Overriding defense-bill veto could bring state-of-the-art inspections to more border crossings

Politics

Legislation funds pilot plan to look into scanning all vehicles at U.S.-Mexico ports of entry

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – High-tech inspection systems are helping U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers detect more contraband while speeding up trade at some major ports of entry, a border congresswoman says.

U.S. Rep Xochitl Torres Small, D-New Mexico

But those systems also are needed at smaller border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico expanse, and that’s where funding from the National Defense Authorization Act comes in, says U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-New Mexico.

This week’s veto override of the NDAA by both the House and the Senate kept alive funding to develop a long-term plan subjecting every vehicle that comes over from Mexico to various forms of non-intrusive inspection technology (NII). As of the end of 2019, only 1% of private vehicles and 15% of cargo trucks got these high-tech inspections that some say are the equivalent of “instant X-ray” imaging.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stats show most illicit narcotics were seized at ports of entry by Office of Field Operations officers in the fiscal year 2020, rather than in remote areas by the U.S. Border Patrol.

“We’re working to make sure ports of entry like Santa Teresa (New Mexico) receive that investment, not just the larger ports of entry, because that would cause traffickers to shift their routes to less-equipped facilities,” Torres Small said.

She said the act doesn’t provide a schedule for deployment but that the pilot program would be funded this year and includes the Santa Teresa port, which is an important economic growth engine in New Mexico.

NII technology typically is only available in secondary inspections areas at smaller border crossings. That means only those vehicles that a CBP officer deems suspicious are subjected to a full scan.

Torres Small said the House and Senate this week also authorized legislation allowing federal agencies to receive donations from private entities to improve the infrastructure of border crossings.

“Right now there’s billions of dollars lacking in infrastructure that would keep our border more secure by stopping drugs while also supporting our robust trade economy,” the New Mexico congresswoman said. “Santa Teresa already benefited from this program in the past through pedestrian sidewalks that came from these public-private partnerships and now they’re looking at different things like expanding cargo lanes so larger wind-blades came come through the port.”

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