A bipartisan group of senators called on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee this week to back U.S. Customers and Border Protection (CBP) with resources for proper staff and security at the U.S.-Canada border.
Led by U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Hoeven (R-ND), the senators want better funding for the northern border in FY 2023 to help northern ports of entry resume pre-pandemic operating hours and capability. That border is awash with temporary duty assignments that draw northern border officers away from their posts, the senators noted, and restricted hours have also held back lawful travel and trade.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents have the critical mission of protecting the American people by securing our borders,” the senators wrote. “Continued temporary duty assignments take a significant toll on officers and agents as well as families assigned to northern border duties. We encourage the subcommittee to provide the necessary resources to ensure personnel on the northern border can fulfill their mission without the constant need for temporary duty assignments. Finally, [it is] essential to have ports of entry open to accommodate lawful travel between the United States and Canada. As we turn the corner on the pandemic, the subcommittee should ensure that CBP has the necessary resources to resume pre-pandemic operating hours at northern border ports of entry.”
Tester has been calling for the northern border to be fully reopened since May 2021. As in many cases of those involved with this effort, his state is heavily dependent on trade with Canada. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, Montana exported approximately $692 million in goods to Canada in 2018 – 42 percent of its total goods exports.
Though a hard closure for most cross-border travel had been implemented during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reopened with restrictions on the Canadian side in August 2021, followed by the U.S. side in November 2021.