SCHUMER PUSHES TO CREATE FRENCH-LANGUAGE TRAINING PROGRAM FOR NORTHERN BORDER CUSTOMS OFFICERS – LACK OF FRENCH PROFICIENCY AMONG OFFICERS SLOWS DOWN CROSSINGS; TRAINING WOULD SPEED UP INSPECTIONS & MAKE BORDER CROSSING MORE EFFICIENT
North Country Businesses & Residents Say Back-ups & Delays at Border are Often a Result of Language Barriers; Lack of French-Language-Proficient Border Officers Slowing Down Inspection Times, Creating Frustrating Delays at the U.S.-Quebec Border
Schumer Says Lengthy & Arduous Border Crossing Process Hurts Tourism & Local Businesses; U.S. Customs and Border Protection Now Supports Local Efforts To Create French Training Programs for Officers– 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: Bring French Language-Learning Program to North Country So CBP Officers and North Country Residents Can Say “Allons-y!”
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to create a French-language program for CBP officers and agents based at duty locations near the U.S.-Quebec border, including the Trout River and Champlain Ports of Entry in the North Country. Schumer explained that local businesses and residents have expressed concerns that these border crossings are experiencing back-ups and inspection-time delays due to some officers being unable to communicate with French-speaking visitors.
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.
“We train Southern Border crossing agents in Spanish, so we should train Quebec-Northern Border agents in French to speed up crossing and cut down on maddening delays, which only hurt our North Country economy and tourism businesses,” said Schumer. “Providing French- language training for northern border customs officers who process thousands of French-speaking visitors each day is a no-brainer. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol should create a program that helps officers become proficient in French so that counties across the Northern New York border can enhance security all while seeing even more tourists flocking in.”
“Optimizing the secure flow of legitimate travel and commerce at our northern border has been and remains a shared aim of the regional business community and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with real progress made over the last few years in terms of facilities, staffing, technology and operations,” said Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. “There's no question, however, that broader French language abilities among our border partners working at Quebec crossings would be good for flow as well as for hospitality and security. While many officers have developed some French, there has not been a sufficient recognition by Washington that French skills should be actively encouraged and supported, including potential underwriting of cost effective classes that we and Clinton Community College are ready to help develop. We thank Senator Schumer for bringing this need to the attention of the highest levels, and remain ready to assist in any way we can. Chuck has been a steady and consistent friend of our border since joining us in the successful quest for the new Champlain border facilities, and he continues to ask routinely how things can be made even more effective and efficient.”
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 is calling on the federal 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 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