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Friday, June 21st, 2024

New House legislation proposes trust fund to build, expand ports of entry and increase CBP staff

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By introducing the Land Port of Entry (LPOE) Modernization Trust Fund Act (H.R.3135) this week, a collection of five congressional lawmakers proposed creating a fund to advance new ports of entry, improve the old and gather both new staff and technology to assist border efforts.

Backed by organizations like the Border Trade Alliance and the Texas Trucking Association, which pointed to the economic health a well-maintained border can bring, the lawmakers similarly asserted that these ports of entry can facilitate international trade and boost the national economy. However, they added, the infrastructure and equipment therein are in need of updates.

“While waterway-based ports of entry have long had the benefit of a consistent source of federal resources via the authorization of a similar trust fund, our overburdened land-based ports of entry have struggled,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “The LPOE Modernization Trust Fund Act is needed to properly redistribute much needed resources to LPOE facilities and to ensure the United States’ long-term economic prosperity through international trade. The LPOE Trust Fund will expand, improve, and construct new U.S. ports of entry and support infrastructure to accommodate high volumes of commercial, vehicle, and pedestrian traffic. It will also help critical transit and trade facilities more efficiently complete the inspection and processing of commercial, vehicle, and pedestrian traffic.”

The bill would create a trust fund tended by a Land Port of Entry Modernization Oversight Board, to be established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). That board will advise DHS on how to use the trust fund and review its expenditures. These expenditures could be used to build new ports of entry, expand and improve existing ones, procure technology for inspections and processing traffic, as well as for hiring new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff.

“We live in a country where our airports are revered in our communities, offering world-class customer service without sacrificing comfort or security; I want that same sentiment expressed when it comes to our ports,” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), another sponsor, said.

Land ports of entry also serve as frontlines against illicit drug smuggling and other contraband, as noted by fellow sponsor, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-TX).

The trust fund would be backed by deposits from discretionary offsetting collections annually, beginning in 2024, including up to $1.6 billion of Merchandise Processing Fees and 25 percent of all surcharges collected from immigrant user fees, land border inspection fees and the machine-readable visa fee.