|4:16 PM EDT||
Patrick L. Meehan, R-PA 7th
Mr. MEEHAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of my bill, H.R. 3488. This legislation would require that the Secretary of Homeland Security meet certain conditions and requirements prior to establishing any new U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance operations in foreign countries.
The Customs and Border Protection's preclearance operations overseas inspect and examine travelers and their merchandise in foreign locations prior to their arrival in the United States. Once cleared on foreign soil, passengers do not have to clear customs upon arrival in the United States.
Now, Congress has a long history of supporting limited and specific preclearance operations. These serve to facilitate travel, and they improve homeland security. However, earlier this year, Customs and Border Patrol, or CBP, commenced preclearance operations in Abu Dhabi without prior notification to Congress, without concern to American jobs, and without a clear homeland security benefit.
This legislation ensures that the DHS takes into account the impact on American jobs and our global competitiveness as we enhance our security through future preclearance facilities. My bill requires DHS to meet a series of benchmarks to establish a preclearance operation and requires transparency and prompt notification to Congress while the Department negotiates preclearance agreements with foreign governments. This legislation will go a long way towards preventing a repeat of CBP's mismanaged
rollout of the preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
I have long had serious concerns about the agreement with Abu Dhabi, especially the way it was handled by the Department and, ultimately, the disregard DHS had for the domestic airline industry. To correct that error, this bill requires extensive consultation with key stakeholders so that that never happens again.
Abu Dhabi was the first new preclearance location established since 9/11. Prior to Abu Dhabi, the U.S. had preclearance locations in places like Ireland, the Bahamas, and Canada. We had an obligation to get this right, and CBP did not. Despite the security-focused rationale, this agreement was conducted without suitable congressional notification or a thorough explanation for the rationale of preclearance operations in Abu Dhabi.
We know that a significant number of watch list hits and suspicious travel pattern information originates from the region, but that does not excuse the lack of notification or, more importantly, not taking into account how such agreements affect American workers and their employers.
The establishment of a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi, where no domestic carrier currently flies--let me repeat that, no domestic carrier currently flies--puts U.S. carriers at a competitive and significant disadvantage, as customs wait times are generally shorter at preclearance facilities compared to wait times in the United States.
This facility provides a clear facilitation benefit to foreign airlines at the expense of U.S. carriers and U.S. jobs, and this is particularly egregious where the foreign-based airline is given subsidies designed to tilt the market unfairly in their direction. By requiring the Secretary to consider the economic impact in establishing preclearance facilities, we protect American jobs and American workers.
I support giving our security professionals the tools needed in their effort to ``push out our borders,'' but we must do so in a way that makes us more secure, does not divert limited CBP staffing resources, or threaten U.S. jobs and a vital economic engine provided by U.S. carriers.
I am pleased that over 150 of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle cosponsored this measure, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this important bill.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.