SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Congressman Juan Vargas’ district in California is home to two of the busiest ports of entry along the southern border, including the San Ysidro Port of Entry, which is regarded as the busiest in the western hemisphere.
Through this crossing, 45,000 cars per day make their way into California, and its two pedestrian entry points process tens of thousands daily as well.
Due to the large number of daily commuters, crossing times can be anywhere from one to three hours long.
Part of the problem, according to Vargas, is the lack of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel.
“The truth of the matter is now, they’ve had a hard time hiring people,” said Vargas, D-California.
The congressman stated he would like to see the agency recruit more officers and agents, but applicants can’t meet the standards for the job.
“They keep saying they can’t find enough people, and honestly, it’s interesting, they try to pass the lie detector test, and they fail, and that’s why we can’t get more people,” he said. “They want to lower the standards, and we’re saying wait, wait a minute, that might not be the best idea. Maybe we have to do a better job of going out there and promoting the job because it’s not a bad job.”
Joaquín Luken is the executive director of the Smart Border Coalition, which aims to improve travel through the ports of entry in the San Diego-Tijuana binational region.
He agrees things could be faster and having more officers would be ideal, but he says the real issue is not bad recruits, but lack of funding.
“It’s not necessarily lack of personnel,” he said.
Luken believes there are enough officers to do the job and process everyone quickly and efficiently.
“If you cross the border right now, you’ll see most of the lanes open. You really don’t see a lack of personnel. If you go into inspection, there’s people in there; If you go to get a permit there’s staffing there.”
Luken said he would like to see Vargas and other lawmakers budget more money for not just officers, but infrastructure and ports of entry.
“That’s where they can really help and push these bills through and have more money for these projects and agents to be hired and trained,” said Luken.
Border Report reached out to CBP about claims made by Vargas and Luken, but it did not respond to our request for comment.