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Short-Staffing At Canadian Border Causes Delays During the Height of Busy Travel Months And is Hurting Both Sides of the Border

Schumer To Canada: Be A Good Neighbor And Add More Border Agents – It’s a Win-Win

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today met with the new Canadian Consul General Phyllis Yaffe and Canadian Ambassador David McNaughton and urged them to immediately address staffing issues that are causing long wait times at all international border crossings between Buffalo and Canada including the Peace Bridge. Schumer said wait times this past summer got out of control because of a lack of available CBSA agents, and this lack of border agents could cause further delays during the upcoming busy holiday travel season, especially as construction begins on the Peace Bridge, reducing travel to one lane. Over the summer, Schumer wrote to the President of the Canada Border Services Agency and urged Canada to bring more border agents to keep crossings open and moving. In addition, just last month, Schumer placed a phone call to Canadian Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, who is the top Canadian official responsible for the CBSA, and strongly urged him to increase CBSA staffing at the Peace Bridge; Schumer also urged him to ensure that all of the booths remain open during peak travel times. Today, Schumer elevated this push during an in-person meeting and highlighted the economic and travel benefits that could result from increased staffing on the Canadian side.

“It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to keep our crossings open, safe and moving quickly. Long delays discourage travelers on both sides of the border, which means our shared economies suffer significant loss in tourism and cross-border commerce dollars. Canada, our good partner, cannot let the delays that happened this past summer at the border occur again during the busy holiday travel season this year; they need to staff up for the busy seasons for the good of both our nations,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “That is why I went directly to the new Canadian Consul General and the Canadian Ambassador and urged them to help immediately address these current staffing issues. We need to alleviate theses avoidable and costly delays at these vital border crossings and there is simple and common-sense way to accomplish that: proper staffing levels. Both the Consul General and the Ambassador were receptive to my request.”

Schumer has long fought to ease delays at the Peace Bridge by bringing more border agents to keep crossings open and moving, as well as fighting to make the pre-inspection program permanent. In 2014, Schumer successfully secured an additional $165 million in the federal budget for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) so it could hire scores of additional agents. In 2015, Schumer fought and successfully passed the Border Jobs for Veterans Act in the Senate, which would require the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate to recruit and expedite the hiring of outgoing U.S. military service members, for open CBP officer positions in order to cut down on wait times. This year, Schumer announced legislation that would bring the pre-inspection program at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo one step closer to permanence. The Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016, would expand U.S. jurisdiction over American Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents that are operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements. Schumer said clearing this next legal hurdle is needed in order to make the pre-inspection program permanent at the Peace Bridge. Finalizing pre-inspection will help reduce congestion and delays at the US plaza, and therefore improve both the environment and regional economy.

A copy of Schumer’s previous letter to the President of the Canada Border Services Agency appears below:

Dear President Lizotte-MacPherson,

I write today to address long wait times at the international border crossings from the United States into Canada in New York State, which have persisted over a number of years, but have become increasingly worse over the course of this summer. As you know, smooth, safe, speedy crossings between our two nations is critical to the economic vitality of both the U.S. and Canada. Businesses on both sides of the border depend on international traffic, and these delays have a serious impact on retail stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations.

Over the last two weeks, I have heard reports of travelers coming from the U.S. into Canada waiting up to two hours, due to understaffing on the Canadian sides of the Rainbow, Lewiston-Queenston, and Peace Bridges. Delays are expected on the weekends and other peak times, but travelers are now experiencing these delays in the middle of the day on weekdays. I understand that staffing can pose a significant challenge, particularly in the summer months. However, delays at these bridges are not a new problem. The lack of predictability of bridge wait times disincentivizes travelers on both sides of the border, which means our shared economies are missing out on valuable tourism dollars, particularly in the summer months.

I urge you to look into and address this matter immediately. Appropriate staffing levels at international border crossings are paramount to the prosperity of our regional economy. If you require further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator