Lawmakers Discuss Charging a Fee to Cross the Border into the US

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security requested permission from Congress to consider charging a fee for entry into the United States. This request has stirred a raging debate among lawmakers throughout the country.

Currently, Canadians drive into the United States to purchase goods at a much cheaper rate than they ever could receive back home. Such purchases have been and continue to be an economic boon for northern states like New York. However, if Canadians were charged a fee for entering the United States, many lawmakers and businesses believe that the trek would no longer be worth it.

If this were to happen, northern legislators say, the economy would suffer tremendously. As one small business owner put it, “They should be doing anything they can to get them down here to buy more.” Echoing this sentiment, 18 Republican and Democratic House lawmakers wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explaining, “The imposition of such a toll would act as a barrier to the greater economic integration that we seek, and is the absolute last thing we should be doing to grow our economy.”

Proponents of the fee believe that it can be set at a rate that would not affect the influx of Canadians, and, to the contrary, would help stimulate economic growth by generating supplemental revenue. However, that is not the way Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont sees it. He is sponsoring an amendment to the immigration reform bill that would bar Homeland Security from taking the idea any further. He also promised to stop any funding that might go toward the initiative.

Similarly, in the House of Representatives, Suzan DelBene of Washington State introduced a bill to stop the creation of the fee, and many lawmakers have supported her. Nevertheless, representatives of southern states have not really expressed negative feelings toward the initiative. They view charging individuals from Mexico and other countries for entrance into the United States as simply an attempt to ratchet-up border security.

Congressman Ruben E. Hinojosa, who represents a district in Texas that includes McAllen and its nearby border region, told reporters, “I would support crossing fees only if the funds garnered would be used to upgrade our facilities, provide better equipment for our agents, or [were] used for the hiring of more agents at our border crossings.”

In the grand scheme of things, the fee proposal would no doubt economically affect northern states like New York much more than southern states.

Ultimately, the fee issue is making lawmakers choose between two competing interests: the nation’s strong desire to secure its borders and its long-term goal of creating economic stability.

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