U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik today announced legislation that would bring the pre-clearance program that more easily allows Canadians to travel to the North Country and Capital Region one step closer to reality. The Senators and Congresswoman explained that the bill they are introducing and pushing in Congress, the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016, would expand U.S. jurisdiction over the American Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents that are operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements. Schumer, Gillibrand and Stefanik said this would ensure American citizens and federal government workers are subject to U.S. law and legal protections when working at the pre-clearance location just across the border in Canada, where they would be working to pre-clear passengers traveling on Amtrak’s Adirondack line from Montreal which stops in the North Country and Albany. The Senators and Congresswoman said that, right now, passengers on this line are stopped at the border – oftentimes for more than an hour – while CBP clears the entire train, making the trip longer and a more arduous process. Schumer, Gillibrand and Stefanik said making the trip from Montreal through the North Country and Capital Region would not only boost travel efficiency, but also increase tourism opportunities for local businesses in New York.
“Implementing pre-clearance for passenger trains traveling between New York and Canada will be critical to both increasing efficiency and economic opportunities for the North Country and Capital Region – and clearing these legal hurdles now will better pave the way to making this prescreening program a reality. This legislation will bring us one step closer to reducing horrible wait times and boosting tourism opportunities for local businesses for years to come,” said Senator Schumer. “I am urging my colleagues in Congress to pass this bill, which will allow the North Country to continue as an economic artery for Northern New York, pumping in vital investment and growth for a generation.”
“As one of the busiest passenger crossings in the country, safety and efficiency are critical in connecting the U.S. with Canada,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Making the pre-inspection at the Peace Bridge permanent would enhance the security of the transfer of goods and services across the border. The safeguards provided by the legislation would help move along this critical process that will boost New York’s economy especially in the North Country and preserve our economic links with Canada.”
“This significant, bipartisan legislation is great news for U.S.-Canadian relations and will go a long way to benefit our Upstate New York economy,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Increasing commerce with our Canadian neighbors is a top economic priority for our region, and this legislation will help build increased economic ties while supporting travel, commerce and tourism between our two nations as well. Furthermore, this legislation will help build integrated defense capabilities to maintain a secure Northern border. Importantly for the North Country, this legislation will facilitate Amtrak service from Montreal through our district, and will reinforce the future of small border crossings by allowing the option of joint operations on one side or the other. This is a landmark piece of legislation for U.S. and Canadian relations and I look forward to helping move it through Congress.”
“Nothing is more important to the North Country economy than our relationship with Canada, and the North Country Chamber has no higher priority in Washington and Ottawa this year than approval of the preclearance agreement negotiated between the U.S. and Canada,” states Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. “Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congresswoman Stefanik continue to show real leadership in valuing and nurturing our cross border relationship and so it is no surprise they are among the original sponsors of the Senate and House bills which will provide U.S. approval to this historic agreement. This agreement will allow common sense solutions to challenges such as how to speed cross border Amtrak service, how to enhance processing at major crossings with tight space such as Massena-Cornwall, and how to secure the long term future of our smaller border crossings through sharing. Onward and upward for our U.S.-Canadian connections!”
The Senators and Congresswoman said clearing this next legal hurdle is needed in order to make the pre-clearance program a reality. Schumer, Gillibrand and Stefanik said making this program a reality is the critical next step in reducing Amtrak train delays at the Canada-New York border and increasing tourism revenue opportunities for North Country and Capital Region businesses.
Schumer, Gillibrand and Stefanik said providing the legal authority to help make this program possible is the next step in moving toward full implementation of passenger train pre-clearance. By pre-screening passengers and trains on the Canadian side of the border, it will reduce wait times and increase economic opportunities on the American side. The Senators and Congresswoman said this would greatly improve commerce between businesses on both sides of the border.
Click here to view Congresswoman Stefanik's remarks on the House Floor in support of H.R. 4657.