Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the cancellation of this week's vote on the Secure our Borders First Act. The legislation included provisions he said could create long delays at already congested northern border crossings.
In last week's homeland security committee meeting, Higgins offered an amendment to ensure any additional inspections would be matched with adequate staffing and infrastructure improvements in an effort to prevent logjams. The measure was defeated on a party line vote and the bill was scheduled for consideration on the House Floor this week.
New York's 26th District is home to several busy border crossings, including the Peace Bridge, Rainbow Bridge and Whirlpool Bridge. Second only to the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor (Ontario) and Detroit, the Peace Bridge is the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. Forty billion dollars in trade crosses the Peace Bridge every year in addition to the thousands of travelers.
Higgins said implementation of the biometric exit data system at all border crossings, as required by the Secure our Borders First Act, without a full understanding of how it would impact the flow of traffic and consideration for the added capacity necessary to handle the additional inspections, would create further delays at these already congested border crossings.
After appearing on this week's House agenda, the Secure our Borders First Act was recently pulled from consideration. Higgins spoke on the House Floor urging House leadership to take into account the different needs of the northern and southern borders.
"Mr. Speaker, Cancellation of this week's vote on the Secure our Borders Act is a relief for northern border communities including my Western New York district.
"This legislation would require a biometric exit system at every border crossing, which would duplicate inspections and significantly slow the flow of people and goods across the northern border.
"The Beyond the Border agreement already allows for exit data to be shared between Canadian and U.S. officials, thus the implementation of this system at the northern border would be redundant at least.
"Already congested border crossings, such as the Peace Bridge in Western New York, would see longer delays, which would ultimately create disastrous economic effects and compound security concerns.
"A Peace Bridge Authority official said that implementation of this program would effectively shut down the northern border.
"Investments in personnel and infrastructure should be made along our borders, but we must take into consideration the unique needs of northern and southern border communities and protect the strong economic relationship essential to the United States and Canadian economies."
In a separate measure, Higgins joined Congress members John Katko (R-NY), Peter King (R-NY) and Candice Miller (R-MI) in introducing H.R. 455, a bipartisan bill requiring the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a northern border threat analysis.
Higgins is a member of the House committees on homeland security and foreign affairs, serves as co-chair of the northern border caucus, and recently led a letter urging the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee to maintain increased staff levels along the U.S./Canada border, as well as funding for the pre-inspection pilot program at the Peace Bridge.