United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection policies “don’t reflect new technology or threats” and are “outdated,” according to an August 6 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
CBP border inspections for passenger and commercial vehicles currently include reviewing travel documents, screening against law enforcement databases and using canines and X-ray machines.
However, CBP has not updated all of its policies and training materials – in some cases for 20 years. The GAO review stated CBP has also not kept up with changes in technology, such as newer techniques for conducting searches and handling drugs such as fentanyl.
“Enforcing U.S. immigration law, including by detecting and interdicting the illegal movement of people, is also a key part of CBP’s border security mission,” according to the GAO report. “CBP officers encountered nearly 139,000 inadmissible individuals at land ports of entry (POEs) in fiscal year 2018. The lack of required travel documents, such as a visa, was the most common reason cited by CBP for determining individuals to be inadmissible.”
The GAO review made four recommendations to CBP to improve management and oversight of inspections, including:
- Review and update policies related to land port of entry inspections.
- Analyze the results of the Self Inspection Program (SIP) over time and at a level necessary to identify and address potentially re-occurring inspection deficiencies at individual ports of entry.
- Implement a policy to conduct periodic comprehensive analyses of covert test findings.
- Develop a new target for the land border interception rate for passengers in privately owned vehicles with major violations that sets an ambitious, but realistic goal based on past performance.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, said it agreed with the recommendations and has initiated procedures to implement them.
Some of the largest land ports of entry are in Texas, including Port Laredo, the Port of El Paso and the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge. These three land ports accounted for $408 billion, or 55.2 percent, of land port commercial trade with Mexico in 2018.
“Twelve million commercial vehicles entered the U.S. through 110 land ports of entry along the border in 2018,” according to the report. “Land POEs continue to be a key drug smuggling route for Mexican transnational criminal organizations. The most common smuggling method used – passenger vehicles with concealed compartments or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor trailers.”
In fiscal year 2018, CBP data showed that it seized nearly 363,000 pounds of drugs at land POEs, including approximately 265,000 pounds of marijuana, 70,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 20,000 pounds of cocaine, and 1,400 pounds of fentanyl, among other drugs.
The GAO conducted site visits to seven land ports of entry, including: Nogales and Douglas, Arizona; San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, California; El Paso and Marcelino Serna, Texas; and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York.