Washington, D.C.— Hiring another 3,500 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers, Agriculture Specialists and Trade Enforcement Specialists to staff the ports of entry would improve the nation’s security and economy, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) National President Tony Reardon testified to Congress on Wednesday.
Reardon, speaking on behalf of more than 25,000 frontline CBP Officers, urged Congress to fill the existing 1,400 vacancies and add enough funding to hire another 2,100, a figure based on CBP’s own workload staffing model.
“Understaffed ports lead to long delays in travel and cargo lanes and also create a significant hardship for frontline employees,” Reardon said.
CBP Officers, Agriculture Specialists and Trade Enforcement Specialists are stationed at 328 U.S. air, sea and land ports of entry and at preclearance stations overseas, and they are increasingly being put on involuntary overtime and involuntary work assignments at ports away from their homes.
Such disruption leads to low morale and makes it harder for CBP to recruit and retain new employees, Reardon said.
Reardon shared the story of a female CBP Officer at Dallas-Fort Worth airport who has been involuntarily assigned to a 90-day temporary duty assignment (TDY) in Arizona. Her husband, who works for ICE, is subject to TDYs himself.
“They have small children and if he is called for a TDY while she is in Arizona, they will be in a bind,” Reardon said. “CBP has refused to give this CBP Officer an excusal from this involuntary TDY and based on experiences like this, many officers would not encourage their family members or friends to seek employment with CBP.”
Reardon also emphasized the positive impact that a fully-staffed CBP can have on the economy, citing data that for every additional 33 CBP Officers hired, there is a potential for an additional 1,000 private sector jobs to be created.
Finally, he reminded Congress of the critical role CBP plays in border security.
“CBP Officers at the ports of entry in 2016 interdicted over 274,000 undocumented immigrants and seized over 600,000 pounds of illegal drugs, and over $62 million in illicit currency, while processing over 390 million travelers and $2.2 trillion in imports through the ports,” Reardon said.
The union leader testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, “Perspectives from the DHS Frontline: Evaluating Staffing Resources and Requirements.”
NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.