|Higgins Calls for Waiving of Passport Requirement at Peace Bridge and Queenston-Lewiston Bridge; Requests Meeting with Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to Discuss Impact of Passport Requirement on Western New York|
|October 14, 2005|
Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Brian Higgins called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to waive the new proposal for passport requirement at the Peace Bride and at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, due to the devastating impact it would have on commerce and life quality between the U.S. and Canada. In a letter to Secretary Rice and Secretary Chertoff, Higgins also requested a meeting to discuss the impact of the passport requirement on Western New York, and asked that current allowable documents continue to be used until a reasonably priced alternative or national ID is implemented.
“The United States and Canada have shared a unique and beneficial relationship for hundreds of years,” said Higgins. “The proposed passport requirement, part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), will stifle the Western New York economy and place an undue burden on its communities. The most efficient and effective flow of traffic between the U.S. and Canada is of paramount importance for the security, economic development and life quality of my district.”
Higgins requested that the passport requirement at these crossing be waived, and the use of current documentation be continued until the establishment and enactment of a new form of identification that will prioritize faster and less expensive passage instead of the slower and cost-prohibitive proposal.
Higgins continued, “Canadians directly support the Buffalo economy and are our friends and neighbors; they come to Buffalo to support Buffalo Sabres; Canadians make up a large portion of the Buffalo Bills fan base and Canadian students make up almost half, in certain cases, of the student body at some of our 17 local colleges and universities. Many of my constituents travel back and forth across the border for work, church or to visit family each day and local governments have already seen a downturn in passage, tourism and spending as citizens of both countries stay home because they presume the passport requirement is already in place.”
The Peace Bridge and the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge already experience delays which account for 30% of total border costs which totaled $4.4 billion (USD) in 2001. Enacting the passport requirement will diminish tourism on both sides of the border, and will mean up to $598 (USD) in fees for a family of four to get passports at the last minute, if necessary, and will directly translate into job loss for the already fragile local economy.