A coalition of aviation groups is urging the US Congress to “expeditiously consider and pass” a White House proposal to provide supplemental funding to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to counter the diversion of CBP Officers (CBPO) from airports to the US-Mexico border.

“On the eve of the busy summer travel season, CBP has already begun to divert CBPOs from airports to the southern border, and it is our understanding that more diversions are planned,” Airlines for America (A4A) managing director-communications Carter Yang told ATW, adding: “If this is allowed to continue, it will lead to excessive lines and wait times for passengers and cargo.”

CBP announced May 9 it will divert 186 CBPOs to the Southwest Border, in addition to the 300 officers already diverted from land, sea and airports in recent weeks. The agency left open the possibility that there will be additional diversions needed to address the logistical challenges posed by a surge in migration along the US-Mexico border.

“While understandable, a robbing Peter to pay Paul staffing paradigm is unsustainable. The traveling and shipping public should not be subjected to excessive wait times, and we need to avoid inflicting damage on commerce and the overall US economy,” the groups wrote in a May 9 letter to Senate leadership, as well as the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates CBP currently has a staffing shortage of 4,000 CBPOs nationwide. Bipartisan legislation proposed in the Senate in April would require CBP to hire at least 600 additional CBPOs each year until the agency’s staffing needs are fully met.

Without emergency funding, CBP’s budget “is not adequate going into the busy summer travel season,” which kicks off late May with Memorial Day weekend in the US, the groups wrote. “With international travel increasing at a steady rate, lack of sufficient CBPO staffing at airports due to temporary reassignment, compounded with lack of overtime funding, will certainly put considerable strain on CBP ports, harming both passengers and cargo throughput,” they added.

The letter was signed by A4A, Airports Council International, American Association of Airport Executives, Global Business Travel Association, IATA and the US Travel Association.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com