U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (NY-26) launched a major push Thursday to pass their BOUND (Border Officer Utilization for National Defense) Act.
The legislation would set a minimum staffing requirement for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers stationed at northern border ports of entry. It will be introduced in Congress next week.
Their push comes in the wake of the administration and the Department of Homeland Security executing a plan to transfer as many as 300 CBP officers from the northern border to the southern border. Schumer and Higgins said the transfer and subsequent staffing shortage caused significant delays at border crossings such as the Peace Bridge, jeopardized cross-border trade and created security vulnerabilities.
The lawmakers said that even though DHS has since moved many of the transferred officers back to their home stations in Western New York, preventing staffing shortages at the northern border in the future is critical for the economic well-being of the region.
“Sacrificing customs operations at and the security of the northern border for the sake of the southern border equated to nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul, and we must do everything possible to ensure it doesn’t happen again," Schumer said Thursday. “With billions in cross-border trade at stake and narcotics traffickers constantly seeking vulnerabilities, Western New York cannot afford a short-changed northern border.”
Specifically, the BOUND Act would, first, ensure that no fewer than the highest number of CBP officers stationed at the northern border between Jan. 1, 2016, and the enactment of the bill, are ever stationed at the northern border. Second, the legislation would prevent CBP from transferring any personnel away from assignments on the northern border, if it would mean reducing the total northern staffing below the maximum level between January 2016 and enactment of the bill.