Commissioner Kerlikowske's Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Managing the Border for Security and Competitiveness
Thank you, Mr. Camuñez. I’d like to welcome everyone here to the Ronald Reagan Building – not only home to the Woodrow Wilson Center, but also home of CBP’s headquarters.
A lot has happened since I participated in this event a year ago, and I look forward to today’s conversation. I’ve been at the helm of CBP now for more than two years, but my relationship with Mexico goes back to my days in the White House, and my partnerships have only grown even stronger in this position.
Together, our two governments have made great strides in strengthening our partnerships through collaboration on border infrastructure improvements, security measures, innovative border initiatives, and information sharing along our border.
The United States and Mexico enjoy a profound connection – much more than a common border – with deep economic and cultural ties, as well as our shared commitment to democratic principles. That connection is clearly reflected in efforts to build a competitive U.S.-Mexico border—one that efficiently moves $530 billion in trade between our countries, while protecting our mutual security.
Commercial and passenger traffic continues to increase worldwide, and technological advances have been driving much of that growth. We see increased automation of supply chains and major growth in e-commerce, alongside increased travel and tourism in North America. quicker cargo turnaround times, and a major growth in e-commerce.
This is an exciting and challenging environment, and CBP has risen to task by using technology to support this growth.
In the travel environment, CBP’s Global Entry program provides members expedited screening at 47 U.S. international airports and 13 Preclearance locations worldwide. There are more than 83,000 Mexican citizens currently enrolled in Global Entry – and we just recently celebrated the enrollment of our three millionth member into Global Entry, bringing our total Trusted Traveler program membership to more than 5 million.
With $1.45 billion a day in two-way trade and nearly one million people legally crossing between the U.S. and Mexico each day, healthy border infrastructure is vital. The U.S. and Mexico have improved processing of trade and travelers, modernized infrastructure at our ports, and increased safeguards of national and economic security to ensure both nations remain safe and competitive globally.
So let’s look at some of the ways that CBP is working with Mexico to build that competitive U.S. Mexico Border – specifically, for managing that border for both security and competitiveness. One key way that we are collaborating is to modernize our shared infrastructure along the border.
Last August, I was proud to be able to open the first new international rail crossing between the U.S. and Mexico in more than 100 years – the West-Rail Bypass that connects Brownsville and Matamoros. CBP also works with our Mexican counterparts and the State of California to create a new, highly innovative port of entry in Otay Mesa East that is expected to open in a couple of years.
We have also made tremendous progress on our Automated Commercial Environment, or “ACE.” ACE now serves as the one portal – or “Single Window” – for transmitting electronic information about imports and exports for 47 U.S. Federal agencies.
ACE eliminates more than 200 forms, streamlining the import/export process, and it is scheduled for completion by December 31, per Executive Order. More than 92% of all imports are now being processed in ACE. CBP’s Single Window team and Mexican Customs have worked closely to harmonize data set standards used by both countries.
I also want to emphasize CBP’s commitment to the development of a North American Single Window. As Canada, Mexico, and the United States advance their respective Single Windows, we are participating in a trilateral Working Group through COAC to align our approaches in order to foster fair and competitive trade in North America.
Nearly two years ago, I had the honor of signing a Mutual Recognition Arrangement with Chief Aristóteles Núñez Sánchez of Mexico’s Servicio de Administracion Tributaria. That Agreement formalized compatibility between our Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program and Mexico’s New Scheme of Certified Companies, or NEEC, program.
CBP/C-TPAT began granting NEEC exporters ATS benefits on July 27, 2015, and on September 15, 2015 NEEC started granting benefits to C-TPAT exporters that ship to Mexico.
C-TPAT and NEEC have built a strong working relationship, and we continue to promote these programs to large and small companies seeking to do business in both nations. In 2015, NEEC conducted 14 validation visits to C-TPAT members located in travel-restricted (“no-go”) areas in Mexico.
We are also making progress with our Cargo Pre-inspection Pilot program, started in 2012. Under that program, certain cargo is inspected in Mexico prior to crossing the border into the United States. This early inspection improves reduces wait times and transaction costs for cargo moving across the border.
