Debates on illegal immigration and border security arise as the Gang of Eight bipartition immigration reform bill moves into U.S legislature. While a consensus on restricting entry from the southern border with Mexico seems to be established, some lawmakers from New England are attempting to protect the long tradition of a “fence-free” northern border with Canada.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, along with several other senators representing northern states, has constructed an amendment to the immigration reform bill to maintain easy access between the U.S-Canadian border and prevent the U.S government from implementing an admission fee on those who cross the northern border.
Leahy justifies the amendment by pointing out that there are few incentives for Canadians to settle in the U.S illegally as they already enjoy numerous social benefits, such as universal health care, at home.
“[Canadians] are coming here as tourists, but they want to go back home,” said Leahy.
Leahy has more reasons to retain the openness of U.S-Canadian border—Canada is the largest foreign trading partner for Vermont. In fact, Canada has deep economic and personal relationships with New England and other northern states in general. Every year, a large number of Canadians enter the U.S for work and travel with temporary visas, and vice versa.
“If we didn’t have the markets and the business and the trade [with Canada], they might as well take the northern part of the United States and chop it off,” said Roy Amey, a business in Pittsburg, New Hampshire.
Treating the two borders differently appears discriminatory. However, proponents of the amendment argue that the difference is not based on prejudice, but on reality. Tamar Jacoby, president and chief executive of ImmigrationWorks USA, states that American voters are “not afraid of Canadian immigrants.” Rather than illegal immigration, U.S authorities are more concerned about suspected terrorists abusing the easy access at the northern border.
To further discourage illegal immigration and entrants, the immigration reform bill calls for a $3 billion investment into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build a stronger border defence strategy. The DHS has joined hands with both Canada and Mexico to develop an Entry/Exit Information to track abnormal travel history and overstays. According to the New York Times, the U.S-Canada collaboration is more efficient than its Mexican counterpart.
The U.S government is adamant about cracking down illegal immigration by increasing guard at the borders, but its policies on border crossing may have to be different for its northern and southern neighbours.
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