Trump signs Peters bill requiring review of ports of entry

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

Washington — President Donald Trump has signed a bipartisan measure co-sponsored by Michigan Sen. Gary Peters that would require federal officials to assess all ports of entry, including finding ways to reduce wait times for passengers and cargo at the border. 

The bill, authored by Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat, and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, directs the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an in-depth analysis of current and potential security threats by individuals and organized groups seeking to "exploit security vulnerabilities" at ports of entry or to "unlawfully enter the United States" through such ports.

The DHS secretary is instructed to produce a report detailing how to boost safety and facilitate trade at the nation's 300 ports of entry, many of which are aging and which range from land border ports to international airports to seaports on the Great Lakes.

The legislation passed Congress before the Trump administration said last week that asylum seekers who cross the southern U.S. border will be required to wait in Mexico while their claims are being processed.

“The day-to-day operations of businesses in Michigan and throughout the country depend on the secure flow of goods and people through our ports,” said Peters, who has said he plans to prioritize northern border security as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The measure seeks information on what improvements are needed at ports of entry to manage increased travel and trade and reduce wait times, as well as prevent the "unlawful movement of people, illicit drugs, and other contraband" across the border.

The assessment also will consider which locations require infrastructure or technology upgrades; where personnel should be located; and the costs and "challenges" associated with recruitment and hiring of personnel.

“Texas boasts some of the most active ports of entry in the United States, and reviewing the vulnerabilities and inefficiencies at these ports will help us to better facilitate legitimate trade and travel,” Cornyn said after the legislation passed the Senate last week.

A group called the Border Trade Alliance applauded the legislation, saying that reduced wait times at the border could boost the competitiveness of the economy. 

"“The issues addressed by this legislation are critical,” Alliance chair Paola Avila said in a statement. “One of the most effective ways to reduce wait times is to ensure that staffing levels at a port are commensurate with the location’s trade volumes."

Paul LaMarre, director of the Port of Monroe, said the port is "committed to keeping up the pace to support logistics movements and Michigan’s economy.” 

“The legislation Senator Peters introduced will provide a better understanding of what more can be done to help move cargo more efficiently here in Monroe and across the country, and we thank him for his efforts," LaMarre said.