Tester Pushes Homeland Security Secretary on Border Patrol Agent Retention, Northern Border Security & Ports of Entry Hours

Senator calls on Secretary to increase staffing, secure the Northern border, and fully reopen Northern ports of entry to pre-pandemic hours

U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week grilled Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the Department’s plans to better retain Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, secure the Northern border, and restore U.S.-Canada points of entry to pre-pandemic operating times.

Tester criticized DHS’s plan to reassign CBP agents from the Northern border to the Southern border, and called for the Department to immediately increase staffing, while focusing on agent retention.

“The point to be made here is there is some urgency,” said Tester. “There has been urgency for fifteen years—maybe longer—to get people to the border that are trained, qualified, and able to do the job.”

Tester highlighted the potentially harmful impact that transferring Northern border agents to the Southern border may have on Northern border security.

“When we’re pulling folks off the Northern border and putting them on the Southern border you know as well as I do that the bad guys know where the weakest link in the chain is and that’s where they’re going to go,” Tester continued, “The focus is on the Southern border—rightfully so—but the truth is that the Northern border could become a problem too if, in fact, these surges aren’t operated correctly.”

Tester concluded by calling for DHS to fully reopen ports on the Northern border to pre-pandemic operating hours, citing the detrimental impact reduced hours have had on commerce in Montana.

“Our ports in Montana are still operating at reduced hours. We’ve got supply chain issues in this country,” Tester said. “Reduced port hours and the mandate on vaccines have created a problem, and I’m not saying that people weren’t doing these things with the best intentions, but I don’t think we can have it both ways, so I’d like to get those ports opened up.”

Last month, Tester wrote a letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus urging him to resume pre-pandemic operations at all ports of entry in Montana.

Tester first called for the northern border to fully re-open last May, urging the Biden Administration to work with Canadian officials to swiftly and safely open the border. He followed up with a letter to Secretary Mayorkas pressing the Administration to move forward with the Canadian reopening in a “safe, fair, and efficient manner.” In November 2021, the Biden Administration heeded Tester’s call and reopened the border to vaccinated travelers.

Senator Tester is continuing to push for a full reopening of the northern border. He has urged DHS to allow all truck drivers and other essential travel across the northern border. He also opposed efforts to lift Title 42 and increase immigration processing without a comprehensive plan in place to maintain staffing and security along the northern border.