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Schumer calls on CBP to maintain staffing level at northern border

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Posted at 12:02 PM, May 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-13 06:21:55-04

NEW YORK (WKBW) — U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is calling on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to maintain a minimum staffing level at the northern border following the announcement that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to relocate personnel to the southern border.

Schumer says the minimum staffing level at the U.S.-Canada border should be 3,600 customs officer in accordance with the "Northern Border Strategy" (NBS) issued by the DHS in 2017.

In a letter to CBP Schumer states commerce, national security and drug trafficking as consequences of what he says would be a "vulnerable" northern border should officers be transferred to the southern border.

Read Schumer's letter to CBP below.

Dear Commissioner McAleenan,

I write to express my grave concerns regarding Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) plan to transfer personnel from northern ports of entry (POE) to the southern border. If not properly managed, this transfer could lengthen processing times, endanger sensitive CBP operations, and strain the capacity of the remaining officers’ ability to discharge their duties. I respectfully urge you to instead commit to a minimum staffing level of 3600 CBP officers on the U.S.-Canada border, consistent with the strengthened “Northern Border Strategy” (NBS) that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in June 2018, pursuant to its own Northern Border Threat Analysis Report delivered to Congress in summer 2017.

According to administration officials, a total of 545 officers are subject to temporary reassignment, including 300 from northern ports of entry. Such a sudden re-designation of mission critical officers poses a major public safety risk to communities in New York State and across the country. The DHS 2017 assessment of these ports warned that potential homegrown violent extremists in Canada who are not included in the U.S. government’s consolidated terrorist watch list could therefore enter the U.S. legally at northern border ports of entry without suspicion. Responding to this serious national security threat requires northern CBP field offices are able to operate at maximum capacity. Furthermore, international narcotics traffickers have sought to exploit vulnerabilities at northern ports of entry in order to import dangerous drugs which can find their way to Western New York. We cannot afford to soften POE’s that are already a target for dangerous extremists and nefarious drug traffickers.

Just as critically, northern ports of entry facilitate an estimated $1.6 billion in the cross border trade of goods daily, which is the very lifeblood of border communities’ economies. Many Western New York companies are dependent on cross border trade, which greatly impacts their bottom lines. These companies require fast and professional processing in order to meet the needs of their customers and workers. The flow of people and goods across bridges from Canada is of the importance to the Upstate and Western New York economy. The Peace Bridge is the second busiest crossing between the U.S. and Canada with more than 5.3 million car, truck and bus crossings in 2017. As we enter the busy summer travel season, a safe and efficient border crossing experience is vital to ensuring the continuation of a thriving tourism economy near northern ports across New York State. More than three million people use Western New York border crossings annually and spend in excess of $900 million during their visits. I have serious concerns that with decreased staff, northern CBP field offices will begin augmenting the remaining personnel, which could lead to staff performing tasks they are not trained to do and longer work hours, ultimately resulting in increased wait times for consumers and acting as a deterrent to U.S.-Canadian tourism travel.

As you work to fill CBP’s staffing needs at the U.S.-Mexico border, I ask that this is not done at the expense of security and commerce at the northern border, where I urge you to maintain CBP personnel at a minimum of 3600 officers. I thank you for your dedicated efforts in keeping the citizens of New York and the United States safe, and I look forward to your reply. Please feel free to contact my office if you have any questions regarding this or any other issue.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator