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Sun., Oct. 4
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Congressman Owens vows to prevent U.S. Homeland Security from charging border fees


MASSENA - Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, vowed Monday to prevent the U.S. government from charging travelers to cross borders after the Department of Homeland Security floated the idea in its 2014 fiscal year budget proposal.

“Imposing a fee to cross the border is a bad idea, plain and simple,” Mr. Owens said in a news release. “I represent a number of communities that depend on Canadian travelers and investment to support local businesses and job growth. Instead of adding an additional barrier for commerce, we should be taking more steps to ease the legitimate flow of people and goods between our two countries.”

In its budget submission, DHS proposed to complete a study — within nine months of enactment — “assessing the feasibility and cost relating to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee for both land border pedestrians and passenger vehicles along the northern and southwest borders of the United States.”

Thousand Islands Bridge operators said they were glad that the congressman was responding quickly to what could possibly be a “detriment” to the region’s economy if it were to be implemented.

“It flies right in the face of the Beyond the Border initiative, which aims to streamline what happens at the border,” said Robert G. Horr III, executive director of the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority.

The Beyond the Border Action Plan is a joint agreement between U.S. and Canada to work together to secure the northern border while expediting lawful trade and travel.

Charging travelers a fee to offset expenses of introducing new federal regulations is not a new concept, Mr. Horr said, but it’s something that has been shot down several times in the past and must be prevented again to stop the further “thickening” of the northern border.

Mr. Horr said he also viewed the feasibility study itself as a waste of money.

“Is this taxpayer money well spent? In my opinion, it’s not,” he said.

Rep. Owens vowed to “explore all legislative options available to me to prevent this move in the months ahead.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Owens hosted a forum at Clarkson University that focused on initiatives — such as the Beyond the Border Action Plan and the Regulatory Cooperation Council — that aim to improve the flow of trade and tourism along the northern border.

“Good work is being done across the district to reduce wait times and promote increased trade with America’s neighbor to the north,” Mr. Owens said. “We should keep focus on these positive developments and set aside any initiatives that would diminish the progress already taking hold.”

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