FOLLOWING HIS PUSH, SCHUMER ANNOUNCES FEDS HAVE AGREED TO BEGIN THE PROCESS FOR CREATING FRENCH-LANGUAGE TRAINING PROGRAM FOR NORTHERN BORDER CUSTOMS OFFICERS – CURRENT LACK OF FRENCH PROFICIENCY AMONG OFFICERS SLOWS DOWN CROSSINGS; TRAINING WOULD SPEED UP INSPECTIONS & MAKE BORDER CROSSING MORE EFFICIENT
Following Schumer’s Urging, U.S. Customs & Border Protection Has Agreed to Study The Potential for a French Language Training Program for Northern Border Customs Officers; Lack of French Speaking Border Officers Reportedly Slowing Down Inspection Times & Creating Frustrating Delays at the U.S.-Quebec Border
Schumer Said Hang-ups Due To French Language Barriers Cause Delays & Irritate Businesses, Residents, Tourists; Schumer Says Southwest Border Officers Are Provided Spanish Language Training by the Feds, And Same Opportunity Should be Afforded to North Country-Quebec Border Officers
Schumer to Feds: Studying Impacts of Language Program is First Step In the Right Direction
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has agreed to study and analyze the requirements and need for implementing a French-language training program for Northern Border Customs officers based at duty locations near the U.S.-Quebec border, including Trout River and Champlain Ports of Entry in North Country. Schumer launched his push for this kind of program in April, following concerns and reported frustration from local citizens regarding delays and back-ups at Northern Border Ports of Entry due to language barriers between agents and visitors. Schumer said a language training program would make the Ports of Entry more efficient and could bring more business and tourism to the North Country. In a response to Schumer, CBP agreed to review and assess the operational requirements for the application and use of French language by CBP personnel along the Northern Border. CBP said that if their analysis indicated a clear need, the agency would initiate a cost benefit analysis and develop a strategy, which could include a French language training program at CBP’s Field Operations Academy.
“This is great news and a step in the right direction for the residents and visitors who experience excessive delays at the U.S.- Quebec border due to language barriers. A language barrier not only slows down the border crossing process, but constant back-ups and delays can have detrimental effects on local tourism and businesses. Formally analyzing the need for a French language program will show CBP that such a program is worthwhile and will teach our agents the basic skills necessary to conduct inspections quickly and efficiently,” said Schumer. “Spanish language training is provided for Southwest border officers, so it is a no-brainer that we provide similar language programs in French for our officers stationed at the Northern border.”
Schumer said the inability to communicate is largely because these CBP officers are not trained in French. Schumer added that a simple, task-based French-language training program would give Northern border CBP officers the basic knowledge they need to process French-speaking visitors more quickly, making the entire crossing process at the New York-Quebec border more effective. Schumer said CBP agents stationed along the U.S. Southwestern border are provided Spanish language training, and this opportunity should be afforded to CBP officers on the Northern border, so that they can perform their duties at a higher level.
Schumer explained that, while there is no CBP hiring preference based on foreign language skills, foreign language proficiency makes CBP employees more effective at doing their jobs, and minimizing the language barrier helps quickly process entrants at the border. CBP officers stationed at duty locations along the Southwest border are required to be proficient in reading, writing, and speaking Spanish. If these officers are not already proficient in Spanish when they are hired, they are required to take a Spanish course at the CBP Academy’s federal training center. This Basic Spanish Training Program (BSTP) is a task-based program and, Schumer said, has proven to be an effective tool at helping process visitors more quickly and efficiently.
Schumer said the opportunity to learn task-based French for CBP officers stationed along the U.S.- Quebec border should be afforded to the North Country officers that need to process French-speaking visitors each day. That is why he is pushing CBP to create a task-based French language program for North Country officers based at duty locations near Quebec, including the Trout River and Champlain Ports of Entry. Schumer said that because many officers are not proficient in French, they often have a difficult time dealing with French-speaking Canadians crossing the border, therefore lengthening the inspection process and increasing hold-ups at the line.
Schumer said that local businesses and local residents have expressed concern that current delays could deter tourism and potential revenue by making the border crossing a lengthy and more arduous process. Therefore, Schumer called on CBP to create and provide this training program to North Country residents serving along the U.S.-Canada border, just as they have for those serving on the Southwestern border.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s initial letter to U.S Customs and Border Protection appears below:
Dear Commissioner Kerlikowske:
I write to urge U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to create a task-based French language program for CBP Officers based at duty locations near Quebec, including the Trout River and Champlain Ports of Entry.
CBP Officers are required to be proficient in reading, writing, and speaking Spanish in certain duty locations along the Southwest Border. These officers must either demonstrate proficiency in Spanish, or participate in a task-based language training program. This training takes place at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Academy at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Such Spanish language training undoubtedly helps these CBP Officers perform their duties at a higher level, as many of the people that these officers interact with on a daily basis only speak Spanish.
I urge you to create a similar, task-based French language training program for CBP Officers stationed near the Quebec border. Because many officers are not proficient in French, they often have a difficult time dealing with French-speaking Canadians crossing the border. When there are language barriers between a CBP Officer and a person attempting to enter the country, the inspection process can take much longer than usual. That can lead to backups, delaying the process for everyone behind in line. A simple task-based French language training program would give CBP Officers the basic knowledge they need to process French-speaking visitors more quickly, making the entire crossing process at the New York-Quebec border more efficient.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator