Narcotics, migrants, cartels – all in a Good day’s work at El Paso Port of Entry
Master’s degree alumna Beverly Good’s job as Customs and Border Protection Port Director at the El Paso Port of Entry calls for a dash of expertise in the array of the homeland security enterprise – law enforcement, transnational criminal cartels, asylum seekers and migrants, business logistics and even as a sort of test lab for a pilot project earlier this year dubbed Ready Lanes.
Years of experience coupled with exposure to a CHDS education primed her for this leadership role and the threats facing the port.
“It’s not just terrorism,” Good noted. “While Terrorism is the major threat we are combating it certainly isn’t the only one. Ask anyone on the southwest border and they will tell you, narcotics and illegal immigration are also major threats that face us in our national security mission.”
There are no slow days at work. Every day at the El Paso Port of Entry, more than 30,000 vehicles, over 20,000 pedestrians and over 3,200 commercial trucks are processed Good said, adding that on average there is one to five narcotic loads intercepted and over 40 immigration cases processed.
“Multiple technologies are used daily such as x-ray and targeting systems to get the job done,” she said. “CBP Officers are the first impression for many and we have a robust professionalism campaign to continue to remind our officers that we are law enforcement and have a very critical mission of protecting this great nation while maintaining efficient flow of legitimate trade and travel. It is a fine balance.”
Striking a balance is important as the port is economically vital to the U.S. economy, with an estimated $47 billion worth of commodities and people passing through it during 2016. The faster the inspection, the faster the car’s passengers can get through and on their way to get gas, shop, visit and generally spend money. At the same time, with the use of the technology for the ready lanes, RFID readers, the officers were able to get data faster, and focus more on the people and vehicle and not inputting data into the computer.
In an effort to better maintain its security posture while accommodating the flow of travelers, goods and labor, Customs and Border Protection conducted the Ready Lane assessment this past spring. The program employed radio-frequency identification (RFID) enabled travel documents to expedite travelers. In order to be eligible to use a Ready Lane, travelers in the vehicle over the age of 14 must be carrying an RFID-enabled travel document, Good noted. Ready Lane compliant documents include a passport card, enhanced driver’s license or Enhanced Tribal Card, Trusted Traveler documents or the RFID enabled Border Crossing Card or Permanent Resident Card. The Ready Lanes were determined to be 20 percent faster than the non-Ready Lanes or general lanes
“For the pilot there was an education campaign for the traveling public to make them aware of the ready lanes and what documents are required to travel in those lanes,” Good said. “We also reached out to our stakeholders for buy-in and they have been and continue to be very supportive of the Ready Lanes because they see the benefit to getting more people into the United States faster.”
The technology provides another security layer as officers working ready lanes were faster at processing and could focus on the interview process. That led to enforcement actions in those lanes increasing slightly during the pilot.
“The results are moving traffic faster without compromising the security of the United States,” Good said. “Enforcement actions went up over all of the lanes.
The stakes are high at the border. Mexican cartels pose threats to the ports of entry all across the United States but especially on the southwest border. And, immigration violations are also a significant threat in El Paso with the majority of the cases being processed today as Credible Fear cases. The nationalities of those claiming credible fear are from all over the world with the most being from Central and South America.
Robust targeting and interviews are conducted to determine if there is any intelligence that can be gleamed to smuggling routes, smugglers, and any ties to criminal or terrorist organizations.
Good graduated from CHDS in December 2010 and analyzed threats facing the southern U.S. border in her thesis, “Preventing Bulk Cash and Weapons Smuggling into Mexico: Establishing an Outbound Policy for the Southwest Border for Customs and Border Protection.” She credits the diverse professional backgrounds of classmates as broadening her perspective.
“The class members and the different backgrounds contributed significantly to me becoming more well-rounded as a leader,” Good said. “The instructors and their perspective was critical in opening my mind and seeing more than just what was right in front of me or what I had always seen. It made me be more open minded to question things and research them. The CHDS program made me more innovative in approaches to homeland security.”