SCHUMER: MORE BORDER OFFICERS ARE NEEDED TO FIGHT DELAYS & MOVE TRAFFIC MORE EFFICIENTLY – AND SOLDIERS RETURNING HOME TO THE NORTH COUNTRY FROM OVERSEAS HAVE THE SKILLS & TRAINING NECESSARY FOR THESE POSITIONS; SCHUMER BILL WOULD LINK CBP TO QUALIFIED VETERANS LOOKING FOR WORK
Schumer Bill Would Require The Department Of Defense (DOD) And The Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) To Cooperate To Recruit And Expedite The Hiring Of Outgoing U.S. Military Service Members For Currently Open Positions As U.S. Customs And Border Protection (CBP) Officers At U.S. Ports Of Entry
Bill Seeks To Address Delays Associated With CBP’S Necessarily Thorough Hiring Process, Which Have Left Land Ports Of Entry Along The U.S. Border, Like Plattsburgh in the North Country, Understaffed Despite Funding For 2,000 Additional Officers
Schumer: Highly Qualified Veterans Will Now Have The Opportunity To Again Do What They Do Best – Protect Our Country By Guarding Our Borders
Standing at the main terminal of the Plattsburgh International Airport, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, along with local leaders and veterans in Plattsburgh, today called on his colleagues in Congress to pass the recently introduced and bipartisan Schumer bill, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act (S. 1603). This bill would require the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate to recruit and expedite the hiring of outgoing U.S. military service members, for currently open positions as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at U.S. ports of entry, such as Plattsburgh in the North Country. Schumer said that this bill seeks to address delays associated with CBP’s necessarily thorough hiring process, which have left land ports of entry along the U.S. border understaffed despite funding for 2,000 additional officers. Schumer said enabling veterans to apply for positions as CBP officers would not only help provide relief at understaffed borders, like New York’s Northern Border with Canada, but also allow for highly qualified veterans coming home to use their skills and training to protect their country at the border.
“We have worked hard to strike the balance between securing our northern border, while making cross border commerce and tourism traffic flow efficiently. The only way to do that is to keep proper staffing levels at our ports of entry, like Champlain,” said Schumer. “That’s why I am pushing my colleagues in Congress to pass this bill, which would fill these vacant posts with veterans who are returning home and have the skills and training that can be transferred to working at CBP. We have a duty to take care of our veterans once they come home, and that includes helping them find a good-paying job. This bill will do just that, all while helping to cut down on our border inspection delays, eliminate understaffing and protect American citizens.”
Schumer said that while the New York State unemployment rate has decreased in the aftermath of the recession, unemployment among veterans still remains high. According to the NYS Department of Labor, in 2014, veteran unemployment was 7.6 percent compared to 6.5 percent for non-veterans. Schumer said we must do more to decrease veteran unemployment by finding ways for outgoing military service members to transfer their unique set of skills to jobs upon their return home. One way Schumer is looking to do this is through proposed legislation that would require the DOD and DHS to work together to staff CPB ports of entry along New York’s Northern border with veterans who would be able to use their training and skillset to help protect the New York-Canadian border.
Schumer said that his legislation, introduced with Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the Border Jobs for Veterans Actwould not only be a win for veterans who are returning home and in need of work, but it would also help address border delays that have been caused by a shortage of CBP officers. Schumer said that while the CBP officer hiring process is necessarily thorough, it is also causing staffing shortages in ports of entry throughout the North Country and Upstate New York due to this laborious application process that often makes it difficult to get new officers on the border quickly. Schumer said ports of entry in North Country areas lining the border, including the stations in Champlain, Massena, Ogdensburg and Trout River, have all suffered as a result of this. With less CBP officers on the border to inspect travelers entering the U.S. from Canada, long lines and delays ensue, deterring tourism and taking away from potential economic revenue. Schumer said these border checkpoint stations throughout have vacant positions waiting to be filled and are undermining DHS’s ability to inspect incoming visitors thoroughly and efficiently.
These ports of entry along New York’s Northern border are not the only federal inspection sites suffering because of this shortage of CBP officers. Schumer said airports located further inland that receive international travelers, including Upstate cities like Albany, Rome, Syracuse and more, are also experiencing delays and hold-ups at their federal inspection stations located within airport terminals due to the shortage. Schumer said that Plattsburgh International Airport, as the newest airport in New York to be approved for a federal CBP inspection site, could also begin facing these delays if it is unable to hire qualified CBP officers quickly to run its inspection site. Schumer explained that Plattsburgh International was recently approved by CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowski for a User Fee Facility (UFF) designation. This designation effectively allows CBP officers to operate a station that inspects the cargo of international travelers before they are allowed into the U.S. For this reason, Schumer said it is important to the entire North Country as well as Plattsburgh International Airport in particular that these vacant positions be filled with highly qualified individuals and as soon as possible.
That is why Schumer is pushing, in his legislation, for the DOD and DHS to work together to find ways that will allow outgoing military service members, who already have a high-level of training and expertise, to apply for these vacancies and have their applications expedited for open positions. Schumer said this is a good way to ensure we are protecting our borders while cutting down on inspection delays while also employing highly skilled veterans to do what they do best – safeguard U.S. citizens. Schumer said these are good-paying, local jobs that veterans would be able to take advantage of following their deployment and return home.
Schumer has long advocated for increasing CBP officers at U.S. ports of entry. In January 2014, Schumer worked with CBP to secure federal appropriations bill funding for CBP to hire an additional 2,000 border officers nationwide and potentially place hundreds across New York State. Although Schumer secured $165 million for CBP to hire these additional 2,000 officers, the outstanding positions have yet to be completely filled. Therefore, Schumer said that because the funding is already there and the positions ready to be filled, it is unacceptable that CBP has yet to fill these positions with highly qualified officers. Schumer said allowing veterans to fill these posts could expedite the process in addition to providing employment for those who defended the U.S. overseas.
The CBP has said that while they do not have an estimate on when the positions will be filled, their hope is to have the process completed by the end of FY 2016. However Schumer said allowing the border officer positions to go unfilled for another year spreads the existing officers thin, increases port of entry delays and risks letting unwanted visitors into the U.S. without facing thorough inspection because of the lack of staffing.
This Schumer-Flake bill would require the DHS and the DOD to work together to identify service members with duties and skills that could be transferred to working at CBP officers as U.S. ports of entry and ensure they are aware of vacancies. Schumer said staffing CBP checkpoints with veterans would go a long way in filling the persistent shortages that have remained over the years. This bill also requires that these federal departments expand recruiting programs to service members who are actively separating from military service and transitioning into the CPB officer program. Finally, the bill requires annual reporting on the program to evaluate its effectiveness following its implementation.
Schumer was joined by Garry Douglas, President/CEO of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce; Mayor James Calnon; Steve Bowman, Clinton County Director of Veterans Services; Paul Grasso, Chairman of the REDC Veterans Committee; Kevin LeBoeuf, US Army veteran Iraq/Afghanistan; John Thibadeau of VFW Post 1418; Gary Hamel, Commander of the DAV Chapter 179.
Schumer has long fought to ensure North Country CBP officers have the training and resources they need. In June, Schumer announced that CBP had 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 officers 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.
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