Sen. Jeff Flake’s Boots on the Border Act takes a major step toward reducing the consistent staffing challenges plaguing our land border ports of entry. I’m pleased to share this column by my friends from across the state who are so appreciative of Sen. Flake’s work in this space.
Earlier this month, Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, along with Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the Boots on the Border Act. This legislation is designed to remove the onerous, and at times duplicative, polygraph testing that is currently imposed on applicants that are veterans, military service members and members of other law enforcement entities that are applying for positions with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
CBP has not been able to fill 1,100 positions that were funded in the 2014 budget because the overly burdensome polygraph process is eliminating many veterans and current military personnel that are considering a career protecting our nation and our borders. CBP is reporting that the Tucson sector alone has over 21% of its fulltime positions unfilled. This condition is perpetuated by the extremely low ratio of job applicants to actual hires at CBP.
Arizona and its federal partners, CBP and the General Services Administration have invested over $400 million in port of entry infrastructure over the last 8 years but there is simply not enough staff to open-up every lane that is available. Port Directors have to play a constant game of taking from one to open up another in order to minimize the impacts to our ports of entry and to our border communities. Officers are forced to work extensive amounts of overtime and at times max out and cannot work anymore overtime. CBP needs to have the necessary staff to ensure the security of our nation along with facilitating trade and tourism that are critical to the Arizona and national economy.
Arizona’s border communities report that at least 70% of the sales tax generated in each community is directly attributable to the Mexican visitor and shopper. But if visitors have long delays to cross the border then they simply will not come to our stores and our restaurants. Additionally, Arizona’s trade relationship with Mexico totals over $15 billion in imports and exports and without efficient ports of entry we cannot maximize the opportunities that exist for Arizona companies.
CBP has made great efforts to streamline the recruiting process but they still have a long way to go. The Boots on the Border Act offers a new tool and a tremendous opportunity for Customs and Border Protection to recruit and hire some of the most qualified individuals our nation has to offer. We urge the entire Arizona Congressional delegation to support this legislation.
The Honorable Gerardo Sanchez, Mayor, City of San Luis
The Honorable Doug Nicholls, Mayor, City of Yuma
The Honorable John Doyle, Mayor, City of Nogales
The Honorable Robert Uribe, Mayor, City of Douglas John Halikowski,
Chairman, Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance
Jessica Pacheco, President, Arizona-Mexico Commission
Guillermo Valencia, Chairman, Chairman, Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority
The Honorable Matias Rosales, Chairman, Greater Yuma Port Authority
Carlos Fernandez, Chairman, Douglas International Port Authority
Patrick Scherden, Chairman, Douglas Regional Economic Development Corporation
Gonzalo Avila, Chairman, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas