April 11, 2019
The Chamber has long advocated to reduce delays at our border because they result in more than $7.2 billion a year in lost productivity. We also know that a complete or even partial border closure would result in an economic disaster not only for our region but across the U.S. With the recent threats to close the border and the uncertainty that has created for the business community, our advocacy and outreach is even more critical. To be clear, border closures and simply having delays at the border hurt U.S. businesses and U.S. consumers. Our businesses from manufacturing to retail depend on the efficient movement of people and goods across our border. In Cali-Baja, we have a $2.5 billion integrated manufacturing supply chain which would be disrupted. You can’t sell a half-finished product. And you can’t sell to your largest consumer market if access to that market is cut off.
However, instead of taking efforts to make processing more efficient, the Department of Homeland Security has recently transitioned customs officers to aid border patrol with migrant detention centers and processing. A total of 545 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have been reassigned from the following field offices for a period of 30 days: 300 officers from Laredo, 194 officers from El Paso, and 51 officers from San Diego. The number of officers reassigned from the San Diego field office represents 6 percent of San Diego’s CBP workforce.
As a result, we are now seeing increased border wait times and operations at ports of entry have been impacted with reduced hours or lane closures (in some cases, closed on Saturdays).
- In San Diego, the Otay Mesa Port of Entry is now operating with 8 open lanes (down from 10) and experiencing increased wait times of 4 to 5 hours for cargo and passenger vehicles.
- The Nogales-Mariposa Port of Entry ceased cargo processing on Sundays (typically processing 120 trucks).
- The El Paso BOTA Port of Entry ceased cargo processing on Saturdays (typically processing more than 400 trucks)
In addition, with many cargo trucks waiting overnight, these ports of entry are starting off each morning already behind schedule. Because these changes are impacting the entire system, passenger and cargo vehicles cannot be redirected to a different port of entry.
As crossing volumes continue to rise during the peak spring travel season, wait times are expected to increase.
We strongly disagree with the deployment of customs agents away from our ports of entry and urge the Administration to restore previous staffing levels to reduce border wait times.
We are dedicating efforts to making the case for trade efficiency here and across the country:
- Chamber VP Paola Avila who serves as Chair of the Border Trade Alliance was in D.C. last week meeting with members of Congress to communicate the importance of keeping our ports of entry open and efficient, and eliminating additional barriers to trade via the ratification of the USMCA.
- Paola was a panelist for the Wilson Center’s press call: Ground Truth Briefing, The Consequences of a U.S.-Mexico Border Shutdown
- She also joined KUSI for a discussion on border issues and how shutdowns impact the economy and spoke with Northern California’s public radio station KQED about the issue.