Legislative and Research History
The need to improve the physical circumstances under which customs and immigration laws were enforced along the border coincided with growing concern over the state of U.S. government facilities in general.
On May 25, 1926, Congress passed the Keyes-Elliot, or Public Buildings Act. The act authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare a “survey and investigations of public building conditions.”
The results of this survey, prepared in 1927, became the basis for expenditures of over $700 million during the ensuing decade for construction of post offices, courthouses, marine hospitals, custom houses, and "other public buildings of the classes under the control of the Treasury Department." The Treasury Department’s Office of the Supervising Architect was made responsible for preparation of designs, drawings, estimates, and specifications.
Included in this building program were 47 border inspection stations (the number was apparently revised to 48 during the course of construction). The locations and programmatic requirements for these stations were based upon recommendations presented in a written report from 1928 by H. A. Benner of the Bureau of Customs and J. L. Hughes of the Bureau of Immigration.
The Benner and Hughes Report
In a Congressional report dated March 13, 1928, H. A. Benner of the Bureau of Customs and J. L. Hughes of the Bureau of Immigration reported why the then-present quarters and facilities were inadequate to meet that need and recommended that the government construct purpose-built border inspection stations for border highways at 48 locations. The report, based on interviews with customs and immigration agents, detailed a wealth of frustrating and sometimes embarrassing experiences while the agents tried to do their jobs. This ranged from working out of a tent to living with their families in freight cars. Drivers refused to go to out-of-the-way customs and immigration stations, resulting in a drop in government revenue. When inspections were successful, at one site locals would sometimes gather to watch the "entertainment" as travelers opened their trunks and their luggage for inspection.