U.S. Customs Service:

Concerns About Coordination and Inspection Staffing on the Southwest Border

T-GGD-92-29: Published: Apr 8, 1992. Publicly Released: Apr 8, 1992.

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GAO discussed the U.S. Customs Service's role in monitoring U.S.-Mexican crossborder trade. GAO noted that: (1) private-sector, federal, and local officials expressed a need for greater coordination efforts and more comprehensive long-range planning to take into account the requirements of the various agencies involved in border operations; (2) coordination problems related to inspector staffing include staffing imbalances between Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and insufficient inspector staff for existing or planned facilities; (3) in El Paso, Texas, the new Zaragosa Bridge's border inspection facilities are not yet completed, while the old Bridge of the Americas, which has new, expanded facilities, will soon be closed; (4) U.S. Customs officials have difficulty aligning their hours of operation with Mexican Customs due to Mexican fee differentials at certain times, the Mexican's longer lunch breaks, and seasonal time differences; (5) although the shortage of inspectors is considered to be the main cause of long delays in crossing the border, Customs and INS lack an adequate method for determining staffing needs; and (6) problems in recruiting and retaining staff include the length of time it takes between announcing a position opening and actually bringing a person on board, inspectors moving to other areas within the agency for promotions, new hires leaving or transferring relatively quickly due to the harsh climate and unfamiliar cultures, and concerns about local hires having to stop, search, or arrest family or friends.

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