Orlando’s three Democratic members of Congress have contacted new Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urging her to suspend a plan that would temporarily transfer Customs and Border Patrol officers away from Orlando International Airport.
U.S. Reps. Val Demings, Darren Soto, and Stephanie Murphy came to the aid of Orlando airport officials who three weeks ago complained to the federal government that an action to send 10 officers to the Mexican border for six months of temporary duty would “seriously diminish” security for international flights arriving at the airport.
Murphy joined the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Officials in their protest in December. Demings took up the matter earlier this week at a meeting of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, on which she sits.
On Thursday Demings, Murphy, and Soto sent a letter to Nielsen requesting her agency immediately suspend temporary duty assignments for Customs and Border Patrol officers serving the Orlando airport, and to not issue any further temporary duty assignments until the agency reassesses how it allocates its staff. They also urged her to consider increasing the Orlando staff, as it prepares to open a new, bigger international flights terminal.
The Orlando issue raised by GOAA Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher and Airport Executive Director Phillip Brown in December, and reiterated by Demings, Murphy, and Soto, appears more acute than at many other airports because the Orlando airport’s international traffic has grown immensely in recent years, up about 90 percent from 2009, to 2.83 million passengers arriving from foreign countries in 2016. Yet the airport’s federal Customs and Border Patrol staff remained the same.
And this month 10 of those staff members were to be sent to the U.S./Mexico border on a rotation assignment of six months, without being replaced by anyone in Orlando.
“Given MCO’s existing CBP staffing shortfalls, we were disappointed that the agency directed the transfer of ten CPB officers from the Port of Orlando to the Southwest Border Ports of Entry for Temporary Duty Assignments,” the three members of Congress wrote.