CBP has been in the international news a lot recently, as has their cousin Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Both agencies are components of the Department of Homeland Security and both will be heavily involved going forward in carrying out President Trump’s policies on trade and immigration. CBP is also currently taking bids for construction of the wall along the southern border.
With the confusion that followed the President’s first attempt at an Immigration Ban, it was immediately apparent that the Administration was rushed and did not properly subject the Executive Order to much, if any, interagency review or vetting. Consequently, within hours of the signing, CBP as they are well-known to do, interpreted the Executive Order literally and began strictly enforcing it without regard to passengers inflight. In trade compliance, we call that “Letter of the Law” or LOL. As history will show, this in-turn caused mass confusion at some airports and legal challenges. The courts subsequently blocked the Executive Order and a revised version of the Order is expected to be signed this week.
As this article goes to print, the White House has not yet nominated a new CBP Commissioner. This role will be critical in keeping CBP “on mission” and unified. The two agencies, because of recent actions, are also very likely to come under major scrutiny and it’s plausible that Congress may dilute some of CBP’s authority.
The Atlantic recently ran an article titled, “Papers, Please”. CBP officers, assisting ICE, required all passengers on a domestic flight from San Francisco to New York, to present identification or papers before they could deplane. The Flight Attendants made an announcement before the plane landed. This type of heavy-handed power trip enforcement by CBP is in my opinion unwarranted. There’s no doubt CBP had a name, picture(s) and other attributes of their target; so why not just board the plane and nab him. CBP even has access to the passenger manifests and should have known exactly what seat the target was in. If they were at all uncertain, then two CBP officers should have been posted in the jet bridge to screen and pull aside passengers who might be suspects. There’s no good reason I can think of to stop the entire plane full of children, teenagers and elderly. And, if the suspect was male it automatically eliminates about 50% of the passengers on board! Its instances like this that give CBP a bad name. In my humble opinion, the CBP Supervisor that led this action should be written-up.
One thing is certain, no matter how the new Executive Order is crafted, CBP and ICE are sure to be front and center in the enforcement of it. But don’t be disillusioned, this doesn’t mean that they will take their eyes off trade compliance to focus more on immigration. At the moment, CBP is having too much fun chasing down non-compliant importers using new data mining and analytics tools.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be an interesting and sometimes fast-paced four years. Every month the Trade Innovations Trade Update will feature articles on the latest news from our industry; including all-things CBP. If you’re not registered for our newsletter, please take a moment to do so at tradeinnovations.com.
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