Officials complain about northern border policy

Published 16 July 2009

Five-hundred government officials, policy experts, and business leaders from the United States and Canada gather to discuss the impact of security measures along the U.S.-Canada border on commerce; their conclusion: What is good for the U.S.-Mexico border may be unsuitable for the U.S.-Canada border

Officials from the United States and Canada say that American northern border policy, shaped by terrorism concerns and Mexican border issues, is negatively impacting Pacific Northwest communities. “We’re trying to decide what to do with the Canadian border based on what we do with the Mexican border,” Idaho Representative George Eskridge, said during a discussion Monday at the annual summit of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. “I think that’s wrong, because we’ve got different problems.”

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that border policy is just one topic on the agenda at the meeting this week in Boise, attended by about 500 government officials, policy experts, and business leaders from the United States and Canada. Leaders also will delve into cross-border issues like energy, agriculture and economic development.

Monday’s session focused on the pros and cons of the existing border policy.

Donald Alper, a Western Washington University political scientist and director of the Border Policy Research Institute, said his research shows a significant decline in cross-border travel since tighter security measures were imposed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He also said communities that had developed close cross-border cultures have seen those relationships erode as the United States limited access. “My personal view is it’s probably ludicrous that we’re securitizing the border with Canada to the point that we are,” said Alper.

Montana Representative Julie French (D-Scobey), said the federal government is pouring $15 million in economic stimulus funds into upgrading a border crossing in her district that caters to about 10 cars a day, “They need to be updated, yes. Fifteen million? No. I mean, common sense is what is lacking for all of this,” she said.