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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. O'ROURKE. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the chair and the ranking member of this subcommittee for their work on this bill. It's certainly one that I'm very happy to support.

Given the importance of trade at both our northern and southern land ports of entry, I am particularly pleased that the bill includes 1,600 new CBP officers to expedite trade at our ports. I planned to offer an amendment that would have helped to target these new officers to the busiest ports of entry. It would have required the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report detailing the average crossing times at the busiest land ports and what the staffing needs are to ensure that we can reduce those wait times to 20 minutes or less. I understand my amendment would be subject to a point of order, but I look forward to working with the chair and ranking member to address this issue as the process moves forward.

Very quickly, wait times right now at our ports of entry are unpredictable and they are inconsistent. People can wait as few as 20 minutes or they can wait as long as 2 or 3 hours to enter the United States at a pedestrian bridge, as a commuter by vehicle. Or, most important, for our economy, trade can wait hours at a time to enter the United States.

The economy that I represent in El Paso, Texas, has 100,000 jobs at stake that depend on this cross-border trade. There is over $90 billion in U.S.-Mexico trade that is crossing at those ports every single year. More than 6 million jobs in this country depend on that U.S.-Mexico trade that is crossing at our southern ports of entry alone. In the State of Texas, we have more than 400,000 jobs. In the State of North Carolina, we have over 100,000 jobs. That's why I think it's so important to understand the wait times and to be able to fix them and to move people and CBP officers where they are most needed. So, again, I look forward to working with the chairman and ranking member to address this issue going forward.

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