Key Senate Panel Clears Bill With Leahy-Led Provisions To Expedite U.S.-Canada Travel And Commerce

. . . Preclearance Needed To Restart “Montrealer” Passenger Rail Service To Canada And Will Be Used To Facilitate Toronto-To-Vermont Flights At Burlington International Airport

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, May 26, 2016) – The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved an annual spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and with it key provisions authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to increase national security and facilitate travel and commerce between the United States and Canada.  Preclearance arrangements are especially important to Vermont, which hopes to restore “Montrealer” passenger train service linking Vermont to Canada in the coming years, and to secure flight service from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to Burlington International Airport.

In March, Leahy, joined by other partners in the Senate, introduced his Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act, which would pave the way for expansion of preclearance facilities, operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at land, rail, marine, and air ports of departure in Canada.  The Fiscal Year 2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act approved Thursday includes a modified version of the Leahy-authored bill.  Leahy is a leading member of the Appropriations panel and is a longtime advocate for improving cross-border travel that is a strong element of Vermont’s economy. 

Of Thursday’s committee action, Leahy said:  “In Vermont, Canada is not just our neighbor to the north.  Canadians are partners in business, commerce and tourism; for many Vermonters they are family; and for our country they are our closest allies.  Further facilitating preclearance operations between our two nations will help bolster the Vermont and U.S. economies, as well as Canada’s economy.  It will help restore rail service from Vermont to Montreal.  It will infuse Vermont’s resort and destination vacation industries with new business.  It’s a strong, practical step in the right direction.”

The United States and Canada reached an agreement about preclearance on March 16, 2015, and the Leahy-backed provisions in the DHS appropriations bill are a necessary step toward solidifying the agreement.  In April, Leahy joined other Vermont and Canadian leaders at the rail station in Essex Junction, Vermont, to discuss the importance of preclearance operations.

The United States currently operates preclearance facilities at 15 airports in six countries, including Canada.  These facilities allow travelers to pass through CBP inspections prior to traveling, expediting their arrival in the United States, and protecting national security by identifying individuals who represent threats to U.S. national security, before they depart foreign soil.   Under the new agreement, the United States will expand its preclearance operations in Canada, which will include rail preclearance facilities for the first time.  The Leahy-authored legislation is a necessary step to full implementation of this agreement and to the benefits of expanded preclearance operations in Canada.  It ensures that any incidents involving U.S. personnel on the job in Canada are handled under U.S. law, not Canadian law.

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