Letter to Alan D. Bersin, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection U.S. Department of Homeland Security

This morning, Representatives Janice Hahn (CA-36), Howard Berman (CA-28) and Judy Chu (CA-32) led a California delegation letter to Alan Bersin, Commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP), asking for resolution to the lack of processing agents at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The letter was joined by Representatives Grace Napolitano (CA-38), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), Henry Waxman (CA-30), Laura Richardson (CA-37), Maxine Waters (CA-35), Adam Schiff (CA-29), and Brad Sherman (CA-27). The letter states:

"The delays experienced in CBP processing for incoming passengers at LAX are unacceptable. These processing delays -- on ongoing problem throughout the past two years -- reflect a consistent understaffing at LAX. We appreciate your efforts to address this problem though innovative CBP programs, but they do not appear to be working. LAX simply does not have an adequate number of inspectors to accommodate current and future passenger traffic.

"The lack of agents not only causes needless delays but threatens the economic activity and jobs LAX produces," explained Rep. Hahn. "The CBP shouldn't wait for legislation when they have the ability to act now to resolve this issue."

"I couldn't think of a more penny wise and pound foolish thing Customs could do than under staff LAX", said Rep. Berman. "I'm concerned that these processing delays will erode LAX's position as the West Coast's primary gateway to Asia, which will cost Los Angeles jobs."

The full text of the letter is below.

December 8, 2011
The Honorable Alan D. Bersin
Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Commissioner Bersin,

We are writing to express our concerns about the shortage of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing staff at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). We are asking for your personal attention to resolve this issue.

The delays experienced in CBP processing for incoming passengers at LAX are unacceptable. These processing delays -- on ongoing problem throughout the past two years -- reflect a consistent understaffing at LAX. We appreciate your efforts to address this problem though innovative CBP programs, but they do not appear to be working. LAX simply does not have an adequate number of inspectors to accommodate current and future passenger traffic.

Not only is LAX the sixth busiest airport in the world, but it is an important engine of economic growth in Southern California, providing an estimated $60 billion in economic benefit to the region. In addition, an estimated 59,000 jobs directly attributable to LAX are located on or near the airport, while another approximately 408,000 jobs spread throughout the region are attributable to LAX. Given the important role that LAX serves as a major international gateway to the U.S., the airport is in the process of upgrading and expanding the Tom Bradley International Terminal. When completed, this $2.3 billion project will create a new, environmentally sustainable, and modern international terminal to welcome visitors to Los Angeles.

We note that the expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal will increase the number of primary booths from 60 to 81. However, absent additional staffing resources, this expansion will do little to ease the delays faced by arriving passengers. Without a commitment by your agency to meet the demand posed by increased international arrivals, we are deeply concerned that processing times will continue to lag -- and may erode LAX's reputation as the primary West Coast gateway to Asia. While we are acutely aware of the budget constraints faced by CPB and other agencies, by failing to commit adequate staff resources, CPB risks undermining the economic benefits and jobs that LAX provides throughout the region.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you to address this important issue facing Los Angeles.

Sincerely,


Rep. Janice Hahn
Rep. Howard Berman
Rep. Judy Chu
Rep. Grace Napolitano
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard
Rep. Henry Waxman
Rep. Laura Richardson
Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Adam Schiff
Rep. Brad Sherman