Bill seeks minimum staffing at northern border

Updated: Sep. 12, 2019 at 11:46 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - During the busiest season for crossings between the U.S. and Canada, 162 Customs and Border Protection officers have been temporarily assigned to the country's southern border with Mexico.

The president of the union that represents local officers says that creates problems for travel and commerce.

"Many people may have realized lately that there has been a little bit of a backup at the borders coming in and part of that is due to staffing that has been pulled for other duties elsewhere - whether it be southern border or what not," said Jamey Goheens, National Treasury Employees Union Local 138 chapter president.

New legislation in Washington is aimed at fixing the problem by setting a minimum staffing level.

North country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and a congressman from the Buffalo area have teamed up to introduce a bill that would require 3,808 Customs and Border Protection officers along the northern border. Stefanik says strong staffing levels are important for the local economy.

"Given the importance of trade and tourism, we don't want travelers to see significant delays across the border and we don't want to see our commerce delayed in terms of the amount of goods that are crossing the border on a daily basis," said Stefanik (R. - 21st District). "I believe that we need more investment on the southern border for border security but it shouldn't come at the expense of our needs along the northern border."

Goheens says a minimum staffing level would be a tremendous help to officers on the northern border. He says the shortfall in staffing has an impact on the amount of work being done and has been hard on the morale of employees.

"There's less people that are able to take leave, spend time with their families like they normally would because they're covering for a decrease in staffing here so it's had a tremendous effect just on the personal lives of the officers and the employees up here as well," said Goheens.

The situation for officers here may get better soon. Stefanik says it's expected 105 officers assisting on the southern border will return to their home stations by Sunday,

with the remaining 57 returning by the end of the month.

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