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End In Sight For MIA’s Long Customs Lines

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Officer watching pedestrian entrance. (Source: CBP Photography)

Officer watching pedestrian entrance. (Source: CBP Photography)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you’ve ever traveled outside of the United States than you know first-hand that waiting to go through customs lines can be infuriatingly slow. But that’s going to change in Miami-Dade County.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Friday that Miami-Dade County is one of only five recipients in the country approved for the new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Reimbursable Services Program.

The program allows public-private partnerships with Miami International Airport and PortMiami to reimburse the CBP for increased service levels, in order to help decrease wait times for customs lines.

Friday’s announcement was the culmination of months of work to help find a way to provide more CBP staff at MIA and PortMiami despite an increasingly tight fiscal environment in Washington.

“This is an excellent step forward for Miami-Dade, South Florida businesses, and anyone who flies internationally through the ‘Gateway to the Americas,’” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23). “We’ve been working diligently with the Department of Homeland Security to find a way to decrease passenger and cargo customs wait times and today’s announcement is a major victory for our community.”

Rep. Wasserman Schultz has been working for months in support of Miami-Dade’s application to become one of the pilot programs in the new CBP program.

The program allows certain public-private partnerships to provide new or enhanced services on a reimbursable basis at any of CBP’s domestic operations. These services can include all customs and immigration-related inspection activities and may cover all costs, such as the salaries of additional staff, overtime expenses, and transportation costs

“The rapid growth of Miami-Dade’s international passenger and cargo traffic, coupled with continued budget cuts from Washington, has resulted in a situation where Customs and Border Patrol simply isn’t able to keep up with the increased need for their services,” explained Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “With this agreement, we will be able to enter into a public-private partnership with Customs and Border Patrol to reimburse them for increased staffing and hours to decrease customs wait times in Miami-Dade.”

Miami International Airport recently became the busiest airport in the country for international passengers and cargo arrivals, welcoming 9.3 million international passengers in 2011. More than one million jobs in South Florida rely on international trade and commerce, and adequate staffing of Miami-Dade’s customs facilities is crucial to the long-term health of South Florida’s regional economy.

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