While it’s still not ideal, customs brokers and their import customers moving product from Mexico into the U.S. have witnessed an increased momentum for cargo processing by Customs and Border Protection at the southern border ports of entry.
In early April, the Department of Homeland Security authorized CBP to reallocate hundreds of officers from cargo-processing responsibilities to assist with a crush of Central American migrants arriving at the southern border. This resulted in traffic lanes closures and mile-long-plus backups of trucks waiting to enter the U.S.
Some smaller U.S. ports of entry along the southern border halted cargo processing during weekends.
“Operations are almost back to normal to a certain degree in our area [for truck traffic], to about three hours from the Mexican toll booth to the CBP primary booth,” said A.E. Neto Roser, in charge of U.S. Customs compliance for Brownsville, Texas-based Roser & Cowen Logistical Customs Services. “It usually takes about two hours from that distance. That’s a big change from when it was about five hours.”
Gonzalez previously explained to American Shipper that before the CBP officer reallocations in early April, it took each CBP officer at the Laredo port of entry conservatively about 1.2 minutes to process a trailer, which equates to about 50 trailers per hour.
“We have the capability of opening 18 lanes, but we only have 14 lanes during the peak times due to staffing, which allows us to process within normal time frames,” Gonzalez said.
“We need more officers back for commercial processing since the flow of commercial traffic has not reduced,” he added.
During the past month and a half, customs brokers have worked with their importer clients to try and ease the pain of the southern border cargo-processing slowdown. Some large importers increased their amount of product per shipment from Mexico, while others turned to rail transport where the congestion at the southern border was not experienced, Gonzalez noted.
“On a local level, we have been reaching out to our Congressman Henry Cuellar, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and has assisted us getting back some of our CBP officers to our ports,” Gonzalez said.
Meanwhile, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America continues to monitor the latest southern border import clearance activities.
“We understand that CBP has additional responsibilities and unique concerns along the southern border which require the presence of trained CBP officers,” said NCBFAA President Amy Magnus. “We will continue to work with CBP in any way we can to facilitate trade.”
Gonzalez added, “There is an immigration crisis which needs to be addressed, but pulling officers from commercial processing is not a solution.”