Rep. Demings Calls for Freeze on Removal of Security Staff from Orlando Airport
ORLANDO, FL – Yesterday, Rep. Val Demings (FL-10) called on the Department of Homeland Security to ensure sufficient staffing levels for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) personnel at vulnerable ports of entry, specifically Orlando International Airport, which the congresswoman represents. The full letter, led by Rep. Demings and signed by the other members of the Orlando Delegation, Rep. Darren Soto (FL-9) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), is available here.
Said Rep. Demings, “As a former law enforcement officer and the Commander of the Orlando Police Department’s Airport Division on September 11, 2001, I understand the critical role which Customs and Border Patrol Officers serve to protect our nation and support our growing economy.
“Over the last several years, the Greater Orlando Airport Authority has partnered with CBP to make strategic investments in innovative technology and infrastructure improvements to welcome visitors from around the world. CBP must do its part and ensure that officer staffing levels meet the growing demand of a world-class gateway to the region, state, and nation.”
“It is unwise to remove CBP officers from Orlando Airport, as the number of passengers has nearly doubled in just seven years. Temporarily removing CBP officers from OIA places greater strain on the remaining CBP officers and will mean longer lines for travelers. Passengers and airport staff at this world-class airport deserve better outcomes, and I hope the Department of Homeland Security will move quickly to rectify this issue.”
Said Rep. Murphy, “CBP officers at MCO perform vital work, keeping us safe and our economy moving. There are already too few officers at MCO and transferring 10 officers to the Southwest border will aggravate our already challenging situation—threatening our safety and slowing economic growth. I have already expressed my concerns to CBP, and I am proud to join Congresswoman Demings in asking the agency to reconsider this misguided transfer.”
Said Rep. Soto, “I am proud to work with Congresswoman Demings and the rest of our Florida delegation to make sure we have sufficient Customs and Border Protection officers at our Orlando International Airport. Central Florida is a top global destination with thousands of international travelers going through MCO every day. CBP officers play an indispensable role in ensuring passenger safety and in continuing to foster our robust tourism industry.”
From 2009 to 2016, international passengers arriving at MCO grew by 89%, from 1.49 million to 2.83 million. However, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) reports that over the same period, Customs and Border Patrol Officer staffing levels have remained flat at the airport’s two Federal Inspection Stations (FIS). Even with maximum number of personnel in the facilities, the arrivals hall quickly overflows during peak times, forcing passengers to remain on aircrafts until previous arrivals have cleared Customs and Immigration.
Recently it was announced that despite this existing shortfall, ten CBP officers from Orlando International Airport will be rotated away from their posts at points of entry and reassigned to the Southwest border.
The letter was sent to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen. It asks Secretary Nielsen to “immediately suspend temporary duty assignments for CBP officers serving the Orlando Port of Entry,” and to “not issue any further temporary duty assignments for CBP officers until the agency reassess any methodology used to allocate personnel nationwide for current entries and processing times.”
Earlier this week at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, Rep. Demings questioned Anthony Reardon, President of the National Treasury Employees Union (which represents CBP officers) on the issue.