Imports and exports transiting the U.S.-Mexico border are continuing to see delays as U.S. Customs and Border Protection shifts personnel away from cargo processing operations to deal with what the agency has described as a “dramatic increase” in illegal immigration.

CBP officials said recently that 545 officers have been reassigned from the Laredo (300), El Paso (194), and San Diego (51) field offices (which each cover several ports of entry) to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with processing, transportation, and hospital watch of migrants. As a result, CBP has had to adjust hours and levels of service at ports in these areas. Examples include shutting down two of the ten truck cargo processing lanes at the Otay Mesa commercial facility in San Diego, closing the port of Mariposa in Arizona on Sundays, and closing El Paso’s Bridge of the Americans on Saturdays.

The result, traders say, has been trucks waiting four to five times longer than usual, as much as seven hours in some cases, to enter the U.S. from Mexico at ports of entry along the entire border. Some facilities have had dozens of trucks still in line at the end of the day that are then required to wait overnight. The National Foreign Trade Council said these delays “create collateral damage for auto production lines, U.S. manufacturing operations, retailers, and consumers” and are forcing U.S. companies “to reroute cargo through other ports of entry, a costly exercise that may not always be possible.”

With no decrease in border crossings anticipated, CBP is looking at ways to ease delays. Among other things, CBP is working to ensure that shipments by members of the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism cross the border as quickly as possible. While CBP can prioritize these shipments once they arrive at the port of entry, officials said, there are only CTPAT-specific lanes at a few ports and so at the others CTPAT shipments tend to get stuck in the same lines as other vehicles.

For more information on avoiding or mitigating cargo delays at the border, please contact Tom Gould at (213) 453-0897.

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