Extra Officers Means Reduced Wait Times
Sen. Charles E. Schumer announced that he has received a commitment that John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) will be assigned additional customs agents as the result of increased appropriations for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 Appropriations bill.
This bill has boosted CBP’s funding by $165.7 million in order for the agency to hire 2,000 new agents nationwide. Specifically, the bill increases CBP’s overall budget to $10.6 billion, which is over $220 million more than FY2013. Schumer explained that $165.7 million of the new funding was explicitly prescribed “for the purpose of hiring, training, and equipping new U.S. customs and border protection offices.”
During a confirmation hearing last Wednesday, Jan. 15, Schumer secured a commitment from Gil Kerlikowske, who is currently undergoing the confirmation process to be commissioner of CBP, that he would commit to bringing an adequate portion of these new agents and resources to JFK once he has been confirmed.
In September 2013, Schumer made an appeal to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement new measures that would help alleviate incredibly long lines for travelers using customs at JFK. Schumer’s appeal comes after a report revealed that customs lines at JFK Airport were among the longest wait times in the country.
According to the report, the average delay during peak hours could be two hours or more.
“Reducing the wait time for international travelers at JFK is a matter of economic necessity if we want to stay the world’s center of commerce,” said Schumer. “Wait times of two hours or more are not the right way to welcome people to New York. I am glad that we have a commitment from the person who will soon oversee the training and deployment of our customs agents to bring additional manpower to JFK. This will reduce lines and improve the traveling experience for tourists, business people, and all travelers entering New York.”
According to the Port Authority, JFK contributes about $30.6 billion in economic activity to the New York/New Jersey region, generating approximately 213,000 total jobs and about $11.3 billion in wages and salaries. However, excessive wait times experienced at JFK’s customs have been putting that economic impact in jeopardy. Sample wait times include:
– On July 1, 2013, at 6 a.m., the wait was 140 minutes.
– On Aug. 3, 2013, at 4 p.m., the wait was 120 minutes.
– On Aug. 24, 2013, at 4 p.m., the wait was three hours.
Schumer has long advocated measures to decrease these wait times, including a personal call in September to then-Acting DHS Secretary Rand Beers, during which Schumer asked Beers to approve and install new automated Passport kiosks, as well as assign additional Custom and Border Patrol agents at JFK.
The senator also urged his colleagues to boost funding for the Customs and Border Protection in the Fiscal Year 2014 Appropriations bill, above the current 2013 levels and called current DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to press his case.