Laredo Morning Times: People making legitimate border crossings should be treated with the utmost respect

LAREDO, Texas, October 13, 2014 | Rafael Benavides ((956) 725-0639)

Laredo, like many border areas in the United States and Mexico, depends on the movement of people and goods across the border to keep their economies strong and healthy.

Thousands of people cross our international bridges to visit with their loved ones, to work, or to shop. Making border crossings more efficient should be one of our priorities.

Recently I read a letter in the Laredo Morning Times raising concerns regarding the professionalism of Custom and Border Protection officers on the international bridges.

I support the men and women in blue who serve our country at our ports of entry.

The officers who comprise the Customs and Border Protection are good men and women who have invested their lives and families in our communities.

Without these officers, Laredo would not be able to compete on an International level.

We have to find a balance between security, legitimate trade and tourism.

There are some who cross borders illegally or with criminal intent.

The majority of people who cross our international bridges come here to work, visit family, and spend money at local businesses.

The officers who work at our ports of entry live in the same communities as many of the people crossing the bridges.

There is no reason to treat people who cross with legitimate reasons with anything less than the utmost respect.

We have to find the balance between security and legitimate trade and tourism at our bridges.

I took legislative steps earlier this year to address the problem.

I was successful in including language into the Fiscal Year 15 Homeland Security Appropriations bill that calls for review of CBP training to ensure officers at the border crossings act with the highest degree of professionalism.

The new language requires the Commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection to review training manuals and coursework, as well as incident-reporting practices within the agency.

The focus is to make sure that CBP officers are trained to interact respectfully with those crossing the border.

I am currently working to make sure this language is passed into law.

I have been in contact with Director of Field Operations for the Laredo Field Office of Customs and Border Protection, David Higgerson and have had different meetings with community members on this issue.

I look forward to working with Director Higgerson and CBP to implement our efforts on professionalism.

As part of another initiative, I have also asked for Customs and Border Protection officers to wear body cameras so that their behavior and level of professionalism can be monitored and held to a high standard.

My proposal is under review.

We are interconnected by our international bridges and we need to treat travelers with the respect they deserve.

Let us work together to make sure we continue to support our CBP officers in doing their job and by making sure all persons crossing the border are treated with the respect and dignity each one of us deserves.