Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY-26) have introduced the BOUND (Border Officer Utilization for National Defense) Act, requiring minimum staffing levels for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers stationed at ports of entry along the northern border.
“Travel and trade between Canada and the North Country is a critical source of revenue that directly impacts our local economy, as well as the national economy,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Maintaining strong staffing levels at the Northern Border will ensure our tourism industry and economy are not stifled and that CPB officers are able to effectively carry out their duties. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to support our Northern Border personnel and keep our economy strong.”
“The northern border has unique needs related to security, trade and travel,” said Congressman Higgins. “Shortfalls in staffing make it more difficult for CBP officers to do their jobs, impacting both the national and local economies that rely on the efficient flow of goods and people, and placing additional, unnecessary stress on national security operations between the two nations.”
CBP officers were recently pulled from the northern border and temporarily reassigned to the southern border during the busiest season for border crossings between the U.S. and Canada. Crossings along the entire Northern Border jump from around 6 million in January and February to close to 11 million in July and August. Higgins and Stefanik have repeatedly objected to the diversion of Northern Border CBP officers, leading a bipartisan letter sent to the Homeland Security Secretary in May signed by several Members who represent the northern border communities.
Currently 162 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are continuing to assist Border Patrol along the southern border. It is anticipated that 105 CBP officers will return to their home stations by September 15, 2019 and the remaining 57 will return by September 22, 2019.
The decision to deploy northern border CBP officers to the southern border impacts morale and adds further stress to the job of safeguarding and streamlining lawful trade and travel. Furthermore, travelers experienced significant delays crossing the border as a result of the lean staffing, caused by recent temporary transfers to the southern border, at these land ports of entry.
Joining Congressmembers Higgins and Stefanik as original cosponsors of the bill are Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5), Peter Welch (D-VT-At-large) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-8).
The Emergency Border Supplemental bill approved by Congress and signed by the President on July 1 required reporting on Northern Border CBP transfers:
Sec. 304. No later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a report on the number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers assigned to northern border land ports of entry and temporarily assigned to the ongoing humanitarian crisis: Provided, That the report shall outline what resources and conditions would allow a return to northern border staffing levels that are no less than the number committed in the June 12, 2018 Department of Homeland Security Northern Border Strategy: Provided further, That the report shall include the number of officers temporarily assigned to the southwest border in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the number of days the officers will be away from their northern border assignment, the northern border ports from which officers are being assigned to the southwest border, and efforts being made to limit the impact on operations at each northern border land port of entry where officers have been temporarily assigned to the southwest.
The report, due on August 1st, was submitted by the Department of Homeland Security on September 6, 2019 and made available to Members this week. The document is designated “For Official Use Only” and has not been released publicly.
The Northern Border constitutes the longest land boundary between two countries in the world. At 5,525 miles, approximately 400,000 people and over $1.6 billion in goods cross the border daily through more than 120 ports of entry.
Stefanik and Higgins serve as co-chairs of the Northern Border Caucus, Congress’s oldest and largest Congressional Member organization dealing with the U.S.- Canada relationship. Founded in 1994, this bipartisan group of Members has acted to highlight policy concerns and issues affecting the economic, cultural, and political partnership between the United States and Canada.