FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2012
AFTER PUSH FROM SCHUMER, TRAINS HEADING FROM MONTREAL TO NYC LIKELY TO BE PRESCREENED IN MONTREAL, SAVING VALUABLE TIME AND PROVIDING HUGE BOOST TO MAJOR RAIL LINE – CALLS ON CANADIAN AND US GOVERNMENTS TO FINALIZE PLAN TO END TWO- HOUR BORDER DELAYS
Since Last Year, Schumer Has Pushed the Department of Homeland Security To Allow Screening of US-Bound Trains In Montreal, Rather Than Forcing Them To Stop Again At The Border
Head of Rail Service In Quebec Tells Schumer In Meeting Today That Facility Is Being Built At Montreal Station For Customs And Border Patrol To Complete Prescreenings, and Schumer Secures Amtrak’s Commitment that Trains Will No Longer Stop At St. Lambert Once Prescreening is Operational, Ending Two-Hour Delays
All Pieces In Place, Now Canada And U.S. Must Agree On Policy For Prescreening – Schumer Urges Parties To Agree ASAP
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that Canadian and U.S. officials have reached several key agreements that will end maddening delays on trains between Montreal and New York City. For years, Amtrak trains heading on this route have had to stop for hours at the Canadian border to be inspected and screened. To combat these delays, Schumer has been an advocate for prescreening the trains at Montreal and eliminating the stop at St. Lambert, which can lead to two hour waits while the train is inspected. Following a meeting with Quebec’s Emissary Raymond Chretien, Schumer announced that Quebec is building prescreening facilities at the Montreal train station that will facilitate the prescreening of trains, and after the facilities are built and operational, Amtrak has agreed, at Schumer’s prompting, to end the St. Lambert stop. Canadian and U.S. authorities need to finalize the legal agreements that will allow U.S. border agents to work in the Canadian facility under the Beyond the Borders agreement announced last year before prescreening can begin. Schumer today urged both nations to work together as quickly as possible so that maddening delays on these trains can be eliminated once and for all.
“Backwards border policies that have caused maddening delays for train passengers are soon going to be left behind,” said Schumer. “The rail between Montreal and New York City should be a major artery for economic growth, but the delays have left this artery completely clogged. I am thrilled that we’re taking major steps forward to get trains screened in Montreal and to eliminate the St. Lambert stop that can keep trains bottled up for an extra two hours. This is a big step forward after a lot of hard work, and I want to thank the Canadian government for their cooperation. Those delays drive passengers and business away from the Empire State and they’ve got to stop. The U.S. and Canada must work quickly to finalize this agreement and get these trains heading down the tracks at full speed.”
"This is another step forward in our quest to optimize border fluidity," states Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. "With Senator Schumer's enormous support, we built the Port of Excellence at Champlain and created the best U.S. gateway on the entire northern border. But then we turned our attention to rail and the need to end the long stoppages at the border to clear passengers. Senator Schumer and our other Washington partners, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Owens, have championed this cause in Washington while we have worked with our Quebec and Montreal partners in Ottawa, and it appears a breakthrough is at hand. Our thanks once again to Senator Schumer and the team. Onward and upward for higher speed rail between Montreal and New York!"
Schumer, who serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security, has long noted that the strength of the Canadian economy and current exchange rate makes it essential that the federal government move quickly to speed up train travel between the two nations. He began pushing the issue with U.S. and Canadian government officials at the request of Garry Douglas and the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce. Eliminating delays will help promote cross-border growth and boost businesses from the North Country through New York’s Tech Valley, all the way down to New York City. He also notes that Customs and Border Patrol has established an analogous screening center in Vancouver, that has helped speed up train travel in the Northwest, leading to increased economic activity throughout the region. The Montreal prescreening, when established, will be more comprehensive than the Vancouver prescreening, because the train will not have to stop at the border at all (unlike the current Vancouver prescreening in which a shorter inspection still takes place on the border). Schumer hailed today’s announcement as major progress, and called on both countries to follow through on the agreement as quickly as possible.
A copy of Schumer’s letter from April 2011 in support of prescreening in Montreal appears below:
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Alan D. Bersin
United States Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano and Commissioner Bersin,
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, I am responsible for directing the Senate’s oversight of the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to secure our borders and ports of entry while, at the same time, promoting trade, travel, and traffic that is essential to America’s economy.
It is in this regard that I write to address delays in train travel between Canada and the United States. Specifically, between the Quebec-New York corridor, travel is delayed for great periods because incoming trains to the United States are stopped at our border for up to two hours to complete the clearance and screening process for passengers on board. Consequently, these delays result in impediments to cross border train travel that cost our businesses much needed revenue from Canadian travelers.
There is, however, a solution to this problem. Just as DHS and CBP have done in the Vancouver/Blaine international border, DHS and CBP should establish a pre-screening/pre-clearance process at the Montreal train station. Given that there is only 1 train per day that leaves Montreal for New York, and that the same customs agents who perform the screening at the border are only 20 minutes away from the Montreal train station, there should be no reason that pre-screening/pre-clearance could not be done at the train station. Similar pre-clearance is also already done for incoming air traffic to the United States, adding yet another justification for this necessary change.
With the strength of the Canadian economy and the current exchange rate—which facilitates Canadian consumer and tourism spending and investment in the United States—it is crucial that we do all that we can to ensure that lawful cross-border train traffic can move through our ports of entry as quickly as possible so as to not create a chilling effect over vital cross-border tourism and commerce
I believe that your agency has all of the necessary authority to address this problem, but if there is any assistance you need from Congress in this regard, I stand ready to help with any legislation necessary to further this objective. I thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to working with you to assist you in your mission of protecting America while promoting travel, trade, and commerce.
Charles E. Schumer
Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees
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