Mexican border crisis affects customs staffing at airports

The U.S. Travel Association urged Customs and Border
Protection (CBP) not to understaff U.S. airports as the agency reassigns agents
to the Mexican border, amid reports of soaring wait times at international
arrival halls.

“In pursuing its objectives on the southern border, we
urge the administration to keep other entry points appropriately staffed and effectively
secured,” said U.S. Travel executive vice president for public affairs and
policy Tori Barnes. “Aside from concerns about migration and border
security, it is an immutable fact: travel is trade, and the U.S. economy and
jobs base enjoy many billions of dollars in beneficial impact from legitimate
international business and leisure visitors to the United States.”

At least one major U.S. airport has spoken out about customs
agent redeployment. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson general manager John Selden
told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he has reached out to
Congress for assistance. 

“There’s a deployment to the southern border and that
has reduced our staffing levels here at Hartsfield-Jackson,” Selden told
the newspaper. “And we are advocating through our Congressional delegation
to hopefully get more staff here to balance it out throughout the country.”

In an email Thursday, the CBP said that currently no agents
from Atlanta Field Office are assigned to the southwest border.

On April 1, former Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen
Nielsen ordered CBP to “undertake emergency surge operations and
immediately increase its temporary reassignment of personnel and resources from
across the agency to address the influx of migrants.”

“The crisis at our border is worsening, and DHS will do
everything in its power to end it,” Nielsen stated. “We will not
stand idly by while Congress fails to act yet again, so all options are on the
table. We will immediately redeploy hundreds of CBP personnel to the border to
respond to this emergency. We will urgently pursue additional reinforcements
from within DHS and the interagency. And we will require those seeking to enter
the United States to wait in Mexico until an immigration court as reviewed their
claims.”

In a statement on Friday, a CBP spokesperson confirmed that
it “will send CBP officers from airports and northern border locations on
temporary assignments throughout the Southwest border to support the U.S.
Border Patrol during the current border security and humanitarian crisis. The
selected CBP officers will be replacing the CBP officers currently assigned to
support the Border Patrol along the Southwest border. The exact number and
locations of the CBP officers is not available at this point.”

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