Members of Congress from states bordering Canada, the Northern Border Caucus, have focused on a section of President Donald Trump’s “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” Executive Order directing DHS to expedite “the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States.” Calling it “unnecessary” on the northern border, representatives from New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Vermont, and Washington are concerned the system will lead to long lines and waits, interfere with commercial traffic, and damage tourism in their states.
In Buffalo, New York, there is bipartisan opposition to implementation of the biometric system. Representative Brian Higgins (D) believes the cost of implementation, $6.5 billion, will bring it to a halt when it comes to Congress for funding. In fact, that was where a similar proposal died two years ago. Representative Chris Collins (R) expressed particular concern about a reduction in sports tourism – reducing fan attendance at Buffalo Bills football and Buffalo Sabres hockey.
Because there is already a joint biometric entry-exit partnership agreement in effect between the United States and Canada, the Beyond the Border Action Plan, the Caucus has asked that the Administration do a careful cost-benefit analysis and coordinate with the Canadian government before instituting a costly enhancement.
The Canadian government, perhaps in reaction to Trump Administration policies, is considering legislation to expand preclearance at Canadian airports. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that Canadians would be better protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights if they cleared U.S. Customs on Canadian soil. But the measure would give CBP officers the right to question, or detain for hand-over to Canadian officials, any Canadian suspected of violating Canadian law. There is opposition. Canadian lawmakers are concerned about granting additional authority to CBP because the bill “does not address Canadians’ concerns about being interrogated, detained and turned back at the border based on race, religion, travel history or birthplace.”
Meanwhile, Canada is prepared to capitalize on the controversy swirling around the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. Trudeau has extended his welcome, and so has the City of Vancouver, just a two-hour flight from the Silicon Valley. Indeed, a Canadian start-up, True North, is introducing high-skilled foreign nationals and their companies to the advantages of having a back-up plan in Vancouver, providing introductions to Canadian immigration lawyers, and exploratory trips.