Lawmakers work to help Border Patrol manage traffic


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers are taking a look at how to keep the flow of people and goods at the border under control one week after it was opened to nonessential travel for the first time since March 2020.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday examined how the federal government can help Border Patrol agents at the ports of entry. They’re concerned that agents won’t be able to handle the increase of traffic.

Diane Sabatino with U.S. Customs and Border Protection says border agents are turning to technology to keep the flow of travelers and trade moving smoothly.

The goal: “To alleviate the administrative burden from our frontline officers and afford them more time to engage with travelers to determine intent,” Sabatino said.

Sabatino told senators Wednesday that many of the programs CBP is working on won’t be implemented for 18 to 24 months, including facial biometric comparison technology.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford says now that the border is back open to nonessential travel, he fears Border Patrol agents won’t be able to keep up.

“We have not seen how DHS will manage the increased demand for lawful trade and travel across our Southwest border, which is essential to our economy,” Lankford said.

Senators asked the agency how the federal government can help alleviate some of the pressure.

Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema says the recently signed bipartisan infrastructure bill allocates $3.85 billion to help expand and modernize the land ports of entry.

“This investment takes an important step in ensuring that our ports have the right infrastructure footprint to meet our nation’s needs,” Sinema said.

Lankford says he wants to know exactly how every dollar Congress allocates will be used.

“It’s always gonna be great,” Lankford said. “If Congress will give us a boatload more money, then we can fix all of these. I understand that. But it’s trying to be able to set those priorities.”

One of the investments that local communities are asking for is increasing vehicle capacity on bridges by adding more lanes for cars and trucks to drive through.

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