June plans for NEXUS at Peace Arch?

Published on Thu, Feb 14, 2002 by Meg Olson

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June plans for NEXUS at Peace Arch?

By Meg Olson

Surveyors and technology teams were milling around the Peace Arch port of entry Tuesday, trying to work out the kinks to getting a NEXUS commuter lane operating there before the summer crowds arrive. “We want to get it up and running by June,” said Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) computer expert Stacey Day. “There’s a lot we need to do,” said Peace Arch facility manager James Silk.

While the practical work of putting NEXUS in at Peace Arch rather than the less accessible Pacific Highway crossing seems to be under way, the policy-makers are still keeping their cards close to their chests. “There are complicated, diplomatic issues involved here,” said INS regional spokesperson Virginia Kice, saying further details would need to come from INS headquarters in Washington D.C. No one from national headquarters was available for comment.

“There are still some outstanding issues such as enrollment fees, what kind of background information will be required,” Kice said. “June’s going to slip unless we get these and other issues resolved.”

Kice and Canada Customs counterpart Colette Gentes-Hawn confirmed that the NEXUS system would be run cooperatively by U.S. and Canadian customs and immigration agencies. “NEXUS is definitely what is planned and it will definitely be a joint program.” Gentes Hawn said. “From our conversations with our U.S. counterparts there is not yet a firm date,” for the program to be up and running at Washington ports. However, other sources within Canada Customs said the target was to get the system rolling “before the official start of summer.”

A NEXUS pilot program is already up and running at Port Huron, Michigan. The system was developed using funds allocated by Congress in 1999 to expand the PACE program at Washington ports of entry. A November 2000 INS status report stated $978,000 of the $1.6 million allocated had been spent so far and equipment had been purchased for Pacific Highway and the Peace Arch crossings as well as Port Huron. They anticipated spending another $264,000 for modifications to enrollment systems and equipment for those sites. NEXUS was originally scheduled to replace PACE starting in September 2001.

Seattle district inspections managers were also unavailable. Kice couldn’t confirm local details, such as whether the new lane would go in at the Peace Arch, where a dedicated lane already exists that used to accommodate PACE participants. Before the PACE program was cancelled due to security concerns, some work was already done at the less accessible Pacific Highway crossing and space was set aside for an enrollment office.

Pressure from local, state and national levels continues to be put on participating agencies to get NEXUS rolling quickly. In a February 6 letter to members of the Washington congressional delegation, county executive Pete Kremen reported on meetings he and other Whatcom County representatives had with top customs and INS brass in Washington D.C.

“They indicated negotiations with Canada for extension of the NEXUS program to other ports of entry were positive in advance of the Shared Border Accord meeting scheduled for February 28,” he wrote. Kremen said they had requested the lane be open by late spring, operated jointly with Canada and with no or a low fee.

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