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Border security issues.

Issue Definition

Border security has emerged as an area of public concern, particularly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Since the terrorist attacks, the United States and Canada have been striving to balance adequate border security with the facilitation of legitimate cross-border travel and commerce. As Congress passes legislation to enhance border security and the Administration puts into place procedures to tighten border enforcement, concerns persist with respect to the potential for terrorists to exploit the border. Congress previously passed significant border security-related legislation as discussed below, and issues pertaining to the oversight of such legislation and their possible policy implications for U.S.-Canada border relations continue to be of interest to Congress. These issues include (1) the requirement that U.S. Citizens, Canadian nationals, and other foreign nationals from countries in the Western Hemisphere, need a travel document to enter the United States; and (2) improvements to infrastructure at the border and ports of entry.

Background and Analysis

Both the United States and Canada have taken various measures to better secure the shared border while simultaneously preventing disruption to the flow of people and trade. Such efforts date back to 1995 and include a 30-point plan, commonly referred to as the "Smart Border Accord" (signed on December 12, 2001). The declaration includes a 30-point (now 32-point) plan to secure the border and facilitate the flow of low-risk travelers and goods through coordinated law enforcement operations, intelligence sharing, infrastructure improvements, improvement of compatible immigration databases, visa policy coordination, common biometric identifiers in travel documents, prescreening of air passengers, joint passenger analysis units, and improved processing of refugee and asylum claims, among other things. On December 3, 2001, the two countries signed a joint statement of cooperation on border security and migration that focuses on detection and prosecution of security threats, the disruption of illegal migration, and the efficient management of legitimate travel. Other efforts to increase border security between the U.S. and Canadian government include the 1999 Canada-U.S. Partnership Forum (CUSP) and the February 24, 1995, joint accord, Our Shared Border.

Congress also took action to better secure the border by passing the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56). The act authorized the Attorney General to triple the number of border patrol personnel and immigration inspectors along the northern border and authorized $50 million for the former INS to make technological improvements and to acquire additional equipment for the northern border. The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002 (the Border Security Act; P.L. 107-173) similarly authorized additional personnel and technological and infrastructure improvements at the borders. The Border Security Act contained a provision that required the development of technology to track the entry and exit of foreign nationals (referred to as the US-VISIT program). Both the USA PATRIOT Act and the Border Security Act required travel documents to be tamper resistant and contain a biometric identifier that is unique to the card holder.

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative

Congress passed legislation that requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to develop and implement a plan as expeditiously as possible to require a passport or other document, or combination of documents, "deemed by the Secretary of Homeland Security to be sufficient to denote identity and citizenship," for all travelers entering the United States. Commonly referred to as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), this provision in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) requires American and Canadian nationals (and other foreign nationals) to present some form of approved travel document to enter the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) final rule for WHTI took effect on June 1, 2009. Subsequently, DHS has ended the practice of accepting oral declarations of citizenship at the land border and is currently requiring U.S. citizens to present a passport, some other accepted biometric document, or the combination of a driver's license and a birth certificate, in order to reenter the country. Moreover, the WHTI final rule requires that U.S. citizens present an approved secure document that denotes identity and citizenship at the land border. This rule ends the previous practice of accepting driver's licenses and birth certificates as proof of identity and citizenship at the border. Approved documents include passport books, passport cards, and frequent traveler cards (such as SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST), while additional provisions are made for military identification, tribal cards, and for certain special groups of travelers.

Additionally, some states have entered into agreements with DHS and have developed (or are developing) enhanced driver's licenses (EDL) that include citizenship information and are valid for WHTI purposes. The states currently issuing EDLs are Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington. DHS has also stated that they are working with the Canadian government and several Canadian provinces to develop EDLs or other similar documents for Canadian citizens that would be valid for WHTI purposes. Thus, according to DHS, the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec either do, or will soon, offer EDLs. Prior to its implementation, WHTI fostered much debate in Canada as well as the United States, as some observers voiced concerns that the increased documentation requirements at the border may suppress travel between the two nations. Yet, since its implementation much of the more vocal criticism has dissipated.

Status of the Issue

The U.S. and Canadian governments continue to implement the provisions in the Smart Border Accord. For example, both countries have expanded the NEXUS program to 19 border crossing locations, 33 marine reporting locations, and 8 Canadian pre-clearance locations with kiosks. Both countries continue to explore the feasibility of creating additional joint facilities at agreed upon ports of entry and sharing of information through interoperable technology. Additionally, both countries have begun to take steps to share passenger information on high-risk travelers en route to either country through a risk-scoring scheme that was jointly developed; and in 2004, an automated process to share "lookout" data between both countries was developed. However, negotiations between the U.S. and Canada over two proposed pre-clearance pilot programs were reportedly abandoned by DHS due to sovereignty issues, the right of individuals to withdraw from inspections, and concerns about Canadian legal restrictions on Customs and Border Protection officers' authorities relating to arrests, fingerprinting, and other activities.


1. The WHTI has made significant changes to the documentary requirements needed to enter the United States. What steps is the Canadian government taking to ensure that Canadian citizens are aware of these changes? Will the Canadian government consider imposing similar requirements on American citizens entering Canada? Will Canada develop its own version of the passport card for Canadian citizens? Will Canadian provinces develop their own EDLs for WHTI?

2. In recent years, a number of different technologies, including the US-VISIT program, have been implemented at northern ports of entry. With the advent of the WHTI, the demand for improved infrastructure will continue to be critical. What measures have been taken by the Canadian government to mitigate the impact of such a demand at its border crossings? Are there collaborative efforts that could be undertaken to alleviate some of the pressure on busy ports of entry?

3. The Smart Border Accord calls on the two countries to develop approaches to move customs and immigration inspection activities away from the border. While such an approach is already present at Canadian airports, there has been interest in expanding it to areas away from land ports of entry. What is the Canadian government doing to facilitate this objective? What was the reason that negotiations over the land-border pilot program failed? Are there any potential solutions for the problems that led to the pre-clearance pilots to be scrapped?
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Title Annotation:Canada-U.S. Relations
Publication:Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2010
Previous Article:Canada's Arctic sovereignty claim.
Next Article:Border security: trade and commercial concerns.

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