Customs and Border Protection Update of the Southern Border
On Thursday, April 4, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provided an update about current port operations at the southern border. Last week, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan held a press conference in El Paso, TX, announcing the redirection of 750 CBP officers to assist border patrol agents at the southern border.
In March, there were one-hundred and three thousand illegal or between border crossings. In March 2008-2009, the previous high number was eighty-nine thousand. The demographics of the crossings have changed, in 2008, Mexican citizens and single adults were the majority of border crossings. Today, CBP said they are seeing mostly families and unaccompanied minors (in large groups of more than one hundred).
McAleenan explained that CBP’s current border control resources are beyond capacity. As of today, CBP resources from California (San Diego), west Texas (El Paso) and south Texas (Rio Grande Valley) are being deployed to assist with the crisis. The officers will be deployed for an initial thirty days. There will be fifty-one from San Diego (six percent of the workforce), one hundred ninety-four from El Paso (fifteen percent of the workforce), and three hundred from Laredo (twelve percent of the workforce). The total number of officers assisting today is five hundred forty-five with the temporary reassignment of roughly seventy-five officers (from Arizona) put on hold.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstien Nielsen has called for the assistance of any other federal employees that have the proper skill set, but as of now CBP officers is all they have. CBP mentioned that if they need additional support beyond the thirty days, they may pull CBP officers from airports. The largest percentage of CBP officers are in international airports and if they require the temporary reassignment of officers from airports, all gateways will be affected.
The deployments of CBP officers mean that both passenger and cargo wait times will be significantly longer along the border. In Otay Mesa, wait times were roughly 4 hours, more than double the usual 60-90 minutes. Cargo operations at the Bridge of the Americas was seven hours, compared to 55 minutes the same time last year.
CBP has stated that the wait times will continue to increase. CBP will be adjusting the number of lanes open according to the number of staff they have. CBP also stated that they are trying to maintain the fast lanes at the ports, but with the length of the wait times, they cannot control the queue of the Mexican side.
The Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, TX, will be closing on Saturday. Mariposa will no longer be open on Sunday to allow for the reallocation of twenty officers to the weekday. The Ysleta port of entry, will remain open for Saturday crossings. Exams are also taking longer because there are fewer officers available. CBP is planning to possibly hold bi-weekly calls to inform the trade of the current situation.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Robert Krieger or your Norman Krieger Representative for more information.