With our Mexican counterparts, CBP is implementing land cargo pre-inspection at two locations along the Southwest border. One is in Mesa de Otay, Baja California, Mexico, across from the Otay Mesa POE. That pilot began on Jan. 12, 2016. We are planning another pilot at San Jeronimo, Chihuahua, Mexico – near Santa Teresa, New Mexico – and that pilot is expected to begin later this year. We’ve implemented a similar pilot for Mexico-bound air cargo at the Laredo International Airport in Texas – pre-inspecting air cargo from the automotive, electronics, and aerospace industries destined to eight Mexican airports;
We’re also making things better for the commercial trucking industry. Approximately 10 percent of all commercial trucks arriving at U.S. borders make manual fee payments at the inspection. This process requires CBP officers to collect the $13 user fee in primary, taking up valuable processing time. It’s been an issue for years, but CBP just launched a pilot earlier this month that lets commercial trucks prepay the single-crossing user fee via web or mobile device, prior to arrival at a port.
The pilot began on June 2nd at the El Paso, Detroit, and Buffalo ports of entry, and it allows trucks to pay this fee online – prior to arriving at the border. This cuts fuel consumption and wait times for drivers, and lets CBP officers process vehicles faster and speed cargo through.
Furthermore, CBP and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are taking steps to better track and reduce truck “wait times” at the border. We’re currently working with the University of Houston and Texas A&M to use existing Radio Frequency Identification Data (RFID)-based wait time technology.
This RFID solution is currently deployed at seven Texas crossings and captures wait times in near real time, allowing us to better identify and resolve delays as cargo moves between the U.S. and Mexico. CBP also plans to begin measuring automated wait times at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, the first location in Arizona.
CBP has been able to capture nearly 70 percent of commercial traffic on the southwestern border using this RFID system, and we are considering deploying the solution to all southern border commercial crossings.
CBP is also using its Reimbursable Services and Donations Acceptance Authority, granted by Congress under Section 559 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. This authority permits CBP to enter into partnerships with private sector and government entities at ports of entry for reimbursable services and to accept property donations.
Currently, CBP has 29 finalized Reimbursable Service Agreements (RSAs), allowing stakeholders to reimburse CBP for existing staff to work additional hours at 29 ports of entry in 13 of our field offices – including four agreements on the Southwest Border.
Regarding donations acceptance, in Fiscal Year 2015, CBP approved three donation proposals from the City of Donna, El Paso and Pharr to invest in and expedite U.S. port of entry infrastructure and technology improvements – and more are coming. The program is also now accepting proposals valued at $3 million or less on a year round basis. Mid- to large-scale proposals may be submitted during the next open period, tentatively scheduled for October.
Let me shift gears, before we wrap up, to the other side of CBP’s mission: securing our borders. The U.S. government’s policy is to focus our immigration resources more effectively on threats to public safety and border security and – within our existing legal authority – to do as much as we can to fix our broken immigration system.
This is why we need comprehensive immigration reform.
In Fiscal Year 2015, we apprehended 331,000 people along the Southwest border – except for one year, this was the lowest number since 1972. But from July to December 2015, the numbers of migrants from Central America began to climb again.
Economic hardship and violence in Central America are pushing migrants to make the journey north through Mexico, and both our countries are very much involved in addressing this issue. The U.S. is preparing to offer vulnerable individuals fleeing the violence in Central America a safe and legal path to a better life.
DHS is expanding our Refugee Admissions Program to help the men, women, and children who may qualify as refugees. We are also partnering with the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees and other key organizations to do this as soon as possible. This approach builds on our recently established Central American Minors program, which is now providing an in-country refugee processing option for certain children whose parents are lawfully present in the United States.
Of course, we are very vocal about how dangerous it is to make the trek north from Central America through Mexico. So CBP continues to work with the State Department and other agencies on extensive in-country communications campaigns, such as the “Triangulo Norte” Unaccompanied Minors Campaign for 2016. As we address this humanitarian need, we continue to work with our Mexican partners to share information and ensure the safety and security of our citizens.
In closing, I want to thank the Wilson center for inviting me here today. I’m looking forward to discussing these important issues with you.