On May 20, 2010, the top management of both U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.   Chairman Tanner said the hearing was "to strike the right balance" between trade facilitation and security.  Unfortunately, the Committee heard all about the enforcement success of both ICE and CBP without hearing about the difficulties faced daily by importers and customs brokers.

Chairman Tanner accurately stated:

There has been a growing concern that, in particular, CBP’s modernization of trade functions, facilitation of trade, and enforcement of traditional customs laws have appeared to lag while the agency tightened security screening of passengers and cargo.

ICE was particularly proud of its accomplishments by its National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.  In ongoing Operation Guardian, ICE has interdicted substandard, tainted, or counterfeit products, including food and medicine that pose health and safety risks to American consumers.  $26 million of such condoms, circuit breakers, toys, extension cords, honey, and shrimp were seized by ICE and CBP.

What was not revealed was how many unnecessary delays and expenses were caused by ICE and CBP for the legitimate merchandise that entered or transited the United States.  In order to determine the effectiveness of the targeting programs used by CBP, Congress needs to inquire about the number of detentions and examinations by CBP, and the consequential financial costs to importers.  The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is also concerned with properly targeted imported food shipments, as indicated in its May 6, 2010 report on "Food Safety".

Does CBP do a good job at targeting imported shipments?