- Since the December 1999 arrest of al-Qaeda member Ahmed Ressam, who attempted to enter the United States from Canada with bomb-making materials, the United States and Canada have sought to improve perimeter security. Perimeter security involves robust bilateral law enforcement and customs cooperation to prevent suspect immigrants and cargo from reaching either of the two countries. Proponents of increased perimeter security argue that better perimeter security allows for fewer security barriers between the United States and Canada.
In February 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper produced a Joint Declaration titled “Beyond the Border, a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness.” The Joint Declaration stated the countries’ intent to jointly:
- Develop an integrated US-Canada entry-exit system;
- Establish and verify the identities of travelers and conduct traveler screenings at the earliest possible opportunity; and
- Develop an integrated cargo security strategy that ensures compatible screening methods for goods and cargo before they depart foreign ports bound for the United States and Canada. Thus, once goods and cargo enter either territory, US and Canadian authorities can accelerate subsequent crossings at land ports of entry between both countries.
- The United States and Canada are currently developing an “action plan” on border security that builds upon the goals elaborated in the Joint Declaration. This action plan may be released before the end of the summer.