At a time of federal downsizing, the Customs and Border Protection website is displaying a prominent “Now Hiring” notice, part of a push to recruit 2,000 officers to be stationed at air, land and sea ports nationwide.
The new officers, approved as part of the Homeland Security Department’s fiscal 2014 appropriation, will be assigned to 44 ports in 18 states, according to a statement released on Thursday. Locations include New York; Los Angeles; Detroit; Buffalo, New York; Houston; Dallas; Chicago; Las Vegas; Laredo, Texas; Nogales, Arizona; and New Orleans.
CPB officers are required to wear uniforms and carry firearms as they fulfill duties in inspection; passenger and cargo analysis; and examination and law enforcement activities related to the arrival and departure of travelers, merchandise and conveyances such as cars, trucks, aircraft and ships at U.S. ports of entry, the agency said.
A January House summary put the CBP’s current appropriation at $10.6 billion, an increase of $110.6 million above the fiscal 2013 level. “This funding will allow for the highest operational force levels in history -- 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 23,775 CBP officers -- including an increase of 2,000 additional CBP officers slated for the nation’s busiest ports of entry,” it said. “The amount includes increases for CBP’s threat-targeting systems for needed improvements identified following the Boston Marathon attacks, such as enhancements to aid the identification of known and suspected terrorists and criminals.”
But the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents CBP, argues Congress needs to do more to protect the borders. At an April 8 hearing of the House Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, NTEU President Colleen Kelley called for a hike in customs and immigration user fees to bring the total number of CBP officers to 25,775.
“CBP will still face staffing shortages in fiscal 2015 and beyond,” she said. “If Congress is serious about job creation, then Congress should support enactment of legislation that increases (user fees) by $2 each and adjusts those fees annually to inflation.”