February 16, 2024

Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: Keeping International Land Ports of Entry Open

February 16, 2023

In December, President Biden’s team shut down two border rail crossings in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas. The administration also falsely implied the closures were necessary for enforcement. In reality,Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents were reassigned to “quickly process individuals” who had crossed the border illegally. Prioritizing the processing of illegal immigrants over facilitating critical trade routes is unacceptable. Shutting down train traffic cost $250 million in commerce per day. This week, I introduced legislation with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to prevent that from happening in the future.

CBP’s decisions directly and immediately impacted rail carriers’ ability to move goods. Mexico is Nebraska’s largest export partner. Eagle Pass and El Paso accounted for 35.8% of all cross-border rail traffic to and from Mexico. According to Nebraska Farm Bureau, this move blocked as many as 60 trains or 10,000 rail cars per day. Farmers and ranchers depend on these trains to get their products to market. Our economy should not have a $250 million per day penalty because Joe Biden refuses to secure our border. Nebraska producers deserved better.

While it’s good news that the CBP reopened rail operations, it should have never happened. We cannot allow American consumers, businesses, and producers to continue paying the price for President Biden’s refusal to secure our border. The Keeping International Land Ports of Entry Open Act I introduced last week would fix this. My bill would stop the Biden administration from diverting staff away from ports of entry, except in specific circumstances.

For example, CBP could divert staff to secure the border. The CBP could not divert staff for administrative work, like processing illegal immigrants. Any staff diversion should not negatively impact the processing of trade through ports of entry. These exceptions codify the common-sense idea that closing a port of entry should be a last resort.

The bill also includes a built-in accountability mechanism. It requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to notify Congress and the American people if the Secretary closes a port or relocates staff. The Secretary would also be required to disclose the exception used. This will force the Biden administration to justify its decisions in writing so Congress and the American people can evaluate those decisions. 

Fighting for Nebraska agriculture is a top priority as your Senator. That means protecting our critical trade routes and supply chains. It also means providing critical oversight of any Biden administration decisions that may impact American commerce. We must secure our border. We must also keep freight moving. I’m committed to fighting for the policy solutions we need to accomplish all these goals.

My team and I are here to serve you. Contact us anytime by phone at 202-224-4224 or on my website at www.ricketts.senate.gov/contact.