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Congressman Gene Green

Representing the 29th District of Texas

Green Releases Letter to Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Regarding Wait Times at Intercontinental Airport

October 10, 2003
Press Release
Washington, DC - Today, Congressman Gene Green sent a letter to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regarding an on-going dialogue about the lengthy wait times that international travelers have incurred at Houstons Intercontinental Airport (IAH).  Green has lead Houstons Congressional delegation in its effort to work with the Department of Homeland Security to reduce wait times to ensure that IAH remains a competitive international hub.
 
While homeland security must be the top priority, the concern with processing times is that IAH needs parity with other airports to avoid a competitive disadvantage for Houston carriers and for our status as an international hub, Green wrote.  Over the years, IAH has built a reputation as an efficient alternative to other large hubs, a reputation which is in jeopardy at this time.  While it appears that national comparative data is not available, anecdotal evidence and discussions with other hubs do not indicate that this problem exists on the same level at other international hubs.
 
Referencing particularly lengthy wait times during the month of August, Green outlined several proposals to help the CBP achieve their processing goals.
 
The delegation was glad to hear that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) management is well aware that the situation in summer 2003, especially in the month of August, was unacceptable at IAH and that a 45 minute average processing time continues to be the goal for inspectors, Green wrote.  We strongly encourage CBPs ongoing efforts to hire and train staff to maintain adequate staffing levels at IAH, and welcome CBPs more flexible overtime authority now that the legacy Customs and Immigration overtime accounts are combined.
 
Green closed the letter by stressing the importance of a quick resolution to this issue so that the CBP would be prepared for the holiday season and, later, for the opening of the Terminal E federal facility in 2005.
 
The text of the letter follows:
 
 

October 9, 2003
 

Mr. Harvey Adler
Acting Deputy Executive Director for Border Security
Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
Department of Homeland Security
1300 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20229
 
Dear Mr. Adler:
 
Thank you for meeting with Houston delegation Members and staff in my office on September 25, 2003 regarding Customs and Immigration inspections processing times at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).  The delegation appreciated the opportunity to voice our concerns and hear your assessment of the situation at IAH.
 
The delegation was glad to hear that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) management is well aware that the situation in summer 2003, especially in the month of August, was unacceptable at IAH and that a 45 minute average processing time continues to be the goal for inspectors.  We strongly encourage CBPs ongoing efforts to hire and train staff to maintain adequate staffing levels at IAH, and welcome CBPs more flexible overtime authority now that the legacy Customs and Immigration overtime accounts are combined.  In addition, we expect that the bandwidth problem reaching the Customs database, temporarily fixed in August, will be permanently fixed in November to give CBP inspectors at IAH direct access to the Customs legacy database in Northern Virginia.
 
While homeland security must be the top priority, the concern with processing times is that IAH needs parity with other airports to avoid a competitive disadvantage for Houston carriers and for our status an international hub.  Over the years, IAH has built a reputation as an efficient alternative to other large hubs, a reputation which is in jeopardy at this time.  While it appears that national comparative data is not available, anecdotal evidence and discussions with other hubs do not indicate that this problem exists on the same level at other international hubs.  CBP needs to improve current service and be prepared for the opening of the Terminal E federal facility in 2005.  At a future time, likely in mid-December 2003, I would like to visit IAH with you or other CBP management to gauge the preparedness for the holiday and spring 2004 travel seasons.
 
Thank you again for your attendance and attention to this issue.  I look forward to a stable resolution of this situation soon.
 
                                                                                            Sincerely,
 
                                                                                            Gene Green
                                                                                            Member of Congress
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