More rules to tighten the border

Published on Thu, Nov 7, 2002 by Meg Olson

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More rules to tighten the border

By Meg Olson

As the United States continues to beef up security measures, Canada is growing testier about travel restrictions placed on their citizens and residents travelling to the United States.

In an October 29 travel advisory, the Canadian department of foreign affairs advised Canadians born in Arab countries “to consider carefully whether they should attempt to enter the United States for any reason.” The warning came after a Canadian citizen was deported to Syria, where he was born, during a stopover in the United States on his way back to Toronto earlier this month. “We’ve registered our strongest disapproval,” said Canadian foreign minister Bill Graham.

The Canadian travel advisory warned of a new U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) program introduced on September 11, 2002, to keep tabs on anyone born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria, or who may now be a citizen of those countries. Under the system those individuals are fingerprinted and photographed, and their entry and exit from the country is monitored. Canadians were also warned that “individuals who were born or have citizenships of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Yemen could also attract special attention.”

A report in the Wall Street Journal this summer said a smaller scale program, in place since 1991, had collected 54,000 signatures but the INS said none had been linked to terrorism.

During question period on October 31 Graham told the Canadian House of Commons he had received assurances from U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci that all Canadians would be treated equally at U.S. borders. “The American authorities will work this out with us in a spirit of neighborliness. All Canadians will be treated as Canadians when travelling on Canadian passports,” he said.

Bellingham immigration attorney Greg Boos said the entry and exit program was one of many new immigration regulations aimed at tighter control over visitors to the United States. A potentially more far-reaching rule was scheduled for publication in the Federal Register this week but was withdrawn pending further review by the federal office of budget and management, scheduled to be completed by December.

The new rule would remove the visa and passport waiver regulation for permanent residents of Canada, no matter what country they hold citizenship in. This would mean all landed immigrants would need a passport and could need a visa to visit the U.S. Currently citizens of 54 countries, including most Commonwealth countries, who are permanent residents of Canada are under a waiver of U.S. passport and visa requirements.

“It will have a profound effect on U.S./Canada relations,” Boos said. “The exemption for Canadian landed immigrants from the British Commonwealth has been in place since Canada was a colony. A change of this rule is truly a slap in the face to our Canadian neighbors.”

Information about the possible impact of the new regulation is available through the U.S. public inquiries division of visa services at 202/663-1225. For information about the procedure for publishing and implementing the rule is available from the state department visa office at 202/663-1260.
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