BUFFALO, N.Y. — Over a dozen Customs and Border Protection officers stationed in Western New York will be temporarily reassigned the U.S. - Mexico border for 60 days.
The moves comes in response to an increase in asylum seekers coming through the southern border, "to help with that humanitarian crisis," Aaron Bowker, the public affairs liaison for the Buffalo Field Office, said.
Around a dozen, of the more than 1,200 officers part of the Buffalo Field Office, are being reassigned from places like the Peace and Rainbow Bridges to several locations across the southern border. The specific locations were not disclosed to 7 Eyewitness News.
However, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said reassigning key border patrol officers could have negative economic impacts on WNY given tourism season is just around the corner.
"It couldn’t come at a worse time. In the summer there are backups on the bridges Peace Bridge, Lewiston, (and) others," he said.
New York Representative Chris Collins echoed that statement.
"If you have eight booths, and you only have enough booths to man seven of the eight then traffic will back up," Collins said.
Bowker refuted these claims. He said every year CBP sends officers to other parts of the country to help with whatever is needed.
"We support temporary details all year long every year."
The Buffalo field office sent officers down to places like Houston and Puerto Rico when major hurricanes hit those areas. The delays in traffic won't come from having a handful of officers out of town; rather, the fact tourism season is approaching.
"We are coming out of the deep freeze here we’ve had for the winter, and we haven’t had as much car traffic. You are going to see car traffic double," he said.
Memorial day and schools getting out for summer will be the biggest reasons for wait times. Bowker also mentioned that they have had officers on temporary reassignments during peak times in previous years without any hiccups.
As for security concerns, Bowker and Collins agree it won't change.
"We will always maintain the security mission first in protection the country and protecting our local community," Bowker said.
"Not a case anyone needs to think we are not going to properly secure the northern border," Collins said.
Those 12 officers will move back to Western New York after their 60 day reassignment is over. Bowker said CBP will send officers to other parts of the country again when they are needed.