WASHINGTON D.C.– Congressman Collin C. Peterson led a bipartisan letter with Senator Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Rick Nolan, Rep. Tom Emmer, and Rep. Keith Ellison urging U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to delay the announced reduction of service hours in Lancaster and Roseau Ports of Entry (POEs), and to create a pilot program using proven technology to increase service for non-commercial crossings at those sites.
CBP surprised residents living in northwest Minnesota by announcing they would be dramatically reducing service hours in the Lancaster and Roseau POEs and shift officers to Pembina, ND. Residents attending town halls voiced their strong objections to the reduction of service citing concerns about the impact it would have on the region’s economy. In the letter, the lawmakers identify the pilot program already underway at the NW Angle as a model for what can be created at the Lancaster and Roseau POEs.
“We write to urge U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to initiate a pilot program that utilizes existing virtual interview process technology at the Lancaster and Roseau Ports of Entry (POEs) and delay the reduction in service hours until the pilot can be launched.” The lawmakers continued, “with slight infrastructure improvements, Lancaster and Roseau POEs will be able to safely and efficiently process passenger vehicles twenty-four hours a day without rerouting them through inconvenient ports in Pembina or Warroad.”
If CBP agrees to expand the use of this technology for these ports of entry, it could have wide-ranging benefits for Minnesota. The benefits of the new technology include establishing an efficient way for area residents and tourists to check-in with CBP officials remotely while expanding resources for local businesses and resort owners.
Current hours of service at the Port of Lancaster are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The CBP has announced that they will reduce the hours of service, operating from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. between October 1 and April 30 and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. between May 1 through September 30. Travelers wishing to cross into the U.S. when the port is closed may cross at the Pembina, North Dakota POE which is open 24 hours and located approximately 30 miles west of Lancaster.
The current hours of service at the Port of Roseau are 8 a.m. to midnight. The new hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. year round. Travelers wishing to cross into the U.S. after hours may cross at the Warroad, Minnesota POE which is also open 24 hours and located approximately 21 miles east of Roseau.
Read the letter below:
Dear Executive Assistant Commissioner Todd C. Owen:
We write to urge U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to initiate a pilot program that utilizes existing virtual interview process technology at the Lancaster and Roseau Ports of Entry (POEs) and delay the reduction in service hours until the pilot can be launched. We believe that a pilot at these ports would result in a mutually beneficial situation for local residents that depend on reliable access to these POEs and the agency which has expressed a need for more officers at the Pembina, North Dakota port.
We are pleased with the current pilot program that is underway at the Northwest Angle, a remote and unique area in Minnesota which will greatly benefit from virtual interview process technology. The mechanics and model of this pilot can also be applied in a cost-effective manner to the Lancaster and Roseau POEs, which are updated facilities that already possess license plate readers. With slight infrastructure improvements, Lancaster and Roseau POEs will be able to safely and efficiently process passenger vehicles twenty-four hours a day without rerouting them through inconvenient ports in Pembina or Warroad.
When CBP announced the agency would reduce service hours at Lancaster and Roseau POEs, two town hall meetings were held on November 6th and November 2nd, 2017. At the Lancaster town hall alone, a petition was signed by 495 constituents who agreed with the statement that the reduction in service hours will have a negative economic, financial, and personal effect on those who operate businesses, travel, and live near these POEs. The pilot program we are advocating for in this letter could significantly address many of these concerns.
We understand CBP’s overall goal is to optimize service along our nation’s land borders in a fiscally responsible manner. The Planning, Program Analysis, and Evaluation Office within the Office of Field Operations plays a vital role in leveraging technologies which better serve our citizens’ needs. In your response, we request that you identify any existing technology that could be utilized in a virtual interview process pilot program at the Lancaster and Roseau POEs. This pilot would serve as an efficient and innovative way for CBP to continue serving our communities while meeting that goal.
While this request is considered, we ask that the agency delay current plans to reduce service hours at these ports until a pilot program can begin implementation and the ongoing needs of the communities can be evaluated in an open and transparent manner. We look forward to working with you to advance this use of technology as a possible solution for all stakeholders.