AZ Paper Puts Spotlight on America’s Borders

The Arizona Capitol Times offers a must-read piece for anyone interested in the Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S. border.

The report profiles two farmers living at different ends of America’s borders, addressing is a very accessible way the challenges facing both borders.

Main takeaways:

Managing Borders requires Attention to Non-Attention Grabbing Policy Issues.  Employer outreach, information sharing, regulatory alignment, border wait times, services industry labor mobility issues:  Not the hottest discussion points.  But they are achievable policy items that, if done right, can enhance North American economic growth and security.  Check out Dennis Moroney’s quote near the bottom the excerpt below, it might change your perception of how the United States should prioritize its foreign policy goals.

The Canada-U.S. Border Isn’t a “Technicality.”  Bitter, one of the farmers profiled, considers the Canada-U.S. border a “technicality,” but in the next breath laments that border wait times have forced his delivery route to change.  While the Mexico-U.S. border gets considerable national attention, both the United States and Canada can enhance management of their border.  And they are:  the Beyond the Border Action Plan and Regulatory Cooperation Council shows that both nations know the benefit of deepening their crossborder economic and security partnership.  But this work requires appreciating the importance of the Canada-U.S. border to Canadians and Americans alike, and ensuring border policies respect and benefit both nations’ citizens.  

The Need for a North American Framework When Discussing U.S. Borders.  While the Arizona Capitol Times details the economic barriers along the Canada-U.S. border, noticeably absent in any mention of Beyond the Border Action or the Regulatory Cooperation Council.

The long-term goal?  “[Dennis] Moroney would rather see a more welcoming relationship between the United States and Mexico, similar to the relationship that the U.S. has with Canada.”

From Molly J. Smith’s report in The Arizona Capitol Times:

Routes have also become longer. The quickest route to Michigan for [Jim] Bittner’s products used to be a short-cut through Canada, but long wait times at the border have made it impossible.

“That took an hour off the trip. It’s great roads going up through Canada,” Bittner says. “But all of the truckers that I deal with, that haul my product for me, stay on the American side. They go all the way up around through Cleveland, up and around, it’s another hour trip to go to northern Michigan… It adds mileage, it adds cost but the interesting thing is it’s not getting into Canada. It’s getting back into the United States. It’s the hassle.”

A 2010 Government Accountability Office report found that the northern border suffered from a lack of agency coordination between the many law enforcement partners in the area, including local, federal, state and Canadian agencies. That year, Border Patrol reported that only 32 of the nearly 4,000-mile northern border had “an acceptable level of security.” It has since been increased to 69 miles. The GAO recommended that the Department of Homeland Security increase their oversight of agencies to ensure efficient communication. But in a follow-up report in 2013, the GAO found that this oversight had not been properly established and that some agencies may be overlapping in their duties.

According to the DHS, the border shared by the United States and Canada is the longest common border in the world. The DHS’s 2012 Northern Border Strategy highlights the unique relationship between the two countries, with more than 300,000 people and $1.5 billion in trade crossing the U.S.-Canada border daily.

Rather than illegal crossings, the primary security concern in the area is terrorism. This issue was highlighted in an April 2013 incident in which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI were instrumental in stopping a planned terrorist attack on a commuter train bound from Toronto to New York.

Bittner acknowledges that there is a potential for terrorism along the northern border but he says he isn’t too concerned. For him, the Canadian border is a “technicality.”

Moroney would rather see a more welcoming relationship between the United States and Mexico, similar to the relationship that the U.S. has with Canada. According to U.S. census data, Mexico is the country’s third-largest trade partner behind Canada and China. While President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have worked together on a shared vision for security along the northern border, Moroney feels that international relations between the United States and Mexico are sour.

“My personal view is that our own government is not looking at this whole situation in a rational way,” Moroney says. “Working with Mexico to bring about a little more economic parity for the poor people would seem to have been a better mission for Hillary Clinton than shuttling around the Middle East where we don’t seem to have done a damn bit of good in my whole lifetime.”

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