FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 15, 2007
Schumer Calls On President Bush To End The Deadlock And Bring Shared Border Management To Buffalo
Eleventh Hour Issues Have Brought Recent Talks to a Near Standstill with Fed Agencies Dragging Their Feet
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer wrote a personal letter to President George W. Bush asking him to take charge in the ongoing negotiations over Shared Border Management and immediately convene a bi-national summit between Canadian and U.S. officials in order to resolve security issues once and for all. Schumer said that despite recent progress, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and Canadian officials continue to revisit logistical and security issues, throwing up ever-changing roadblocks to a final agreement.
"We need leadership from President Bush to break this logjam. The wrangling and finger-pointing have gone on for long enough," Schumer said. "From security, economic, land use and common sense perspectives, there is every reason to do this deal. On both sides of the Niagara River, the only thing lacking is the political will and leadership to get to the finish line and the President of the United States is uniquely able to make that happen. The bottom line is that the federal agencies need to come to the table, face to face, and solve the security and logistical issues that have bogged down this process. The President has supported this endeavor in the past and now is the time for him to get back in this game and exert decisive action."
In December of 2004, then DHS secretary Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McClellan agreed to establish a framework for land-pre clearance that would allow for the construction of new border facilities at the New York ports of entry at Buffalo-Ft.Erie and Alexandria Bay. In Buffalo-Ft. Erie, all primary and secondary border operations would occur on the Canadian side of border, while in Alexandria Bay they would be consolidated to the United States side. These pilot facilities, run jointly by the United States and Canada, were intended to be models that would improve security for both nations, deepen trading partnerships and provide for expedited land passage for individual travelers.
Though the agencies expressed a strong commitment to progress at the time, bureaucratic wrangling and unresolved security and logistics issues have plagued this project for more than two years. In his letter, Schumer said that the President must direct Attorney General Gonzalez and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to come to the table face-to-face with their Canadian counterparts to resolve the outstanding security issues. "I have worked closely over the last several years with officials on both sides of the border to help forge an agreement on the issues involved in these negotiations. Unfortunately, talks have not always proceeded with alacrity. Given the longstanding commitment to this effort on both sides of the border, I strongly believe that a resolution should be possible if there is a sufficient amount of will to succeed."
Schumer said that if such a summit with the principals is not scheduled with all due speed, he would explore additional measures to push the parties toward an agreement. Schumer said, "Enough already. Our nation has forged agreements to bring peace to Serbia and the Balkans and to reduce the nuclear threat in North Korea. Yes, Shared Border Management is complex, but it is far from insoluble if there is a sincere desire to get to yes with our closest ally and biggest trading partner."
Last month, Schumer called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to come to the table and work with DHS and Canadian security officials to resolve one of the last major remaining issues relating to developing a protocol for travelers coming from Canada who decide not to cross the border after their primary inspection. U.S. practice is to require these travelers to be fingerprinted, but Canadian law prevents border guards from fingerprinting these travelers. Schumer also highlighted the importance of reaching a final agreement on shared border management so that progress could proceed with a new signature peace bridge in Buffalo. The Public Bridge Authority has indicated that it needs a decision by May of 2007 to proceed with construction in 2008. Without a decision, this project could be subject to pricey cost over-runs.
Also last month, Schumer met with Stockwell Day in his Washington DC office and spoke with Chertoff personally. In September 2006, Schumer announced a new deal between U.S. and Canadian officials that would allow Canadian officers to carry weapons at the check point. In December 2004, Schumer, along with Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, announced the initial agreement between the US and Canada to pursue the shared border management model.