Congressman: DHS should act now on lessons learned from pre-inspection pilot
While awaiting completion of a formal review of the pre-inspection pilot project at the Peace Bridge, Congressman Brian Higgins said steps can and should be taken immediately to improve efficiencies at the northern border crossing.
"Beyond the actual pre-inspection process, we picked up some valuable information about technology and procedural shortcomings that are slowing down the flow of people and goods across the border," said Higgins, co-chair of the northern border caucus and a member of the House of Representatives committee on homeland security. "There is no excuse for these inefficiencies."
In a letter to the Homeland Security secretary, Higgins argued the economic importance of swift action on improvements, "The quality and state of the infrastructure and protocols at ports of entry such as the Peace Bridge is a measure of the department's commitment to the facilitation of trade and travel," he said. "I urge you to work expeditiously to address the concerns ... they are vital to the economic health of my community."
Higgins also addressed the issue on the House Floor:
"Mr. speaker, The Peace Bridge, in my Western New York district, is the second busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada, making it essential that people and goods are able to move quickly and efficiently across the bridge. The second phase of the cargo pre-inspection pilot program at the Peace Bridge recently concluded and is currently under evaluation.
"While I have confidence that the report will call for expansion of pre-inspection at the Peace Bridge, the pilot revealed several challenges, which create delays and require immediate attention.
"Internet speeds on the Canadian side of the bridge exceed those on the American side, enabling faster screening. Radiation detectors on the American side are older and often inaccurate, resulting in false negatives that create delays. Finally, empty trucks are not required to provide a manifest, resulting in unnecessary secondary inspections for empty vehicles.
"Last week I wrote to Secretary Jeh Johnson highlighting the urgent need to rectify these issues. We must improve the quality and state of the infrastructure and protocols at ports of entry across the country."
The Peace Bridge crossing between the U.S. and Canada was chosen as the location for phase II of a pilot project by the Department of Homeland Security allowing for the pre-inspection of trucks entering the U.S. to take place on the Canadian side of the border. The demonstration project ran from Feb. 18, 2014, through Jan. 20, and is currently undergoing an independent review.