Open border: not soon
Three years after President Obama and Prime Minister Harper released the Beyond the Border Declaration, articulating a shared vision in which our countries work together to address threats at the earliest point possible while facilitating the legitimate movement of people, goods and services across our shared border, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney on Monday signed the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada. This new agreement reaffirms the United States and Canada’s commitment to enhancing security while facilitating lawful travel and trade, and supersedes the existing U.S. -Canada Air Preclearance agreement signed in 2001.
«After years of hard work and negotiations, today we have one of the most significant, visible, and anticipated products of the Beyond the Border initiative a major achievement that will produce significant benefits for the United States and Canada,» said Secretary Johnson. «This agreement will help facilitate the legitimate trade and travel that keeps our economy thriving as we maintain utmost vigilance to the security of our borders. We remain committed to our deep partnership with Canada, a true ally, neighbor and friend of the United States.»
«Our Government’s top priority remains creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians,» said Minister Blaney. «This historic new agreement builds on decades of successful preclearance operations in Canadian airports. It will enhance the security at our border and create jobs and growth in Canada by improving the flow of legitimate goods and people between our two countries.»
This Preclearance agreement allowing for the immigration, customs and agriculture inspections required for entry into either country to occur on foreign soil will reduce congestion and delays at the border and increase efficiency and predictability in cross-border travel, tourism and transportation. The new agreement provides officials of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) with the requisite authorities and tools to conduct their border security, facilitation, and inspection processes in the other country.
Enhanced authorities for preclearance officers include the ability to carry firearms, defensive tools, and restraint devices to the same extent that Host Party officers are permitted to carry in the relevant operating environments.
The agreement addresses officer privileges and immunities through a shared jurisdictional framework in which the sending country may generally exercise primary criminal jurisdiction for acts committed by its officers in the performance of official duties in the Host country.
Given the groundbreaking nature of the agreement, the United States and Canada must enact legislation for it to be implemented. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act was introduced in the last Congress, and we are hopeful of its reintroduction in this Congress. Currently, the 2001 U.S.-Canada Air Transport Preclearance Agreement continues to apply.
Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders welcomed earlier the new agreement between the United States and Canada that could help restore passenger train service to and from Montreal and lead to streamlined border crossing procedures for motorists and airline passengers.
“We want our borders to be safe and secure, of course, but we also must work to preserve the centuries-old friendship between our nations and the ability of Americans and Canadians to freely cross the border,” Sanders said.
The agreement would require legislation to implement, he said in his press release. This is only an agreement and there are doubts that a Republicanled Congress will allow any modification to the flow of traffic on the Northern Border, as Mexico is sure to yell bloody murder on a ‘gringo’ only deal.
The agreement also has the potential to help relieve congestion at Vermont’s highway border crossings. “The economic links between Canada and Vermont are vital, and there is great potential to make them stronger,” said Senator Sanders.
Sanders last year organized meetings in Vermont with senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to discuss a decrease in the number of border patrol officers at Vermont ports of entry. “I have long been concerned that reductions in personnel at the northern border are slowing travel and commerce with our single largest trading partner.”
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven
Blaney signing the preclearance agreement on Monday.