NOGALES, AZ -- Residents across border communities were reeling after the
White House announced a list of requested amendments for an FY 2010
Supplemental Appropriations Bill -- amendments that the Fresh Produce
Association of the Americas said drastically missed the mark on securing
ports of entry across the border.
Specifically, the White House requested funding for 1,000 Border Patrol
agents but only 30 Customs & Border Protection officers, the front line of
security at the nation's ports of entry.
The House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Supplemental Bill
that would increase Customs & Border Protection officers by 500, a
improvement over the request of 30. Now the Supplemental Bill returns to the
Senate for a vote.
Members of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, here, are working
with partner organizations to change that imbalance in security spending and
to educate the White House and Congress on the need to secure ports of
entry, not just the areas between ports of entry. According to the association,
allocating resources to remedy the serious understaffing issues at the nation's
ports is a measure that will truly make steps to securing the border while
helping boost the U.S. economy and saving tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.
"As Border Patrol staffing continues to increase at exponential rates while our
ports are left understaffed, we will continue to see more and more criminals
attempt to breach our ports of entry to smuggle drugs, guns, money, and
people," FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer said in a July 6 press release. "CBP
officers are a vital part of the multilayered security efforts along our border,
and to continue to neglect that portion of Homeland Security will hamper vital
trade and traveler flows while leaving our borders vulnerable."
Estimates in this border community show that the ports of entry in Nogales
alone currently need 100 additional CBP officers to fully staff the ports of
entry, and the story is the same across many border communities. In addition
to increasing security, staffing is especially critical in this border community
given that Nogales is a major gateway for legitimate travelers that come to
United States to spend money and a gateway for the trade of over $22 billion
in goods that are shipped between the United States and Mexico.
In fact, while Arizona faces mounting financial troubles, legitimate trade and
travel are responsible for over 60,000 Arizona jobs. The produce industry
alone imports over $2 billion worth of produce annually. Without adequate
staffing at the ports to facilitate the northbound and southbound trade, the
state's economy will suffer even more financial blows, according to the
"The president's requested amendment was a devastating blow for border
communities," Mr. Jungmeyer said in the release. "Fortunately, with all the
attention on border security right now, there are positive signs from Congress
that we could see as many as 500 CBP officers for the southwest border this