North country Congressman Bill Owens has joined a Vermont lawmaker in urging the Department of Homeland Security to abandon a proposal to charge fees to cross the U.S. - Canadian border.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Owens and Congressman Peter Welch urge her to reject the plan.
The proposal to study cross-border fees was included in the Homeland Security's 2014 budget request.
"This is just a bad idea," Welch and Owens said in a news release. "Border communities in Vermont and New York depend on cross border travel and commerce. The Department of Homeland Security should abandon this ill-advised study before it even begins."
The following is Welch and Owens' full letter to Napolitano:
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
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.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress