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Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Floor Debate on H.R. 529, the Extending Limits of U.S. Customs Waters Act

April 29, 2024

“Congress should pass this legislation to protect America’s national security and economic interests.” 

As prepared for delivery.

“Mr. Speaker,

“I rise in support of the Extending Limits of U.S. Customs Waters Act introduced by my good friend Representative Mike Waltz.

“This bill would double the current distance that Custom and Border Patrol can enforce U.S. laws from 12 to 24 nautical miles off the coast of the United States.

“Congress should pass this legislation to protect America’s national security and economic interests.

“CBP is responsible for enforcing America’s trade laws. With this expanded area of operations, the agency can better protect intellectual property, fight illegal dumping of products, and ensure America is paid the customs revenues we are owed.

“Other law enforcement agencies, like the Coast Guard, already operate at the 24 nautical mile limit. CBP must be empowered fully to carry out its responsibilities, protect our national security and enforce trade laws.

“Currently, CBP must rely on presidential proclamations for legal authority to pursue or board vessels more than 12 nautical miles off our coast. In some cases, courts have created uncertainty by questioning the validity of this authority.

“Congress can use its legislative powers to give the agency more certainty and the ability to operate more effectively in the future.

“Making this change will also help keep American families safer.

“International crime rings smuggle drugs through our sea and airports. In fiscal year 2022, the Air and Marine Operations division of CBP captured hundreds of thousands of pounds of illegal drugs, including over 200,000 pounds of cocaine and 146 pounds of the deadly fentanyl poisoning Americans.

“More than 80 percent of those drugs were seized on the water.

“This bill makes it easier to stop illegal drugs from reaching our border and entering our communities.

“This bill also make it easier for us to end the abuses of human trafficking.

“It is not just drugs that are smuggled into the United States. Humans are also being trafficked, and often times by sea.

“By expanding in law the area in which they can operate, CBP agents will have more flexibility to capture and arrest criminals smuggling drugs and people into our country.

“This bill won bipartisan approval in the Ways and Means Committee last year because it is a common-sense approach to stopping international crime rings from breaking our laws and harming our communities. It is a change Customs and Border has asked us for and of which the Biden White House has previously supported.

“I urge all my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.”