Two former U.S. Customs commissioners, now out of government and free to speak their minds, unloaded on Congress for making their jobs more complicated by forcing the Department of Homeland Security to implement ineffective security measures.
"Two of the dumbest things that I was presented with when I was commissioner ... was to build a 2,000-mile fence and second was to inspect every maritime container coming into this country before it left its port of origin, which would totally shut down world trade," said Ralph Basham, who helmed CBP from mid-2006 through February 2009.
The fence was a reference to the Southwest border and Republican-led legislation passed in 2006 ordering an initial installation of 700 miles of fence to stem the tide of illegal immigrants.
In a private session with reporters following the event, Robert Bonner, who led the transition of the U.S. Customs Service from the Treasury Department to Homeland Security in March 2003, called the 100-percent inspection requirement for ocean containers "inane" and a "mindless mandate of Congress" that ignored the fact that CBP already has a good risk management system and layers of security.
"We were chasing our tail trying to keep up with these mandates," Basham said.
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