Customs and Border Patrol:

Resources Needed for Reopening Rail Line From Mexico-U.S. Border Into the United States

GGD-98-20R: Published: Nov 5, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 5, 1997.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the resources: (1) used by the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to monitor freight service on operating rail lines from San Diego to Tecate, Mexico; and (2) that Customs and INS believe would be necessary to detect and deter illegal activities associated reopening the rail line.

GAO noted that: (1) Customs and INS officials said that they would need as many as 31 to 35 staff and related equipment once the Desert Line is reopened; (2) Customs has assigned two inspectors for both the trains, but has no available inspection facilities; (3) the INS Border Patrol generally has two agents stationed in the area, but not specifically because of the train crossing; (4) the San Diego and Imperial Valley (SD & IV) Railroad has agreed to modify an existing building in San Ysidro for use by Customs; (5) to process the proposed basic freight service associated with reopening the Desert Line, Customs said that, at San Ysidro, it would require five inspectors, one canine enforcement officer, and additional equipment; (6) the Border Patrol would not require additional agents at San Ysidro, unless the number of illegal aliens discovered were to increase; (7) neither inspection facilities nor equipment are available in Campo, California; (8) Customs said its resource needs at Campo were similar to those at San Ysidro; (9) SD & IV Railroad has agreed to provide inspection facilities; (10) the Border Patrol said it would require at least two agents to observe the train at Campo and at least two agents to observe the train as it enters the United States, and that it would need to pull these agents from other border areas to provide train coverage; (11) the Border Patrol said it would need up to 10 agents to observe the train as it travels between Campo and Jacumba, California, and if necessary, at least four agents to physically board and check railcars at Jacumba; (12) Customs said that, along with inspectors, it would need additional special agents to handle and investigate potential smuggling activities; (13) for modern freight service, Customs and the Border Patrol may need additional resources, depending on the volume, frequency, and composition of the freight shipped; and (14) a draft report of a Border Patrol assessment identified resource levels similar to those the Patrol had already provided GAO.

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