The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is calling for a study to determine if fees should be imposed on everyone who crosses the border between Canada and the United States.
The DHS is seeking an unspecified amount of money from Congress to study the feasibility of instituting new fees to be imposed upon people entering the United States from Canada. Currently only those who enter the U.S. by sea or by air are required to pay a security fee. The proposal would charge everyone who enters the country by car, bus, train, or as a pedestrian.
Buried in the department's 2014 Budget, the proposal came to light after Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) questioned DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a meeting of the Homeland Security committee. Higgins represents a Western New York district on the border and is concerned that the new fee would reduce commerce between the two countries. Canadian officials, businesses, and other lawmakers in border states are also raising concerns.
Last week, Higgins wrote to Napolitano expressing his shock at the proposal. Higgins told the Secretary his district has three automobile and two rail crossing points. He pointed out that Buffalo is home to two professional sports teams that rely on a fan base from the Greater Toronto area. Higgins wrote [PDF], "Putting up economic barriers to regional commerce is the absolute last thing we should be doing to grow the economy of Western New York."
Higgins also described the new proposed fees as "unfairly subsidizing" enhanced security measures along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Higgins is not the only person upset at the thought of new border fees. Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Washington state, said the fee would be detrimental to local businesses that rely on Canadian shoppers. He said, "It would certainly dampen the desire by Canadian shoppers to come south. What sort of loss to local revenues is that going to cause?"
According to Niagara Frontier Publications, $1.5 billion in goods cross the border between the United States and Canada every day and this trade is responsible for more than one million U.S. jobs. And approximately 300,000 people cross the border daily. Canadians that come to the U.S. by vehicle spend about $235 million annually.
In addition to the new fees, the DHS is also planning to increase existing immigration and border fees.