Portland, ME – Senator Susan Collins organized meetings today in Portland between Maine business owners and local officials and representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Senator Collins requested the meetings with the regional director from CBP’s Boston Field Office and other CBP officials in order to discuss two issues that are a priority for Mainers: security inspections for cruise ships traveling into Maine and claims of unfair competition by Canadian manufactured homebuilders. Senator Collins organized the meetings in response to requests from concerned Mainers who asked to meet personally with CBP officials. Representatives from the Maine Port Authority, the City of Portland, and the cruise ship and manufactured homes industry attended today’s meetings.
Senator Collins is the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over CBP as an agency under the Department of Homeland Security. Members of Senator Collins’ staff with expertise in border and immigration issues participated and helped to facilitate today’s discussions.
“It was important to organize these meetings to ensure that CBP is being responsive to Mainer’s concerns about policy decisions and initiatives that affect their businesses and their lives and the local economy,” said Senator Collins.
Senator Collins has repeatedly expressed her concerns with a CBP decision to suspend en route passenger inspections on commercial vessels, particularly cruise ships, arriving from Canada to ports in Maine. Senator Collins has advocated on behalf of port officials and tourism related businesses in Maine, most recently in a private meeting with the CBP Commissioner.
“We needed to bring all the stakeholders together now because Maine’s summer tourist season is right around the corner. Cruise ships need immediate resolve and direction about what the new inspection process will be in order to avoid confusion and ensure the inspections are reliable and efficient,” said Senator Collins. “It is important that any alternative to en route inspections preserve the viability of Maine’s growing cruise industry, which provides nearly 600 jobs in our state and generates direct spending of more than $31 million, consistent with national security needs.”
Senator Collins has also asked the CBP Commissioner to investigate reports that she has received from manufactured homebuilders in Maine, that Canadian workers are performing illegal construction work in the U.S. Affected Maine workers have expressed concern to Senator Collins that some Canadian workers who are permitted to transport and deliver manufactured homes into the U.S. are then also “setting,” or assembling, the manufactured homes at the delivery site.
“If this is, in fact, the case, these activities not only violate our immigration laws, but also place these workers in direct competition with U.S. workers, and place American firms at a competitive disadvantage,” said Senator Collins. “Allowing transportation workers to enter the U.S. to engage in building or construction displaces available, qualified Maine workers. In addition, in light of the market share currently held by Canadian manufacturers of modular homes, it may also provide a disincentive for Maine manufacturers to expand their workforces.”