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Border security, U.S. jobs at risk over imbalance of Homeland Security funding, says FPAA

by | July 05, 2010
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 significant 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 the 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 release.

"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 year."