Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) last night applauded the Senate's unanimous passage of the Customs and Border Protection Hiring and Retention (CBP HiRe) Act. The Flake-Heitkamp bill will boost manpower at the border and understaffed ports of entry by allowing CBP to utilize specific incentives, pay rates, and authorities to help the agency reach congressionally mandated staffing levels.

In recent years, CBP has experienced difficulties recruiting, hiring, and retaining both Border Patrol agents to secure the border and CBP officers to staff trade-facilitating ports of entry. These positions remain unfilled due to high attrition rates, a lengthy hiring process, and difficulty finding applicants willing to work in remote locations. Despite congressional authorization and ample funding for new hires, CBP continues to fall short of congressionally-mandated staffing levels. 

The CBP HiRe Act streamlines processes and procedures to give CBP more autonomy over existing incentives and authorities to bring more law enforcement personnel into frontline positions. The bill allows CBP to offer recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives to applicants for law enforcement positions in remote and rural areas with a critical hiring need as well as recruitment and retention difficulties. The bill also allows CBP to use the rural and remote nature of an area, and any resulting hiring challenges, when applying for consideration of a special pay rate.

“The CBP HiRe Act is a commonsense, bipartisan solution to the bureaucratic hiring process that has left the border and our ports of entry understaffed. This bill will give CBP the tools it needs to effectively and efficiently recruit and retain the personnel needed to complete its border security and trade-facilitating missions,” said Flake. “Now that the bill has unanimously passed the Senate, I urge the House to swiftly approve this legislation and send to the president’s desk without delay.”

“Our Customs and Border Protection officers and agents are on the front lines of keeping North Dakota and America safe – but especially in rural areas like North Dakota, CBP faces unique challenges in hiring and retaining the workforce we need to protect our borders,” Sen. Heitkamp said. “After hearing firsthand about the challenges CBP faces, we introduced this bipartisan bill to help the agency attract and retain the best workforce possible, and it’s an important win for North Dakota communities, our Customs and Border Protection workforce, and our national security that it has now passed the Senate. Along with the new Northern Border strategy recently released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that was prompted by my bipartisan bill that was passed into law, we’re working toward solutions that will keep every North Dakota community strong and safe.” 

Support: The CBP HiRe Act is supported by National Border Patrol Council, National Treasury Employees Union, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Tucson Border Patrol Local Union, Arizona-Mexico Commission, Border Trade Alliance, Arizona Border Counties Coalition, Douglas International Port Authority, Douglas Regional Economic Development Corp, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Greater Nogales/Santa Cruz County Port Authority, Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp, Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce, Transportation & Trade Corridor Alliance, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Ambos Nogales Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Douglas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Vista Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Partnership for Public Service, and The Volcker Alliance.

To view statements of support, click here.

To view the full text of the bill, click here.

Background:

  • On Oct. 4, 2017, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the CBP HiRe Act.
  • On Aug. 22, 2017, Flake secured CBP commitment to implement major policy changes designed to increase manpower at strained and understaffed ports of entry along Arizona’s border with Mexico. Read more about the stakeholder meeting convened by Flake in Tucson here.
  • On March 9, 2017, Flake introduced the Boots on the Border Act to address hiring shortfalls at CBP by waiving duplicative polygraph requirements for applicants with qualifying law enforcement or military experience. Read more about the bill here.  
  • On Oct.17, 2016, Flake sent a letter to Department of Homeland (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson requesting additional information on CBP’s polygraph examinations. The signed letter can be viewed here.
  • On June, 29, 2016, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Flake sought answers from Secretary Johnson on several border and immigration-related issues impacting Arizona, including the hiring rate of CBP officers. Video of Flake and Secretary Johnson’s exchange can be viewed here.
  • On Dec. 5, 2016, Flake and Heitkamp first introduced the CBP HiRe Act.
  • On Oct. 19, 2015, the Border Jobs for Veterans Act was signed into law. Sen. Flake’s bill has helped put veterans to work as CBP officers at understaffed U.S. ports of entry by requiring the Department of Defense and DHS to cooperate on efforts to recruit and expedite the hiring of outgoing U.S. military service members.
  • In 2014, Flake led a successful effort to secure congressional authorization and funding for the creation of 2,000 new CBP officer positions to increase manpower at strained and understaffed ports of entry.
  • As ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce, Heitkamp has long been working to address challenges border security officials face in recruiting and retaining quality officers and agents to help keep communities safe. In July 2016, Heitkamp introduced her Flexible HIRE (Hiring and Improving Recruitment, Retention, and Education) Act of 2016 which aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal hiring process so that federal agencies can better attract and maintain personnel in regions like the Bakken and Northern Border. The bipartisan CBP HiRe Act applies the principles behind Heitkamp’s Flexible HIRE Act to address federal hiring and retention obstacles that CBP faces in rural or remote areas.   Additionally, Heitkamp’s bipartisan Northern Border Security Review Act – which is now law – mandated an evaluation of security threats along the 5,500-mile long Northern Border by comprehensively examining current resources and personnel levels to help make sure CBP has the tools it needs to protect our communities. That review led to the release of an updated Northern Border Strategy to give direction and focus to DHS and its partnering agencies as they work to tackle challenges such as the lack of surveillance at the border, drug trafficking, hiring and retention of Customs and Border Protection agents and officers, and port modernization to facilitate lawful trade and travel. DHS also committed to updating the strategy every 5 years.

 

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