Greenberg Traurig, LLP  




GT Business Immigration Observer
January 2002

Creation of a "Smart Border" and Joint U.S.-Canada Statement on Northern Border Priorities

On December 12, 2001, Canada and the U.S. signed an agreement to create a "smart border" between the two countries aimed at increasing security at the border while allowing for the free flow of people and goods.

As a result of increased security after the September 11 attacks, there have been long back-ups at the border which has affected the speedy transport of goods and parts across the border. On a normal day, approximately $1.3 billion goods cross the border every day between Canada and the U.S., with many U.S. factories dependent on daily deliveries of goods from Canada. According to the terms of the agreement, trucks with goods going between the two countries would be permitted to go into a "fast lane" after being pre-cleared and electronically sealed and avoid long delays at the border. This agreement also allows the suspended Nexus program to be re-started. The Nexus program allowed travelers who had been pre-approved to cross the border without delay.

This agreement comes after some concerns have been voiced in the U.S. regarding Canada’s immigration policies, which some U.S. officials view as being too flexible. In particular, some U.S. officials have concerns over Canada’s policy which allows refuges to remain free until their hearings unlike in the U.S. where refugees are held until their claims have been decided. In addition, because of its lax immigration policies, some U.S. officials are concerned Canada is an attractive country for terrorists and has been infiltrated by terrorist cells. Nabil al-Marahb, who is a suspect in the terrorist attacks, was arrested near Chicago for allegedly providing the hijackers in the attacks with false travel documents, lived in a Toronto suburb.

Earlier in the month, on December 3, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Solicitor General of Canada, Lawrance MacAuly, and Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Eleanor Caplan also signed a Memorandum of Cooperation addressing border security and immigration priorities along the shared border.

This agreement addresses various areas of concern arising after the September 11th terrorist attacks including: the expansion of the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams to add up to 8 geographic locations to share information; enhancement of existing communications of intelligence between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement under the direction of Project North Star; joint review of U.S-Canadian visitor visa policies and development of joint visa requirements to control unlawful migration; establishment of Joint Passenger Analysis Units assessing passenger information at key international airports in both countries; development of common biometric identification cards; and development of Safe Third Country Agreement" supporting the free exchange of asylum information to help determine the identity and background of asylum seekers.

Some in Canada have been critical of efforts to more closely align immigration polices as they feel Canada is giving up sovereignty solely due to U.S. security concerns. Canadian government officials disagree, arguing the security of Canada and the free flow of goods and people is Canada’s key concern.

To view the Department of Justice Release regarding the December 3rd agreement in full go to:

To view other Department of Justice Releases go to:


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