The Department of Homeland Security is including in its 2014 budget a request for a feasibility study to charge people to cross the border. Tourism, business and legislative interests in New York’s north country say the idea could harm economic ties between the U.S. and Canada.
The proposal in the Department of Homeland Security’s 2014 budget request asks that Customs and Border Protection study the feasibility and cost of establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee for pedestrians and passenger vehicles, and the legal and regulatory impediments of establishing such fees.
Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas calls it an absolutely stupid idea.
The 21st Congressional District includes 13 border crossings in northern New York. Its representative, Democrat Bill Owens, who has worked on border trade issues throughout his term, finds the request without merit.
Beyond the practical application of such a proposal, Congressman Owens doesn’t think Washington understands the negative economic impact on border communities, and he notes that it contradicts the Beyond the Border Agreement released by President Obama and Canadian Premier Stephen Harper in December 2011.
The Department of Homeland Security Press Office e-mailed its response, noting that there is a disparity in user fee collections between air, land and seaports of entry. The agency is assessing options for broadening the user fee base to potentially include land border travel.
Bob DeCamp, Director of Regulatory Affairs and Consulting for the customs brokers firm A.N. Derringer, notes there are three levels of user fees for commercial border traffic.
DeCamp adds that the DHS proposal for pedestrian and passenger traffic would be economically disastrous.
Data from Congressman Owens’ office compiled by the Canadian Embassy and the North Country Chamber of Commerce shows that tourists from Canada made more than 21 million trips to the U.S. in 2011, spending more than $24 billion. Canada is the largest source of foreign direct investment in the U.S. and the two countries share a $1.2 trillion economic relationship.