Tester Backs Bill to Secure Borders, Boost Customs and Border Patrol Staffing

Senator’s Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act Requires CBP to hire additional 600 officers annually until fully staffed

As a part of his continued bipartisan effort to secure America’s borders and stop the flow of dangerous drugs like fentanyl into the United States, U.S. Senator Jon Tester again cosponsored the bipartisan Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act to require Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to hire an additional 600 officers annually until staffing needs are fully met.

“Keeping Montanans safe is my number one priority in the United States Senate, and that starts with securing our borders and cracking down on the flow of dangerous drugs like fentanyl into our country,” said Tester. “Customs and Border Patrol officers are on the frontline of keeping our country safe, and it’s critical that we get more folks on the job to fully staff the agency. This issue shouldn’t be political, and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this bipartisan bill signed into law.” 

CBP is responsible for securing our border and operating ports of entry, and the agency continues to face ongoing shortages of officers and fails to meet its own staffing models and goals. In addition to increased encounters on the southern border, CBP is also facing rising rates of fentanyl trafficking. Staffing and resources shortages have also played a role in the agency’s decision to continue reduced hours at many ports of entry.

Tester first backed the bipartisan Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act in 2022, which would:

  • Require 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 would direct 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.
  • Require 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
  • Require CBP to submit a quarterly report on the use of temporary duty assignments, new trade facilitation agreements, and the agency’s staffing needs.
  • Authorize $136 million for FY24 and $157 million for each fiscal year between FY25 and FY29 to hire additional officers and staff.  

Tester’s legislation was successfully included in the Senate’s bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 (NDAA), which is now awaiting passage by the House before becoming signed into law.

Additionally, Tester’s bipartisan Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act was also successfully included as an amendment to the bipartisan NDAA. Tester’s FEND Off Fentanyl Act would impose economic sanctions on those engaged in the international trafficking of illicit fentanyl, precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl, or other related opioids, and declare international trafficking of fentanyl as a national emergency. 

In March, Tester continued his push to secure the southern border and stop fentanyl trafficking by calling on the Biden Administration to make additional investments in technology to assist law enforcement in nonintrusive inspections at points of entry. As the Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester passed critical provisions in the 2023 NDAA and the 2023 government funding bill to fund law enforcement and stop fentanyl trafficking along the southern border.