Tester Works to Strengthen Borders with Two Bipartisan Bills: Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act & Border Patrol Pay Security Act

Senator’s legislation to recruit and retain additional CBP Officers and Border Patrol Agents

As a part of his ongoing efforts to strengthen and secure the United States’ northern and southern borders, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week cosponsored two bipartisan bills to increase the recruitment and retention of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. Tester’s Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act will require CBP to hire additional agents to meet staffing needs, and his Border Patrol Pay Security Act will increase overtime pay for Border Patrol agents.

“Strong and secure borders are the foundation of our national security,” said Tester. “In order to keep our communities safe, it’s critical that CBP is fully staffed, has the necessary resources, and is able to retain top-notch border patrol agents. This legislation will hit all three marks by requiring the agency to increase staff levels while improving safety conditions, and ensuring that their agents are paid fairly for their often dangerous work keeping us safe.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) currently reports a significant shortage of CBP officers across the country. While the size of the staffing shortage has decreased in the last year, DHS has reported an increase in both trade and immigration during that same time. Over the last few years, CBP has relied on temporarily reassigning hundreds of agents to the southern border to address migrant surges. CBP maintains that these reassignments have not negatively affected the security of the northern border, however Senator Tester has heard firsthand from agents how the frequency of the reassignments is negatively affecting staffing levels and morale along the northern border.

Tester’s Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act:

  • Requires CBP to hire a least 600 new CBP officers above the current attrition level every fiscal year until the agency has met its own staffing model and targets. CBP would also be authorized to hire additional support staff to perform non-law enforcement functions. In addition to CBP’s existing staffing model, the bill also directs CBP to consider the needs of each port based on inspections, seasonal surges, and historical data prior to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. If CBP fails to hire at least 600 officers, the bill triggers a Government Accountability Office review of CBP hiring practices.
  • Requires CBP to submit a report to Congress on infrastructure improvements at ports of entry and equipment that would help detect and protect CBP officers from exposure to drugs or other dangerous substances; and
  • Requires CBP to submit a quarterly report on the use of temporary duty assignments, new trade facilitation agreements, and the agency’s staffing needs.

Tester’s Border Patrol Pay Security Act would allow Border Patrol agents to be paid time and a half for hours worked between 80 and 100 hours during 14 consecutive days. The legislation would ensure that Border Patrol agents earn similar overtime compensation as other federal law enforcement agencies.

Both the Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act and the Border Patrol Pay Security Act are supported by the National Border Patrol Council.

A longtime champion for secure borders, Tester recently introduced his bipartisan Public Health and Border Security Act, which would require the federal national emergency declarations for COVID-19 to be lifted before Title 42 could be terminated, and pushed CBP to fully reopen the ports of entry in Montana to pre-pandemic hours and ensure adequate staffing along the northern border. Additionally, he secured $3.85 billion for U.S. land ports of entry to modernize and secure the northern and southern borders through his bipartisan infrastructure law.