WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, co-sponsored legislation introduced Tuesday to increase national security and facilitate travel and commerce between the United States and Canada. The Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act paves the way for expansion of preclearance facilities operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at land, rail, marine and air ports of departure in Canada.
Expanding preclearance operations will be on the table for further discussion when Prime Minister Trudeau arrives next week for the first state visit to Washington by a Canadian leader in two decades. The two governments reached an agreement about preclearance on March 16, 2015 and the bill introduced Tuesday is a necessary step toward solidifying the agreement.
“In February, I was pleased to see the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act signed into law. It included an important provision I worked on to authorize the Department of Homeland Security’s preclearance operations. Today, I am happy to join Sen. Leahy’s efforts in further expanding preclearance operations with our northern neighbor,” said Sen. Johnson. “Preclearance extends the United States’ virtual border to the last point of departure. This legislation expands the method from eight Canadian airports to other modes of transportation and provides needed authorities to CBP officers. The way to make our northern border more secure without impeding travel is through agreements like this. I’m glad that administration officials agree. This is an important step Congress can take to enhance our national security.”
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The other original cosponsors of the Senate bill are Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Bipartisan companion legislation was introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.).
The United States currently operates preclearance facilities at 15 airports in six countries, including Canada. These facilities allow travelers to pass through CBP inspections prior to traveling, expediting their arrival in the United States, and protecting national security by identifying individuals who represent a threat to U.S. national security before they depart foreign soil. Under the new agreement, the United States will expand its preclearance operations in Canada, which will include rail preclearance facilities for the first time. The Leahy-authored legislation is a necessary prerequisite to full implementation of this agreement, and therefore to the benefits of expanded preclearance operations in Canada. It ensures that any incidents involving U.S. personnel on the job in Canada are handled under U.S. law, not Canadian law.