WASHINGTON – A Senate panel moved on Tuesday to increase the fee paid by travellers who enter the U.S. by commercial sea and air carriers by $2.
The provision would be used to pay for 1,000 new Customs agents and is attached to a $47 billion measure funding the budget of the Homeland Security Department.
Travelers who enter the country through commercial air and sea carriers presently pay $7 for the privilege.
GOP Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana said he was reluctantly supporting the fee hike, which was proposed by President Barack Obama in his March budget and approved by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu. It would provide $166 million more for customs and border protection agents. Landrieu chairs the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee.
Supporters of the fee say that in most instances it’s paid by foreign travellers entering the U.S.
The underlying bill adds $77 million above Obama’s budget to help Customs and Border Protection cope with an influx of children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who arrive in the U.S. unaccompanied by their parents or other adult. A wave of unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America has caused a humanitarian crisis along the Southern border that the government is having trouble handling.