U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) this week announced a new bill that would lead to a preclearance border security program for passenger trains traveling from Montreal into New York State.
The proposed “Promoting Travel and National Security Act of 2016” would expand U.S. jurisdiction over the American Customs and Border Protection agents that are operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements, the lawmakers said in a joint press release.
Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill would facilitate air, rail, marine and overland travel between the United States and Canada, according to Leahy’s office. A new agreement between the United States and Canada would expand those facilities to include rail for the first time.
The bill introduced this week is necessary to establish a preclearance process for Amtrak trains between Montreal and New York City, with stops in the North Country region and Albany, N.Y., the lawmakers from New York said.
Currently, passengers traveling on Amtrak’s Adirondack Line wait at the border for more than an hour while customs agents check the entire train. A pre-clearance program would help speed up that process.
The legislation would ensure U.S. citizens and federal workers are subject to U.S. law and legal protections when working at the pre-clearance location across the border in Canada, where they would be working to “pre-clear” passengers on the Adirondack Line, the lawmakers said.
“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,” Schumer said. “This legislation will bring us one step closer to reducing horrible wait times and boosting tourism opportunities for local businesses for years to come.”
Creating a preclearance process for passenger trains traveling between Canada and New York State has been of interest to business leaders on both sides of the border.
“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 pre-clearance agreement negotiated between the U.S. and Canada,” said Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.