The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a plan to temporarily transfer approximately 750 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers from the Canadian border to the Mexican border to help address the influx of asylum seekers from Central America. The transferred officers are being reassigned from their posts along the 5,525-mile Canadian border, creating worries about the potential for travel delays at busy ports of entry.
On May 3, 2019, 13 members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Northern Border Caucus sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan, asking him to rescind the transfers. In the letter, representatives from six border states, including Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, and Washington, raised concerns about the already low staffing levels along the northern border. According to the representatives, the Canadian border suffers from a “consistent inability” to meet statutorily mandated staffing levels, and the transfer of CBP officers from the border will exacerbate the potential for problems.
Chief among the caucus’s concerns is the potential for delays at the border. According to DHS, approximately 400,000 people and more than $1.6 billion in goods cross the U.S.-Canada border every day. The caucus is concerned that the reduction in staffing will impair CBP’s ability to process the volume of border traffic, especially now that the summer travel season has begun. Beyond delays, though, the representatives worry that short staffing at the Canadian border will expose the United States to security risks and highlight key vulnerabilities.
Employers with employees who plan to apply for TN or L-1 visas at a Canadian port of entry should prepare for delays. Because of the reduced staffing, petitions may not be adjudicated as quickly as they have in the past. As a reminder, L-1 visa holders seeking renewals may no longer apply at ports of entry. Instead, they must apply through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Estimated border wait times for each port of entry can be checked at the CBP website.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to the Canadian border and will post updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available.