Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Venice) and nine of her congressional colleagues have expressed concerns regarding customs staffing shortages at Los Angeles International Airport that they say are leading to long processing delays for arriving passengers.
In a Dec. 8 letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin, the California congressional representatives said the delays in CBP processing at LAX are “unacceptable” and called for additional staffing resources at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
“These processing delays – an ongoing problem throughout the past two years – reflect a consistent understaffing at LAX,” the representatives wrote.
“We appreciate your efforts to address this problem through innovative CBP programs, but they do not appear to be working. LAX simply does not have an adequate number of inspectors to accommodate current and future passenger traffic.”
The congressional leaders expressed concerns of potential economic impacts with the staffing issues at the world’s sixth busiest airport.
“The lack of agents not only causes needless delays but threatens the economic activity and jobs LAX produces,” Hahn said in a statement. “The CBP shouldn’t wait for legislation when they have the ability to act now to resolve this issue.”
The California delegation letter comes after Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey addressed similar concerns in an August letter to Bersin, saying the problem faced by LAX passengers is “chronic and punishing.” The staffing shortages at primary booths and exit lanes have increased some passenger process times to two and even three hours, Lindsey said.
“This problem is immediate and present. It must be addressed with a sense of urgency not yet evident,” she wrote.
Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the LAX area, has also pointed to the need for more CBP staff and said he is encouraged by the efforts of Hahn and her colleagues in calling for resources to resolve the issue.
“They are the policy makers who can put pressure on every level of government,” Rosendahl said.
CBP spokesman Jaime Ruiz said the agency has received the delegation letter and is currently reviewing the staffing issue.
CBP officials said that security concerns prevent them from discussing staffing levels at individual ports, but they continually evaluate personnel needs to appropriately manage travel and trade.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection leaders strive to work closely with local authorities to facilitate business and passenger travel at all ports of entry,” the agency said.
Lindsey has said a modernization project at the Bradley Terminal in which the number of customs primary booths will be expanded from 60 to 81 may be a wasted investment if sufficient staffing for the facility cannot be provided.
The congressional representatives also referred to adequate staffing resources to substantiate the need for the Bradley Terminal improvements.
“We note that the expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal will increase the number of primary booths from 60 to 81,” they wrote. “However, absent additional staffing resources, this expansion will do little to ease the delays faced by arriving passengers.”