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NEWS Last modified on March 21, 2014

MIA calls for more customs and border patrol staff to reduce "unacceptable" queue levels

Miami-Dade's aviation director, Emilio González, has met with US senator, Marco Rubio, to discuss the urgent need for more federal CBP staffing at Miami International Airport.

The meeting took place in advance of the senator's trip to Washington next week to meet with CBP and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials.

Miami is the US's second-busiest international airport after New York-JFK.

"MIA is an international gateway airport, which benefits our state and local economy but also comes with challenges that must be addressed,” admits Rubio.

“The DHS needs to ensure that adequate manpower is being provided to process international travellers."

International passenger traffic has grown faster at MIA than at any other major US airport – 24.2%  – in the last five years, and MIA claims that it no longer has the adequate CBP manpower to effectively accommodate 20 million international visitors per annum.

According to the gateway, the outcome of federal CBP staffing levels at MIA’s passport control areas failing to keep up with rising traffic growth has resulted in "passenger wait times of up to two hours, long lines, missed flight connections and the complete closure of one MIA’s three passport control areas".

It claims to have introuced a host of "good faith efforts" in a bid to minimise the negative impact the lack of CBP staff has had on international arrivals, but now is the time for the US government to back its measures with more manpower.

The airport's attempts to compensate for the shortfall in CBP manpower has include investing more than $180 million in a new 400,000-square-foot state-of-the-art federal inspection services (FIS) facility in the North Terminal and installing 36 automated passport control (APC) self-serve kiosks at a cost of $3.5 million to increase the productivity of CBP.

It has increased MDAD staffing in the FIS at an annual cost of $524,000 to provide passenger assistance and crowd management.

In a final attempt to mitigate the severe CBP staffing shortages, MDAD is voluntarily participating in the CBP reimbursable fee agreement pilot programme and has allocated $6 million to reimburse CBP for overtime staffing above and beyond currently authorised levels.

“I’m grateful to senator Rubio for his time and for supporting MIA’s push for CBP staffing levels that meet the needs of our airport and our valued customers,” says González. 

"He understands that the status quo at our CBP facilities – hours-long waits for passengers, long lines and inadequate federal customs staff – are simply not acceptable.”

Senator Rubio – along with senator Bill Nelson, congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the entire South Florida congressional delegation – have already shared their concerns about MIA’s understaffed passport control areas with the Department of Homeland Security.

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