House to Consider Bill Requiring Congressional Oversight for New Customs Preclearance Facilities

By Paul Riegler on 24 June 2015
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Old Supreme Court and Senate chamber in the Capitol

Old Senate chamber in the Capitol

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation that would require the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to assess multiple issues including security, passengers, the economy, and customs staffing at U.S. airports prior to authorizing the opening of a U.S. Customs preclearance facility in another country.

The bill, the Preclearance Authorization Act of 2015, was introduced in the House in February and is expected to be considered by the full House Committee on Homeland Security on Thursday.

If the so-called Miller-Meehan bill becomes law, it would create a number of notifications and certifications that Customs would have to make to Congress before entering into an agreement with a foreign government to open a preclearance facility.  The bill also specifies that any new airport preclearance facility must be served by a United States airline. The bill requires the agency to report on the economic, competitive, and job impacts that a new preclearance facility would have.

This includes requiring the Customs and Border Protection agency’s commissioner to measure the monthly average customs processing time that it takes for passengers to enter the 25 U.S. airports with the highest volume of international travel, assess on a quarterly basis whether this average “significantly” exceeds the average customs processing time required of a passenger using a preclearance facility, and provide Congress with a plan that will reduce that time if it does significant exceed the preclearance figure.

The bill also mandates that the TSA to negotiate an agreement with the host country “requiring the country to adopt aviation security screening standards comparable to those of the United States.”

The airline industry in the United States came out strongly behind the plan.  “With summer travel season underway, it is critical that Congress address lengthy customs wait times at U.S. gateway airports, which inconvenience U.S. citizens and  discourage travel to the United States,” said Nicholas Calio, president of A4A, the trade association representing major U.S. airlines.  “A4A supports passage of the  Miller-Meehan bill, which will improve the travel experience for U.S. airline customers, while bolstering security and our economy,” he added.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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