Insufficient U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffing at Miami International Airport could damage Florida's image and its "international business competitiveness," Gov. Rick Scott told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a letter Thursday.
Insufficient U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffing at Miami International Airport could damage Florida’s image and its “international business competitiveness,” Gov. Rick Scott told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a letter Thursday.
Customs and Border Protection, which is a part of Napolitano’s department, has not been able to provide the necessary staff for the new $180 million Federal Inspection Services facility that processes international passengers at the airport, Scott wrote.
The agency has not been able to staff the recommended minimum of 62 of the 72 passport control lanes during peak arrival periods, Scott said.
“As a result, customers, often numbering well over 1,000 daily, and their baggage are misconnected and must be re-booked on later flights, many leaving the next day,” he wrote.
That problem could “do considerable damage to Florida’s international competitiveness, which could adversely affect job creation in our state,” according to Scott.
“Over one million jobs in Florida depend on international trade and investment, and this is one of the healthiest and fastest growing sectors of our economy,” the governor wrote. He noted that 97 percent of all international airline passengers come into Florida via MIA.
But passengers who have passed through the new facility since its opening in July have often described their MIA experience as “chaotic,” Scott wrote. The exits from Customs are also insufficiently staffed, resulting in a bottleneck for passengers, he added.
Scott invited Napolitano to visit the airport’s facility so she can see the challenges it faces because of the lack of Customs staffers, he said.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment on Scott’s letter Thursday.
At MIA on Thursday, Aziz Ali didn't blame staffing but rather flight schedules for the problems in the Customs area.
"The number of flights coming in at the same time, it's just too many passengers coming in at the same time," said Aziz, who was picking up his brother, an international passenger. "No matter how many officers they have, they're still going to have lines."