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SW Virginia loses only international port of entry

DUBLIN (AP) — Southwest Virginia officials say a federal move to cut the only customs agent position at an area airport will handicap the region because it can no longer receive international flights or shipments unless they first pass through another port.

The port director at the New River Valley Airport in Dublin retired earlier this year but regional officials were under the impression the vacancy was temporary.

But the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday that the agency won’t fill a vacancy.

“CBP continuously seeks to improve our operations to adapt to evolving threats and changing travel and trade patterns,” CBP spokeswoman Virginia Dabbs read from an official statement. Ports are places where agents regulate incoming and outgoing traffic for the country. They collect duties, clear passengers and inspect shipments. According to reports, incoming cargo in the region will have to be processed and inspected more than two hours away in Richmond. And the Roanoke, New River Valley and Virginia Tech airports can no longer receive international passengers.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith also took up the issue, writing a joint letter to CBP’s deputy director. The letter stated that maintaining a port of entry is vital to the area, saying the absence “would make it more difficult for this rural region to compete globally over the long term.”