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US, Canada sign preclearance agreement


Tue, Mar 17th 2015 01:35 pm

Designed to benefit travelers and trade by reducing congestion and increasing efficiency at the border

Consistent with the initiatives outlined in the 2011 "Beyond the Border Action Plan," Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney signed the "Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada" Monday. This new agreement reaffirms the U.S. and Canada's commitment to enhancing security while facilitating lawful travel and trade, and supersedes the existing U.S.-Canada air preclearance agreement signed in 2001.

"After years of hard work and negotiations, today we have one of the most significant, visible, and anticipated products of the 'Beyond the Border' initiative - a major achievement that will produce significant benefits for the United States and Canada," Johnson said. "This agreement will help facilitate the legitimate trade and travel that keeps our economy thriving as we maintain utmost vigilance to the security of our borders. We remain committed to our deep partnership with Canada, a true ally, neighbor and friend of the United States."

"Our government's top priority remains creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians," Blaney said. "This historic new agreement builds on decades of successful preclearance operations in Canadian airports. It will enhance the security at our border and create jobs and growth in Canada by improving the flow of legitimate goods and people between our two countries."

This preclearance agreement - allowing for the immigration, customs and agriculture inspections required for entry into either country to occur on foreign soil - will reduce congestion and delays at the border and increase efficiency and predictability in cross-border travel, tourism and transportation. The new agreement provides officials of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency with the requisite authorities and tools to conduct their border security, facilitation and inspection processes in the other country.

This agreement will:

•Allow for the consideration of requests for new preclearance locations across all modes;

•Enable exploration of co-location at small and remote ports, if desired;

•Provide updates to the air preclearance agreement to better reflect the post-9/11 operating environment, including policies and tools utilized at domestic ports of entry;

•Enable Canada to request the U.S. regularize existing U.S. immigration pre-inspection sites - for example, at cruise, rail and ferry terminals in British Columbia;

•Enhance authorities for preclearance officers, including the ability to carry firearms, defensive tools and restraint devices to the same extent that host party officers are permitted to carry in the relevant operating environments;

•Address officer privileges and immunities through a shared jurisdictional framework in which the sending country may generally exercise primary criminal jurisdiction for acts committed by its officers in the performance of official duties in the host country; and

•Retain the civil and administrative prosecutorial jurisdictions for preclearance officers provided for in the current air preclearance agreement.

Given the groundbreaking nature of the agreement, the U.S. and Canada must enact legislation for it to be implemented. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act was introduced in the last Congress. Currently, the 2001 "U.S.-Canada Air Transport Preclearance Agreement" continues to apply.

Preclearance is the process by which CBP officers stationed abroad screen and make admissibility decisions about passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage heading to the U.S. before they leave a foreign port. CBP officers do, however, retain the authority to inspect passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the U.S. CBP officers currently conduct preclearance operations at eight Canadian airports: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

This agreement achieves a key component of the "Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan." On Feb. 4, 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper released the "Beyond the Border" declaration, articulating a shared vision in which the two countries work together to address threats at the earliest point possible while facilitating the legitimate movement of people, goods and services across the shared border. The action plan outlines the specific steps the countries intend to take to achieve the security and economic competitiveness goals outlined in the "Beyond the Border" declaration.

For more information, visit www.dhs.gov.

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, joined Johnson and for the signing. He said, "With this agreement, the United States and Canada, through thoughtful dialogue and coordination, expand a shared vision for an efficient cross-border strategy. This joint front between our two nations promises to strengthen the northern border links which feed our binational economies and supports continued economic growth right here in Western New York."

Higgins serves as a member of the House committees on homeland security and foreign affairs, U.S.-Canada interparliamentary exchange and co-chairs the congressional northern border caucus. He has consistently raised the issue of shared border management during his time in Congress and urged the Department of Homeland Security to choose the Peace Bridge for a pre-inspection pilot project, which took place between February 2014 through January 2015.

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