A bill introduced in the House this week would direct Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to create a plan for electronically scanning 100 percent of all commercial and passenger vehicles entering the U.S. at land ports of entry and evaluate how the scanning technology can be improved.

The Securing America’s Ports Act (H.R. 5273) highlights that most illegal drugs coming into the U.S. enter through, not between, ports of entry (POE). The bill is sponsored by Reps. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Accountability, and Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), the ranking member.

Currently, using non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems, CBP scans 15 percent of commercial trucks and 1 percent of passenger vehicles entering the U.S. The representatives point out that scanning rates vary from port to port and that by increasing these rates to nearly 100 percent at every land port, transnational criminal organizations won’t be able to shift their smuggling operations from one port to another.

“Unfortunately, many land POEs have outdated infrastructure, not enough technology to detect
contraband, and suffer from staffing shortages,” Torres Small said on Monday at the outset of a field hearing in New Mexico on border security.

“It is our job as members of the Homeland Security Committee to ensure CBP has the resources it needs to successfully do its job,” Crenshaw said in a statement. “Because NII has proven to be an effective and efficient tool for CBP, it’s important we implement use of this technology at every land port of entry for every vehicle seeking to enter the U.S.”

Congress in the fiscal year 2019 Department of Homeland Security spending act appropriated $570 million for CBP to buy NII equipment, although the agency has so far been slow to spend the funds.