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Higgins Says Northern Border Management is in Disarray, Calls for Immediate Shift of Resources

Understaffed Bridges, NEXUS Backlogs & Mandatory Southern Border Assignments Hurting US-Canada Trade & Travel

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is calling on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately address mounting problems contributing to inefficient management of the border between the United States and Canada. 

In a letter to the CBP Commissioner, Higgins, who serves as Co-Chair of the Northern Border Caucus, writes, “Canada is our number-one trading partner and our closest ally.  Making a mess of the northern border, which CBP and DHS top management have done, causes tangible harm to the economies of border communities and the U.S. generally, and demonstrably injures life quality here along the border. I call on you to immediately shift resources back to the northern border to allow for its proper functioning.”

Higgins points to three major and ongoing issues:

Understaffed inspection booths at northern border Ports of Entry are leading to excessive wait times despite the fact that traffic volumes have not reached pre-pandemic levels. On June 14, 2023 at 4:20pm, only 3 of 12 passenger lanes were open contributing to a one hour wait time at the Peace Bridge crossing between Buffalo, New York and Fort Erie, Ontario. This comes as the peak cross-border travel season is just beginning.

An unacceptable backlog of NEXUS applicants remains. NEXUS, a Trusted Traveler Program intended to expedite cross-border crossings by pre-screening travelers, continues to be buried under a massive backlog. Higgins cites as an example, one resident who applied in February of 2023 was told he could expect a NEXUS interview in January of 2024. The CBP website currently lists application processing time between 12-14 months. Earlier this year, Higgins introduced the Make NEXUS Work Act, a bill that would allow for virtual NEXUS interviews to help ease and accelerate processing.

Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at the northern border are being temporarily reassigned to duty at the southern border. In addition to pulling necessary personnel from northern border operations, the mandatory assignments are contributing to poor morale among officers and negatively impacting the ability to recruit new officers. 

Higgins, whose Western New York district includes four northern border crossings, goes on to say, “I call on you to immediately shift resources back to the northern border to allow for its proper functioning.  Further, given the abuses that have taken place, I advise you that I am prepared to introduce legislative measures that would statutorily restrict your ability to pull officers out of northern border booths and send them south.”