Provision seeks to restore Customs and Border Protection staffing along U.S. northern border
Legislation included in an emergency spending package in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection to restore staffing levels along the northern border.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., voted for the emergency spending package.
In a news release, Peterson said the provision requires CBP to restore staffing levels of no less than 3,600 officers along the northern border, the same number prescribed in a June 2018 Department of Homeland Security report on Northern Border Strategy.
The provision follows the recent diversion of nearly 730 CBP officers, who were reassigned from northern land ports of entry to the southern border.
Diverting resources is causing staff shortages along the northern border and reducing service hours for crucial land ports of entry, Peterson said. Local communities, such as Roseau and Lancaster, Minn., are facing economic hardships, especially when hospital and manufacturing staff face difficulties crossing the Canadian border.
CBP reduced hours at the Lancaster port from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., down to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter months and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer months. Hours at the Roseau port were reduced from 8 a.m. to midnight down to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. year round.
“Restoring hours at these ports is critical to commerce, emergency medical services and to everyone who lives and works in Roseau, Lancaster and northern Minnesota,” Peterson said in a statement. “CBP so far has been tone deaf when it comes to understanding the importance of the northern border and our rural communities, and I will continue to fight to get this done.”
Peterson has hosted several meetings in Minnesota and Washington between local businesses, municipal officials, federal lawmakers and senior CBP officers to advocate for a return to normal operating hours at the Lancaster and Roseau land ports of entry. Requiring CBP to maintain a certain minimum of officers at the northern border is one step towards addressing problems associated with early port closures.
Peterson, along with the Northern Border Caucus, also wrote several letters to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and DHS appropriators expressing concern over officer diversions to the southern border and asking for additional funding to meet CBP's officer hiring shortage.