Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM-2), Chairwoman of the Oversight, Management and Accountability Subcommittee, and Ranking Member Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-2) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve border security through enhanced detection technology at land ports of entry. Here is a statement from the office of Rep. Torres Small:
Specifically, the Securing America’s Ports Act aims to increase the scanning rates of vehicles entering the United States at land ports of entry with large-scale non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses these systems to inspect contents of commercial and passenger vehicles for potential contraband, such as drugs and guns, without physically opening or unloading it.
In fiscal year 2019, Congress appropriated $570 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s use of NII systems at ports of entry. CBP currently scans 15 percent of commercial trucks and one percent of passenger vehicles entering the U.S. and NII scanning rates vary significantly by land port of entry. Torres Small and Crenshaw’s newest legislation seeks to improve the use of this highly-effective technology. The Securing America’s Ports Act would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to:
- Develop a plan to increase CBP’s NII scanning rates to 100 percent of commercial and passenger vehicles at all land ports of entry that includes incremental timeframes and estimated costs by port.
- Provide annual status reports to Congress regarding efforts to implement the 100 percent NII plan.
- Carry out a one-year pilot program to research and develop enhancements to NII systems and improve utilization of NII, given variation of configurations among land ports of entry.
“Our community relies upon a vibrant, secure border and Congress must prioritize the safety of the residents who call it home. By leveraging this effective technology to examine most vehicles, we help CBP officers work smarter and faster in detecting contraband while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel border states depend on,” said Torres Small.
“As the frontline of defense against terrorists and traffickers trying to enter our country, Customs and Border Protection has an incredibly important job. It is our job as members of the Homeland Security Committee to ensure CBP has the resources it needs to successfully do its job. Because NII has proven to be an effective and efficient tool for CBP, it’s important we implement use of this technology at every land port of entry for every vehicle seeking to enter the U.S,” said Crenshaw.
The Securing America’s Ports Act addresses troubling data showing that the majority of drugs smuggled into the country are being smuggled through land ports of entry, not between them. By increasing NII scanning rates to close to 100 percent at all land ports of entry, the legislation guards against transnational criminal organizations shifting their smuggling operations to other ports of entry along the border.
Similarly, Representatives Torres Small and Crenshaw will hold a public field hearing today in New Mexico to examine the infrastructure, technology, and staffing needs at America’s land ports of entry. The Subcommittee will examine the need for investment in infrastructure modernization projects to decrease wait times for passengers and cargo, more equipment for detecting contraband arriving in the country, and additional CBP Officers to process passengers and cargo. The hearing will follow a site visit to the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.