Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is leading a coalition of House of Representatives members in opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed study of a land border crossing fee along the U.S. border with Canada. More than a dozen members representing the Northern Border have joined Congressman Higgins in writing a letter to the Homeland Security Secretary calling the proposed border toll a barrier to greater economic integration and asking for the Department to reject the plan.
Below is the text of the letter:
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
We write to convey our strong opposition to a proposal in the Department of Homeland Security’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, to study whether fees should be assessed on passengers and pedestrians crossing into the United States at land crossings.
This proposal would harm our border communities that depend on cross border travel and commerce. We urge you to reject it.
The economic integration of the United States and Canada and the facilitation of ease of access between the two countries should be a high priority for our federal government. Canada is our largest trading partner and the economic impact of Canadians on northern border communities -- and the benefit that Americans receive from traveling to Canada -- is significant. These economic and social traditions have solidified over centuries and should be promoted, not hindered. The future shared prosperity of communities on both sides of the border depends on it.
Further, such a fee would abrogate the spirit of the recent “Beyond the Border” agreement between the United States and Canada, a historic accord to facilitate cross border commerce on the Northern Border.
Given this, we were shocked to see that the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request proposed a study for a new toll on all passengers and pedestrians crossing the border from Canada into the United States. The imposition of such a toll would act as a barrier to the greater economic integration that we seek, and is the absolute last thing we should be doing to grow our economy. It would be a waste of government resources to even study the flawed idea.
Some have suggested that the toll could be used to offset the cost of increased security measures necessary to remain vigilant in a dangerous world. However homeland security and border protection are national priorities that benefit the entire country. Their cost should not be disproportionately borne by our communities, which should not be singled out and asked to do so.
We will actively oppose new fees for land border crossings and we urge you to reconsider this misguided proposal. At a time when we are looking to increase economic activity at our Northern Border, we should not be proposing policies that would do the reverse.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Higgins is a member of the House Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs and serves on the US-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Group. Higgins also sent a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction and would need to approve the fee. His congressional district of Western New York borders Canada and includes three automobile and two rail border crossings along the northern border.
Higgins also spoke out against the proposal on the Floor of the House of Representatives. The text of his remarks is below:
“Mr. Speaker, I was alarmed to discover that the Department of Homeland Security’s budget request proposed a study of the imposition of a fee – a tax – for passengers and pedestrians at our northern land border crossings.
“Western New York is home to 2 rail and 3 vehicle crossings including the Peace Bridge, the second busiest Northern Border crossing. Integrating the economies of Western New York and Southern Ontario is essential to our economic strength.
“And nationally, 300,000 people cross our Canadian border by vehicle each day and spend an estimated $235 million.
“Last year the American and Canadian governments signed the historic “Beyond the Border” agreement to bolster cross border travel. The imposition of a border toll will discourage cross border travel and goes against the spirit of this historic agreement.
“Mr. Speaker, we should be encouraging increased economic activity between the United States and Canada, not stifling it. This proposal is completely unacceptable and must be withdrawn immediately.”