H.R. 3488, The Preclearance Authorization Act of 2014

H.R. 3488

The Preclearance Authorization Act of 2014

Date
July 8, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Emily Leviner

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 3488, the Preclearance Authorization Act of 2014, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 3488 was introduced on November 14, 2013 by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and was referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security and Ways and Means.  The bill was marked up by the Homeland Security Committee on June 11, 2014 and was ordered reported, as amended, by voice vote.[1]  The bill was discharged by the Ways and Means Committee.

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[1] House Committee Report 113-511, Part 1.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3488 authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance operations in foreign countries.  DHS must notify Congress at least 180 days before entering into an agreement with a foreign government to establish such preclearance operations.  If the preclearance operation will be located at an airport, DHS must provide additional certifications to Congress within 90 days of entering into the agreement, including a certification that alternative options were not more effective, and that preclearance operations at the airport in the foreign country will not significantly increase customs processing times at U.S. airports.  H.R. 3488 also requires the Secretary to notify Congress at least 30 days before substantially modifying a preclearance agreement with a foreign government.

If the average customs processing time at the 25 busiest U.S. airports significantly exceeds the average customs processing time to enter the U.S. through a preclearance operation in a foreign country, H.R. 3488 requires the CBP Commissioner to submit to Congress a remediation plan for reducing the processing time at the U.S. airports.  The Commissioner may not conduct any negotiations relating to preclearance operations in foreign countries if the remediation plan is not submitted in a timely fashion.

Before beginning preclearance operations at an airport in a foreign country, H.R. 3488 requires TSA to enter into an agreement with the foreign government to establish aviation security screening standards comparable to those in the U.S.  If such standards are not used, passengers must be rescreened in the U.S.

H.R. 3488 prohibits the Secretary from entering into or renewing an agreement for preclearance operations in a foreign country unless the foreign government certifies that it routinely submits information on lost and stolen passports of its citizens to INTERPOL or makes such information available to the U.S. in a comparable fashion.

Background

“CBP’s preclearance operations involve the inspection and examination of travelers and their merchandise by CBP officers in foreign locations prior to embarking to the United States.  Once cleared on foreign soil, passengers do not have to clear customs upon arrival to the United States.  Pre-inspection was first established in Toronto, Canada in 1952, and currently, CBP operates 16 preclearance facilities in Canada, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Aruba, Ireland, and, most recently, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”[2]

In late 2013, DHS established preclearance operations at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE.  According to CBP, such preclearance operations were established primarily for security reasons, “due to the significant number of watch list hits and suspicious travel pattern information originating from the region.”[3]  However, significant concern arose regarding the absence of congressional oversight and the lack of an adequate security justification for establishing the preclearance operations.  Additionally, “Many U.S. domestic airlines have argued that the establishment of a preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi, where no U.S. domestic carrier[s] currently fly, puts U.S. carriers at a significant competitive and economic disadvantage, as customs wait times are generally shorter at preclearance facilities compared to wait times in the United States.”[4]  H.R. 3488 addresses these issues by requiring congressional notification and oversight before new preclearance operations are established in a foreign country.

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[2] Id. at 4.
[3] Id. at 5.
[4] Id.

Cost

According to CBO estimates, implementing H.R. 3488 would not significantly impact spending.  The bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.