U.S. considers fencing off Canada

WASHINGTON — Some U.S. lawmakers have proposed studying the concept of erecting walls or fences along sections of the world’s longest undefended border.

In a plan that Canadian officials and opposition politicians in the U.S. are dubbing another “Berlin Wall,” the House of Representatives passed a bill that includes an initiative to study the construction of a security fence and other physical barriers along sections of the 6,500 km Canada-U.S. border.

The reference to the study was quietly attached to the “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 as an amendment by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Bill proposing barriers between Canada and
the US not retaliation for anti-US comments: Officials

The attached study reference passed by a vote of 260-159. It requires Homeland Security to look into the “necessity of building such a system, and the feasibility of constructing (it)” and report back to Congress with its findings in a year’s time.

The original bill — a reaction to massive illegal immigration and drugs pouring into the U.S. from Mexico — legislated new fencing, barriers, and security technology like cameras, along the southern border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The news comes just after the start of a new round of bickering between Canadian politicians and U.S. officials over the level of anti-American sentiment in Ottawa.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins warned Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin to tone down what he says are “cheap shots” against the U.S. in order to score points in the election race. Wilkins hinted that Canada could risk damaging its relationship with the Americans if high-ranking Liberals didn’t quit the rhetoric.

But Martin denied he is making the United States a target in his election campaign, adding that he has been consistent in his positions on the U.S. role in softwood lumber and climate change.

However, sources told Canadian Press that the inclusion of the study amendment was not to punish Canadian politicians for remarks, but instead prompted by southern U.S. representatives wanting to assure their Hispanic electorate that they are not penalizing one border over another.

Alex Swann, spokesman for Canada’s Public Safety
Minister Anne McLellan, told CP that Canada has absolutely no interest in entertaining a plan for a security barrier along the 49th.

Other officials told media that U.S. lawmakers should focus their attention in improving trade flow at commercial crossings by promoting expedited border clearance programs like FAST.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is still ready to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which allows only travelers — including Americans — with passports or alternative documentation to enter the country.

The American Trucking Associations and the Canadian Trucking Alliance have spent over a year lobbying the Administration to exempt truck drivers from the rule, and are urging the government to consider certain existing federal credentials in lieu of passports, such as Free and Secure Trade (FAST) IDs, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), and other appropriate government issued identifications and screening programs.

— with files from Canadian Press and Associated Press

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