New CBP Commissioner Bersin Participates in Employee, Stakeholder Forums during Visit to Laredo, Texas
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin's vision of the border between the United States and Mexico is of a gateway that allows the secure flow of goods and people between the two countries.
"This is a new future that we need to build together," Bersin said.
The Commissioner, who has been at the helm of the agency for a month, detailed his vision during a series of meetings held today during his first trip to the southwest border.
His visit to Laredo began Wednesday afternoon when he accompanied the Laredo Border Patrol on a horseback tour of the border along the Rio Grande River near Laredo.
Commissioner Bersin kicked off the forums this morning by conducting a town hall meeting with about 200 Laredo-area CBP employees. During that session, he answered questions from employees that covered topics ranging from the planned upgrades of journeyman agent and officer positions to the state of the "virtual fence" under the Secure Border Initiative.
He also explained that he expects all CBP employees to work together to forge a more united team by more closely integrating operations.
After the employee meeting, Commissioner Bersin took a trip to the CBP facility located at the Lincoln-Juarez Bridge to observe the training of Mexican Customs officers. Under the Basic Border Interdiction Program, CBP customs officers train their newly appointed Mexican counterparts.
In the afternoon, Commissioner Bersin held a roundtable discussion with 20 Laredo-area stakeholders regarding the facilitation of trade at the border. During the candid conversation, the commissioner heard comments and suggestions from local government officials, educators and business owners concerning border security and trade facilitation.
Later in the afternoon, Bersin led a roundtable of Laredo-area stakeholders in a public forum.
Bersin listened as each of the four panelists shared their thoughts about border issues and then shared his vision with them and the audience of about 150 people. He used the analogy of looking for a needle in a haystack to describe how CBP must work to secure the border and facilitate, with the proverbial needle representing a dangerous item or a dangerous person attempting to enter the United States.
He described how CBP personnel can use intelligence to pinpoint the location of the needle and then pluck it out of the haystack. The other method calls for CBP personnel to blow away some of the hay -representing legitimate travelers and cargo - to make is easier to spot the dangerous needles.
Commissioner Bersin asked those in attendance to encourage use of CBP's trusted traveler programs, such as SENTRI, which do not have a high participation rate in the Laredo area.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.