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

 WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate 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, which passed out of committee last Congress, 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.

“Shortages of Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry in Michigan and the United States threaten CBP’s ability to facilitate safe and lawful trade and travel across our borders. We must ensure these dedicated officers, who have served on the frontlines throughout the pandemic, have the support they need to perform critical functions, like detecting and preventing illegal drugs from reaching our communities,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation will take significant steps to ensure CBP has the personnel they need to secure our nation’s ports of entry – and maintain Michigan’s status as an international hub of 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.”

According to recent data, CBP has a shortage of over 900 officers, a number that more than doubles when adjusted for pre-pandemic traffic and workload. 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 while supporting lawful international commerce through the nation’s 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.  

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Treasury Employees Union, the American Association of Port Authorities, Airports Council International and the American Association of Airport Executives.

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

“The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plays a critical role in safeguarding our borders and enhancing the nation’s global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel,” said John Drake, Vice President of Supply Chain Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The U.S. Chamber welcomes the reintroduction of the Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act from Senators Peters and Cornyn, as it will ensure CBP officers are able to work effectively and safely with increased staffing levels and much needed transparency and accountability, leading to reduced wait times at the border and new economic opportunities through travel and trade.”

“It is clear that our ports of entry are understaffed and employees have stepped up to keep operations moving. Their work continued throughout the pandemic. Now that international trade and travel are recovering Congress needs to increase their ranks. 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. “This legislation is desperately needed and NTEU strongly supports it.”

“Securing the border is a partnership. Border Patrol Agents work hand in glove with Customs and Border Protection Officers every single day. There is an alarming shortage of CBP Officers at our nation’s ports of entry, putting an added strain on an already overextended law enforcement workforce,” said Hector Garza, National Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council. “This bill represents a bipartisan, commonsense first step towards addressing the staffing crisis at the agency and ensuring that our ports of entry have trained personnel needed to secure our borders. I want to thank Chairman Peters and Senator Cornyn for their hard work in crafting this essential legislation and for their continued support of law enforcement officials across America.”

“The airport industry greatly appreciates the leadership of Senators Peters and Cornyn in introducing this important bill to increase the authorized number of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to help the agency meet its current and future staffing needs,” said Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO of Airports Council International – North America. “As the U.S. economy recovers and international travel and trade are on track to exceed pre-pandemic levels, airports are increasingly concerned that CBP staffing may be insufficient to handle increased volumes of passengers and cargo. CBP’s Workload Staffing Model demonstrates that hundreds of additional front-line officers are necessary to provide adequate staff at international arrival halls and preclearance locations. Adding new CBP officers at ports-of-entry within domestic and preclearance airports is crucial to restoring and extending hours of operation to accommodate both the resumption of air service and the addition of new flights.”

AAAE and airport executives across the country are grateful to Chair Peters and Senator Cornyn for reintroducing the Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act.  Passage of this important legislation is needed urgently to help ensure that our nation’s gateway airports – many of which are seeing international travel at pre-pandemic levels – have sufficient CBP officers to process passengers safely and securely without lengthy delays,” said Todd Hauptli, CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives. “The need for additional CBP staffing resources at airports will only become increasingly urgent as more and more international travelers return to the skies.  Long lines and overtaxed CBP personnel are not the way to welcome visitors back to the United States.”  

“The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) is proud to support the Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2022 and we thank Chairman Peters for his long history of leadership on seaport security issues,” said Chris Connor, President and CEO of the AAPA. “At a time when supply chain backups are top of mind for many legislators, it’s important that Congress take actions to ensure fluidity and capacity expansion. One of the ways to do this is by making certain that CBP has the resources they need to safely and efficiently process cargo. By requiring the hiring of 600 new CBP officers per year above attrition, this bill will prevent additional strain on the maritime supply chain, lessen the burden on public port authorities to pay for officer overtime, and keep our country safer.”

“The Detroit-Windsor border crossing is one of the busiest in the entire country – and for too long we have had to work without adequate staffing to handle the workload,” said Robert Holland, President of National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 173 in Detroit. “Tasking overworked and fatigued officers with securing our ports of entry puts the safety of all Americans at risk. The first step in securing our borders is ensuring that we have the boots on the ground necessary to man our nation’s ports of entry. Senator Peters’ bill will help to accomplish that goal, and he has my full support in securing its passage.”

“As Sheriff, my highest priority is ensuring the safety and security of St. Clair County and all of its residents,” said St. Clair County Sheriff Mat King. “The vast majority of drugs that are smuggled into this country come through legitimate ports of entry, and having more CBP personnel in places like Port Huron will help us keep our communities safe and fight illegal activity like the trafficking of opioids and methamphetamines. I appreciate Senators Peters and Cornyn working together in a bipartisan way to help hire additional qualified CBP Officers who can work alongside local law enforcement to protect Americans from harm.”

“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.”

“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.”