Bush adds $2-billion to border pot
By PAUL KORING
January 26, 2002
WASHINGTON -- In a bid to massively tighten the Canada-U.S. border without snarling trade or creating long delays, U.S. President George W. Bush has proposed a $2.1-billion (U.S.) spending increase that will put hundreds of additional customs, immigration and border-patrol agents along the 49th parallel.
In a speech yesterday in Portland, Me., Mr. Bush said he wants to boost border-control spending to $10.7-billion in the fiscal year beginning next October.
"It is so important for our nation to work with our friends to the north, Canada, and our friends to the south, Mexico, on border initiatives that, one, doesn't tie up commerce, but on the other hand, prevents illegal drugs, terrorists, arms from flowing across our border," Mr. Bush said.
Plans by the United States to create an entry-exit tracking system to account for every one of the 330-million crossings per year by non-U.S. citizens have raised fears in Canada of long border delays.
But the President said that close co-operation with the Canadian government, coupled with big increases in spending, would limit disruption.
"We're analyzing every aspect of the border and making sure that the effort is seamless, the communication is real, that the enforcement is strong," he said, referring to the 30-point "smart Border Declaration" signed last month by former foreign minister John Manley and Tom Ridge, the U.S. homeland-security czar appointed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
With the Mexico-U.S. border fenced and fortified as part of the long-running U.S. effort to stem migrant workers and illegal drugs, most of the proposed changes will apply to the Canadian border.
Details of the President's spending proposals issued by the White House say that the more than doubling of the number of "border-patrol agents and inspectors will focus particularly on the northern border," which has traditionally been only lightly patrolled.
In an emergency measure, the Bush administration deployed hundreds of National Guard troops to Canada-U.S. crossing points last fall, tainting the long-cherished claim on both sides of the frontier that the countries share the world's longest undefended border.
Although Mr. Bush extolled the Manley-Ridge agreement, Canadian officials say many details need to be worked out.
Although both governments are committed in principle to sharing information and allowing customs agents to work on each side of the border, stumbling blocks remain. Among them is whether U.S. customs agents -- who are armed -- will be allowed to wear their pistols on the Canadian side of the border.
Privately, Canadian officials express doubts about Washington's plans to establish a comprehensive entry-exit tracking system.
More than 500 million people enter and leave the United States every year.
Along the Canadian border there are 111 million crossings through 425 border points.
The huge spending increases will bring the U.S. immigration-enforcement budget, which accounts for about half of the total border program, to $5.3-billion, almost as much as Canada's entire defence budget.