By Jami Makan
Hundreds of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents from across the U.S. are being temporarily transferred to the southern border, raising the prospect of northern border delays during the busy summer months.
“While the current southwest border security and humanitarian crisis is impacting CBP operations, we are working to mitigate the effects as much as possible,” read an official CBP statement provided to The Northern Light.
“Currently, CBP has temporarily reassigned 731 CBP officers from ports around the nation to border patrol sectors where apprehensions of family units and unaccompanied children from Central America have overwhelmed border patrol capabilities and facilities. This includes CBP officers from northern border ports, seaports and airports in order to lessen the impact at any one particular port of entry.”
However, a CBP spokesperson declined to specify how many, if any, border agents from the Blaine area will be transferred to the U.S.-Mexico border this summer. The spokesperson also declined to address how long they will be deployed, what their specific duties will be and whether the transfers are expected to result in longer border wait times at Blaine area border crossings this summer.
“Travelers are urged to plan accordingly and check the CBP wait times page for the most up-to-date border crossing information,” according to the CBP.
The agents are being transferred south in order to help address the ongoing migrant and humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to official figures, the southwest border is experiencing an unprecedented surge of undocumented families and children, many of whom require medical assistance upon their arrival.
According to CBP data, border patrol is currently encountering illegal immigration at the highest rates since 2007. The most recent figures available, from April, show that almost 110,000 individuals were apprehended or deemed inadmissible at the southwest border that month, more than double the amount from a year earlier. In the first four months of this year, almost 350,000 people were apprehended or deemed inadmissible at the southwest border.
The plan to transfer CBP agents to the southern border has met some resistance, however. In a May 3 letter, members of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus wrote to acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan, asking him to “immediately rescind” the transfer of CBP officers to the southern border.
“The abrupt transfer of needed personnel on the northern border will have economic and security implications on the facilitation of U.S.-Canada cross border trade and travel,” wrote 13 members of Congress, who noted that the heaviest travel months of the year are approaching.
“The decision to deploy northern border CBP officers to the southern border makes it increasingly more difficult for the agency to meet their core mission requirements at the border which include effectively securing U.S. points of entry and safeguarding and streamlining lawful trade and travel,” the letter continued.
“CBP’s consistent inability to attain its statutorily established minimum staffing levels and the reduction of service hours at several land ports of entry along the northern border, coupled with further reduction of staffing due to this deployment will cause excessive delays at crossings, expose the nation to security risks and highlight key vulnerabilities.”