers need more support to swiftly process lawful trade and travel coming through our ports of entry, as well as prevent illegal activities like drug trafficking at our borders,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill will address shortages of these officers so Customs and Border Protection can effectively and efficiently operate and secure our borders – and maintain Michigan’s status as a hub of international commerce.”

“When CBP officers are pulled off their posts, we run the risk of legitimate trade and travel grinding to a halt,” said Senator Cornyn. “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.”

CBP continues to face ongoing shortages of 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, such as preventing drugs trafficking, while supporting lawful international commerce through the nation’s ports of entry. Nearly 85% of fentanyl seized by CBP in 2022 was interdicted at 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 help officers better identify drugs, and safety equipment to protect officers from accidental exposure to dangerous toxins. Addressing a shortage of CBP officers would also help to reduce waiting times for merchandise, agriculture, luggage, and travelers coming through our ports of entry.

Below are statements in support of the senators’ bipartisan legislation:

“AAAE and airport executives across the country are grateful to Chair Peters and Senator Cornyn for their continued leadership in reintroducing urgently needed legislation to bolster CBP staffing at our nation’s gateway airports. Long lines and overworked CBP officers are not the way we want to welcome arriving passengers to the United States,” said Todd Hauptli, CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives.

“To continue supporting the growth of our West Michigan community, we need Customs and Border Protection Officers committed to a new Federal Inspection Station at the airport to process international travelers. Since 2019, we have completed Phase 1 of our Federal Inspection Station and have an airline interested in providing nonstop international service. By equipping our Airport with additional CBP staffing we could realize an additional regional economic impact of $136 million per year by international travelers,” said Tory Richardson, President and CEO of Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. “We commend Senators Peters and Cornyn for leading the charge in providing a solution to the Customs and Border Protection staffing shortage. This bipartisan legislation will alleviate the strain on regional Airports and strengthen the transportation sector by expanding air travel to underserved markets.”

“The ongoing staffing shortage at ports of entry across the country must be reversed. The men and women who serve at the ports welcome this important bill to authorize additional employees. With international travel rising, a constant flow of legitimate goods and cargo and the ongoing efforts to move illegal products and drugs into our country, we must assist the current workforce by bringing in much-needed reinforcements. NTEU appreciates the efforts of Chairman Gary Peters to address this for the good of the employees who are working forced overtime, the safety of our country, and the success of our economy,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union.

The airport industry greatly appreciates the continued leadership of Senators Peters and Cornyn in introducing this important bill to increase the authorized number of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at our ports-of-entry. International travel and trade are back, but staffing shortfalls are hampering CBP’s ability to handle the growing volumes of passengers and cargo,” said Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO of Airports Council International – North America. “CBP’s Workload Staffing Model demonstrates the agency needs additional front-line officers to provide adequate coverage across the system, including at airport international arrival halls and preclearance locations, maritime ports, express-carrier facilities, and land-border crossings. Adding new CBP officers is crucial to America’s continued economic progress by helping CBP meet its current and future staffing needs.”

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plays a critical role in the Great Lakes region. CBP staff inspect and clear both cargo and passengers at our ports, ensuring the safe flow of commerce,” said Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association. “Staff shortages at CBP not only hinder the flow of trade but limit growth of the economy. We support Senators Peters and Cornyn bipartisan legislation and commend their leadership on this important issue.” 

“Detroit is especially sensitive to CBP’s staffing shortage because the Detroit-Windsor corridor is the Northern border’s busiest port of entry and the Gordie Howe international Bridge is scheduled to open in 2025 adding 35 lanes of cross-border traffic. We simply do not have enough CBP officers and other port personnel to handle the increasing workloads, which is why we are pleased to support Sen. Peters’ legislation to increase hiring. The CBP workforce, which makes essential contributions to the nation’s economy and security every single day, needs the additional support,” said Robert Holland, President of National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 173 in Detroit.