Canadian Truck Drivers Crossing the Border Require Steep Qualifications
Vancouver, BC, Canada (PRWEB) June 17, 2012
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the US announced on June 5th a new Northern Border Strategy that would align processes within each of the 120 border crossings. One of the chief directions outlined in the new strategy is an increased focus on information sharing and co-operation between law enforcement agencies on either side of the border. “This information is meant to assist the border patrol in making judgements for entry,” says Janet Napolitano, Head of the DHS.
The US has always had access to Canadian criminal record data, but will update their infrastructure to gain access to more information digitally. These new standards will allow the DHS to draw information from Canada’s immigration offices regarding the biometric data of Canada’s temporary residents.
The Northern Border strategy states that one of its main goals is to “safeguard and encourage the efficient flow of lawful trade and travel.” It’s clear however, that security remains the number one priority for the border.
Express Pardons Canada – an agency that assists Canadians with criminal records, has been an outspoken critic of similar legislation and agreements before. “Every year, we process thousands of applications for US travel waivers for those who wish to enter the United States while holding a criminal record” says Jared Church – Express Pardons’ Founder. “It’s more common than a lot of people realize”, continues Church, “approximately one in seven adult Canadians holds a criminal record, and when you cross the border, even if you’ve been pardoned in Canada, they can still hold you back if you don’t have a [US travel] waiver.”
Historically, Customs and Border Protection Agents have only had access to the current criminal record data of Canadians, queried at the moment their passport is swiped at the border. Express Pardons’ is concerned that extending the data border agents have access to would include historical criminal record data. This could potentially extend border delays, increase false positive threats, and put the security of Canadian’s private information at risk.
Canada and the United States share the largest natural border between two countries in the entire world. Over 5,500 miles of mountains, plains, forests, lakes, and urban centers are divided by lines drawn on the map. The two countries also share the most lucrative trade partnership in the world, with 1.6 billion dollars per day crossing the border between the two nations, most of that trade crosses the border on the back of one of the 28,814 trucks that cross the border daily.
With the Canadian dollar performing strongly, thousands of Canadian truck drivers line up at the border, ready to haul the goods that sustain the Canadian economy. “Every day we get calls from drivers who have, in some instances, crossed the border for years without any issue. Suddenly, and seemingly out of the blue, a criminal record from decades-ago gets them turned back,” says Church.
Heightened security at the border has stifled traffic in the past. This has led to the creation of the FAST (Free And Secure Trade) pass, which allows Canadian truck drivers to apply for recognition as a low risk traveler. The specialized pass is like a golden ticket into the US for Canadian truck drivers, but the eligibility for a card still requires a clean record.
“You can ask the people in charge of hiring for shipping companies. A lot of them have a hard time finding suitable drivers domestically. Requiring drivers to have no current criminal record is difficult, expecting them to have a spotless past makes it almost impossible,” adds Church.
“A Canadian trucking and shipping business - and the Canadian economy - needs qualified men and women to cross the border daily. That’s one of the biggest reasons people come to us”, says Church, continuing, ”A FAST pass is so valuable to Canadian truck drivers now. Businesses, and the Canadian economy, simply cannot afford to have Canadian goods turned around at the border.”
With the latest developments regarding border security, those turnarounds might become a little more common.