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Border bottlenecks expected to ease after U.S., Canada agree to allow traveler prescreening

by Ilene Grossman ~ April 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The United States and Canada signed a preclearance agreement in March that will allow people traveling from one country to the other to be prescreened before they cross the border. When fully implemented, this Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport will allow U.S. agents to be stationed in Canada (and Canadian agents in the United States) and to carry out immigration, customs and agriculture inspections of people entering the U.S. from Canada by any mode of transportation.
A preclearance program for airline passengers is already in place at eight of the largest Canadian airports; it will be expanded under the new accord.
“For the first time, the U.S. and Canada have a framework for preclearance for land, marine and rail,” notes Maryscott Greenwood, senior adviser to the Canadian-American Business Council. “Up until now, we have only had air preclearance — and even that was an outdated agreement negotiated before 9/11/01.”
The goal of the new procedures is to relieve bottlenecks at the border. Often the roads to these crossings can be backed up as trucks, buses and passenger vehicles approach a port of entry, and then may go into separate lanes. Though the details of the new accord must still be worked out, inspection facilities could now be placed several miles from the border.
“Tourists will be the first to notice the benefits of preclearance because of the new, expedited services that will be offered — from rail service to ferries to cruise liners,” Greenwood says. Some U.S. inspectors could be shifted to the Canadian side of the border to conduct the prescreenings; they would be allowed to carry weapons while working at a facility in Canada.
Three ports of entry in the Midwest are among the top five U.S.-Canadian border crossings in terms of the value of goods traded. Detroit-Windsor is the busiest commercial port in the United States, with over $2 billion in goods having crossed the border there last year. Port Huron, Mich., ranks second, and Pembina, N.D., ranks fourth. The other two busiest ports of entry are in New York state.
This agreement could affect more-remote ports of entry as well, where both countries can agree to jointly co-locate a facility rather than keeping small posts open on each side of the border. The agreement will require congressional approval, but Greenwood notes it is likely to garner bipartisan support.

 

Article written by Ilene Grossman, CSG Midwest staff liaison for the Midwestern Legislative Conference Midwest-Canada Relations Committee.