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CBP Commissioner: Agency Will Provide Officers For Cross-Border Air Terminal

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske (center) on a visit to San Diego, April 17, 2014.
Jill Replogle
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske (center) on a visit to San Diego, April 17, 2014.

A top U.S. border official has confirmed that his agency will provide staff to process travelers coming into the U.S. through the planned cross-border air terminal.

The official, Gil Kerlikowske, was in San Diego on Thursday in his position as the new head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

During the visit, he toured border facilities and meet with business leaders.

Kerlikowske heads the largest law enforcement agency in the U.S., the Border Patrol, and he’s in charge of making sure goods and people move through U.S. ports of entry safely and efficiently.

At a meeting with business leaders from Tijuana and San Diego, the commissioner said CBP would provide officials to check through people coming into the U.S. via the new cross-border airport terminal under construction in Otay Mesa.

“The agreements have been signed,” Kerlikowske said, “and I would say everything is very positive.”

Staffing for the airport terminal had been a concern.

In this post 9/11 world, business leaders along the U.S.-Mexico border often grumble about the billions of dollars in trade lost because of tightened border security — which means longer waits. But leaders at the meeting seemed optimistic about the future.

“I feel great about the new commissioner,” said Cindy Gomppers Graves, president of the South County Economic Development Council, which hosted the meeting.

“The fact that he’s only been on the job less than six weeks and he’s already come the to San Diego–Tijuana area shows that he’s engaged, he’s invested, and he understands that it’s a commerce and security relationship, not just security sometimes at the expense of commerce,” she said.

Commissioner Kerlikowske said he had appointed someone to report directly to him on trade issues at ports of entry.

Business leaders have also cheered the recent allocation of 2,000 new CBP officers to staff ports of entry across the country. The officers are supposed to be hired by the end of fiscal year 2015.