Cornyn: Congress must address ‘neglected’ ports

The Texas lawmaker said a recent Government Accountability Office report confirmed that “our ports of entry have been neglected for too long.”

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“Border wait times are under-reported, infrastructure and staff are mismanaged and stretched too thin, and it is becoming harder to ensure safe and efficient trade and travel,” Cornyn wrote.

He said “clogged” highways were stopping the flow of commerce and that Customs and Border Protection needed congressional help to solve the problem.

“Highways are the arteries of commerce, and our ports of entry are the valves that regulate its flow. Currently, they are clogged, and this is needlessly harming the economy while effectively making it easier to smuggle contraband into the country,” Cornyn wrote. “Unfortunately, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) doesn’t have the resources, and Washington lacks the will to offer much help.”

Cornyn said the fate of the ports doesn’t have to be tied to comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill with 68 votes this summer and the House is debating how to proceed with its own version.

“A fix need not be tied to the fate of immigration reform,” he wrote. “I hope that the Obama administration will work with local leaders and with me to bring about these much needed upgrades to our ports of entry. Until we do so, however, we cannot harness our full economic potential.”

Cornyn cited a Bloomberg Government study that said border delays could cost the U.S. economy $14.7 billion by 2020.

Cornyn has introduced the Cross Border Trade Enhancement Act, which would allow Customs and Border Protection to enter into private-public partnerships to improve border and port conditions.