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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: January 15, 2003 (Senate)]
[Page S748-S798]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr15ja03-52]                         
 
[[pp. S748-S798]] MAKING FURTHER CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2003

[[Continued from page S747]]

NORTHERN BORDER The Committee commends the actions of the United States Customs Service insofar as the Customs Service has worked to strengthen America's border with Canada. The Committee also recognizes that the process of strengthening the Northern Border is not complete and that further adjustments in personnel assignments and resource allocations will be necessary. Customs stands at the front line in securing ``the longest open border in the world'' from potential acts of terrorism and other illegal activity. The Committee is also aware of the vital role Customs performs in supporting America's strong trade relationship with Canada, facilitating over $350,000,000,000 in trade annually. The Committee supports full implementation of the 30-point ``Smart Border Accord,'' signed by the United States and Canada in December 2001. The Committee urges Customs to fully implement ongoing initiatives in furtherance of securing the flow of people and goods, hardening our infrastructure, and in sharing mutual enforcement objectives with Canada. Implementation of programs such as pre-clearance of U.S.- bound traffic, ``reverse inspections,'' hardening of remote ports, and expanded information sharing promises increased security and important trade benefits on the Northern Border. The Committee commends Customs for stationing U.S. Customs officers in Canadian ports to work side by side with Canadian counterparts to target high-risk containers bound for the United States. Additionally, the Committee encourages Customs to expand use of ``smart'' processing and inspection technologies such as the NEXUS program. This joint United States-Canadian pilot is a dedicated commuter lane system which allows Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to rapidly identify and clear pre-registered frequent travelers. The Committee urges Customs to implement an expansion of the program expeditiously as an integral part of a layered security framework which both secures our mutual border and facilitates this unique trade relationship. SOUTHWEST BORDER SECURITY The Committee commends the actions of the United States Customs Service in its efforts to combat threats entering America. The Committee also recognizes that the process of strengthening the Southwest Border is crucial to America's safety and that further adjustments in personnel assignments and resource allocations will be necessary. Customs stands at the front line in securing the United States-Mexican border from potential acts of terrorism and other illegal activity. The Committee is also aware of the vital role Customs performs in supporting America's strong trade relationship with Mexico, facilitating over $232,000,000,000 in trade annually. The Committee urges Customs to fully implement the United States-Mexico Border Partnership, which is a 22-point program with greater cooperation and technological enhancements at the border. Implementation of programs such as pre-clearance of U.S.-bound traffic, ``reverse inspections,'' hardening of remote ports, and expanded information sharing promises increased security and important trade benefits to both the United States and Mexico. The Committee commends Customs for its efforts to prescreen in-bound trade traffic through early cargo manifests but is concerned that more inspectors, check points, and the use of sophisticated technologies are needed to lower the risk of potential terrorism. Additionally, the Committee encourages Customs to expand use of ``smart'' processing and authorization and access technologies such as smart cards, currently used in the Department of Defense and the Department of the Treasury. Smart cards are identification cards embedded with a computer chip containing biometric data used to rapidly identify and clear preregistered and frequent travelers. The Committee urges Customs to expeditiously implement an expansion of a Southwest Border-wide security program as an integral part of a layered security framework which both secures our mutual border and facilitates this unique trade relationship with Mexico.

[ ... ]

