U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has again called on the Canadian government to implement pre-clearance for rail passengers seeking to enter Canada via Amtrak trains through the Niagara Falls International Railway Station.
At a Monday news conference, Schumer urged Canadian authorities to "stop stalling and implement" a pre-clearance plan put into place in 2016.
Schumer sponsored and successfully fought to pass the Promoting Travel, Commerce and National Security Act, which expanded U.S. jurisdiction over the American Customs and Border Protection agents who are operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements. Canada passed similar legislation into law in December 2017.
The senator said that set the stage for a pre-clearance program that would greatly expedite cross-border travel on Amtrak’s Maple Leaf train and "boost the border economy of Western New York."
Schumer noted that the Falls train station was designed to accommodate such a program and said that Canadian officials have failed to move their personnel and make pre-clearance a reality.
"Making pre-clearance a reality at this rail crossing will establish a more robust link between Western New York and Southern Ontario," Schumer said.
The senator said that would pave the way for his goal of a bi-national commuter transit system between Toronto and Western New York.
"From its earliest stages of development, the Niagara Falls International Railway Station was designed to contain a state-of-the-art pre-clearance facility, allowing Western New Yorkers and all Americans to travel to and from Canada’s Toronto Metro Area with ease, boosting commerce between our regions and both of our economies," Schumer said. "Today, even though we were successful in our years-long effort to transform the Niagara Falls Customhouse into a vibrant, multi-modal transportation hub, that pre-clearance facility remains under-utilized for no good reason."
Schumer said the ability to pass through customs before people board a train to enter Canada would be a remarkable convenience.
Currently, passengers must board a train in Niagara Falls, on the American side, then disembark in a less secure space in Ontario for a customs check after just having boarded the train moments earlier. The senator called that "unnecessarily cumbersome."
With major renovations of the Whirlpool Bridge now complete, Schumer argued, the time could not be better for Canadian customs officials to undertake the pre-clearance program.
“The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission is extremely appreciative of the longstanding focus and attention that Senator Schumer has dedicated to both the Canadian-American travel and trade relationship and issues involving the efficiency of operations at the Buffalo-Niagara region’s four international border crossings,” said Kenneth Bieger, the bridge commission's general manager. “Our organization remains open to any and all approaches to enhancing Port of Entry facilities, technologies, and conveyance processes, and will continue to work seamlessly with our partners in evaluating their applicability to the pre-clearance concept.”