At House Hearing, Higgins Questions Homeland Security Secretary About Peace Bridge
At today’s House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee hearing, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), a member of the Committee, asked direct questions regarding the future of the Peace Bridge expansion project in Western New York.
The committee hearing, titled “Understanding the Homeland Threat Landscape - Considerations for the 112th Congress” featured Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter as invited witnesses.
In a direct question to the Homeland Security Secretary, Higgins asked in part, “Madam Secretary, the Peace Bridge connects my community of Western New York to Southern Ontario. It is the busiest passenger crossing at the Northern Border and it is a vital economic asset to Western New York and to the country. We are advancing a project to reduce congestion at the Peace Bridge by building a new span and customs facilities. But our progress has been slowed in part due to ambiguous and sometimes conflicting communications from the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, confusion exists about whether the project could include “preclearance”, a shared border management strategy that would locate the American customs plaza on the Canadian side of the bridge…Madam Secretary, we need clarity from DHS on this issue in order for this important project to proceed… Is it your position that DHS will not reopen negotiations on preclearance at the Peace Bridge, and that the preclearance proposal is, for the purposes of this project, “dead”?”
The Secretary responded by affirming, “Representative, I will be very clear. We have looked into preclearance on the Canadian side. We cannot do it. The position has not changed. When and if the bridge and the facilities are expanded on the U.S. side we are fully prepared to provide the staffing and support for that on the U.S. side. We understand the importance of the span for trade and tourism and so forth. But we are not going to be able to resolve the preclearance issues in Canada.”
This week Congressman Higgins also sent a letter to the Commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) requesting a meeting to discuss how the two can work collaboratively to assure that the planning process on the Peace Bridge project proceeds at the most expeditious rate possible.
With President Obama’s State of the Union Address calling for an increased focus on exports and a recent meeting between the President and Prime Minister Harper calling for better coordination on northern border issues including a focus on infrastructure and technology at our busiest land ports of entry, Congressman Higgins is bringing national attention to the Peace Bridge expansion project as it moves toward a final “Record of Decision” necessary for construction to begin.
Canada is the leading export market for 36 U.S. states and represents a larger market for U.S. goods than all 27 European countries combined. The bilateral trade relationship represents the equivalent of $1.5 billion per day in goods.
Each day 300,000 people cross the U.S. – Canada border, with the Peace Bridge serving as the busiest passenger vehicle crossing at the Northern Border. Passenger vehicles using the Peace Bridge spend $133 million in Western New York each year, supporting more than 60,000 local jobs.
Congressman Higgins, whose district includes the Peace Bridge, is also a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. To see a video of the Homeland Security Committee hearing go to: https://www.youtube.com/user/congressmanhiggins.