Staffing and Service Levels at Customs Ports of Entry The Committee continues to believe that the services provided through the Charleston, WV, Customs office are very important to the State of West Virginia and the Nation as a whole. For this reason, the Committee expects the Service to maintain the level of services provided in fiscal year 1996 through fiscal year 2003 at this office. The Committee continues to believe that the policy of providing part-time and temporary inspectors at the Honolulu International Airport is an effective way to handle the large and increasing volume of passengers arriving and departing this very busy airport in Hawaii. The Committee has again included $750,000 for part-time and temporary positions in the Honolulu Customs District. This action is intended to enhance and not supplant current staffing levels. Amounts included in this account are sufficient to maintain staffing levels at this airport through fiscal year 2003 at the fiscal year 1997 level. The Charleston, South Carolina Port (Port) is the fourth largest cargo port in the United States, and the second largest on the East Coast. However, the Port continues to be severely understaffed by Customs and lacks the necessary resources to address the volume of cargo entering the Port yearly. As the volume of cargo traffic at the Port continues to increase, Customs resources and staffing at the Port have fallen behind. The Committee is aware that Customs dedicated to the Port, on a temporary basis, an additional canine team which resulted in commensurate increases in seizures of contraband. This is concrete evidence that increased staffing at the Port will enhance the mission of the Customs Service at this location, supporting enforcement as well as facilitating the entry of legitimate trade. The Committee recommends that Customs make every effort to provide additional staffing and equipment for use at the Port. The Committee directs that in no case shall the level of Special Agents, Inspectors, Canine Enforcement Officers or other support personnel fall below the 1999 staffing levels at the Port. The Committee is aware that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has assigned badly needed personnel to New Mexico's major ports of entry at Santa Teresa and Columbus. Similar increases in Customs Service personnel are needed, especially in Santa Teresa which lacks the staff to operate two processing booths throughout the day. The Committee therefore strongly urges the Customs Service to review the staffing situation in Santa Teresa and to approve the addition of four Customs Service personnel to that location. Further, the Committee expects to be kept informed on the status of this review. Legitimate, as well as illicit, trade and traffic continue to grow in the State of Florida. Customs should give a high priority to funding sufficient inspection personnel at ports of entry in Florida for fiscal year 2003. Over the years Customs personnel in smaller States as well as rural areas have declined considerably. Problems facing these areas have not necessarily declined, and the Committee urges Customs to continually review its staffing requirements and to consider the allocation to smaller States and rural areas. The Committee recognizes the importance of full-time staffing at the Pittsburg, New Hampshire port of entry for New Hampshire and the entire New England region. As the only port of entry in New Hampshire, the Committee directs Customs to give a high priority to funding sufficient staffing at the Pittsburg station for fiscal year 2003. The Committee appreciates the work of the Customs Service to address issues related to the national and economic security of our Nation. As such, the Committee recognizes the significant role that the Customs Service plays in providing essential inspection services to major airports such as Louisville, Kentucky, a major shipment hub [[Page S772]] which faces acute economic pressure due to tremendous growth year after year. The Committee directs the Customs Service to identify and request resources necessary to address staffing shortfalls at the Louisville Airport, and to work closely with the Regional Airport Authority and the many businesses that rely on this location as a channel for national and international trade. The U.S. Customs Service is the first line of homeland defense for cargo and ships that enter the Port of Virginia, which consists of the Norfolk International Terminals, the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, and the Newport News Marine Terminal. The Port of Virginia handled 1.3 million 20-foot containers and 1.6 million vessels in 2001. Located near the port are the Norfolk Naval Base, the Norfolk Naval Air Station, the Oceana Naval Air Station, Langley Air Force Base, the U.S. Army Transportation Center at Fort Eustis and Fort Story, and several other critical Department of Defense facilities. Because of the unique combination of defense facilities and large volume of international trade, the Port of Virginia is a likely target for terrorism. The Committee directs the Customs Service to conduct an in-depth review the homeland security needs of the Port of Virginia, and report back within 60 days after the date of enactment on the resources necessary and steps they are taking to address those needs. The Committee recognizes the importance of full-time staffing for the Providence, Rhode Island port of entry. While the volume of cargo entering Rhode Island has increased annually, staffing at the Office of Field Operations in Rhode Island has been operating below full strength. The Committee directs the Customs Service to give high priority to funding sufficient staffing in Rhode Island for fiscal year 2003. The Committee also recognizes the increased demand for criminal investigative work by the Customs Service in Rhode Island, particularly in the areas of drug smuggling and money laundering investigations. The Committee directs the Customs Service to explore the feasibility of establishing an Office of Investigations in Providence, Rhode Island, including an adequate number of special agents and support staff. PEACE BRIDGE JOINT BORDER FACILITY The Committee directs the Commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Office of Homeland Security, to submit to the Committee on Appropriations a report, within 180 days of enactment, that details how a joint United States/Canadian border inspection facility could be established on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario. In formulating this report, the Commission shall consult with the Canadian Government, the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, and the City of Buffalo, New York. The report shall consider how such a joint facility could maximize the security and efficiency of the Peace Bridge Expansion project, which is currently being developed by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority. The report shall also include preliminary recommendations for such a joint or shared United States/Canadian facility and identify any United States or Canadian statutes or regulations that would need to be altered in order to establish such a facility. [ ... ]

PORT OF ENTRY INFRASTRUCTURE The Committee notes that it has been over 2 years since the Port of Entry Infrastructure Assessment Study was delivered to the Congress. That study was required as part of the fiscal year 2000 Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act and included detailed input from the U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and GSA. The study identified an enormous backlog of 822 individual infrastructure requirements at our Nation's border crossings at an estimated gross cost of $784,000,000. The events of September 11, 2001 refocused the Nation's attention on the need to reinforce our borders. While this Committee has fully funded the administration's past requests for border facility construction and repair, those projects merely scratch the surface of what is required to robustly address the infrastructure backlog. The creation of a new Department of Homeland Security, which combines the various existing border agencies, offers the opportunity to address this facilities backlog in a cohesive manner. The Committee therefore directs GSA, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Directorate of Border and Transportation Security within the Department of Homeland Security, to update the study and submit it to the Congress no later than 90 days after enactment of this Act. The Committee also directs that the study identify port of entry infrastructure and technology improvements which enhance border security and facilitate the flow of legitimate commerce. The Committee urges that the study, to the greatest extent possible, prioritize projects based on the ability of the project to fulfill immediate security requirements and facilitate trade across the borders. The Committee recommends that the annual courthouse construction projects prioritization list submitted by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts be used as a model for this effort.

[ ... ]

[ End ]



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