03.01.16

Leahy Introduces Bipartisan Bill To Facilitate U.S. Preclearance Operations In Canada, Paving The Way For Expedited Air, Rail, Marine And Overland Travel

. . . Bill Helps Set Stage For U.S.-Canada Talks During Next Week’s State Visit By Prime Minister Trudeau

WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, March 1, 2016) – Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy on Tuesday led a bipartisan coalition of Senate and House legislators in introducing long-awaited legislation to facilitate travel and commerce between the United States and Canada, the largest U.S. trading partner.  The Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act paves 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 bill – unveiled days before the arrival next week of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – was introduced in the Senate by Leahy (D-Vt.) and is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).  Bipartisan companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

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 a threat 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 ensures that the U.S. has the legal authority to hold U.S. officials accountable if they engage in wrongdoing while stationed in Canada – a necessary prerequisite to full implementation of this agreement.

Leahy, a longtime advocate for improving cross-border travel, said:  “In Vermont we look to our Canadian neighbors as partners in trade and commerce and as joint stewards of our shared communities.  Many Vermont families have members on both sides of the border.  This agreement has long been a dream for Vermonters who have fond memories of taking the train north to Montreal to enjoy all that this vibrant cultural hub offers.  It is also a win for visitors from Canada’s largest cities who love to come to Vermont to sightsee, ski, shop and dine.  This agreement will greatly benefit the Vermont and the U.S. economies.”   

Approval of the legislation will advance discussions regarding the creation of a preclearance facility at Montreal’s Central Station, reestablishing train service between Vermont and Montreal, and is a step forward in improving the air service between Burlington International Airport and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The United States currently stations CBP officers in select locations in Canada to inspect passengers and cargo bound for the United States before they leave Canada.  These operations relieve congestion at U.S. airports, improve commerce, save money, and provide national security benefits.  Down the road, the bill also will help achieve the goal of restoring “Montrealer” passenger rail service between Vermont and Montreal.

More background information can be found HERE, and Senator Leahy’s full statement can be found HERE.

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