Larsencalls for hearing on NEXUS problems

Published on Thu, Nov 8, 2007 by eg Olson

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Larsen calls for hearing on NEXUS problems

By Meg Olson

U.S. Representative Rick Larsen is calling for the House Homeland Security Committee to hold a hearing addressing the growing number of complaints about the NEXUS trusted-traveler program.

With a November 5 letter to subcommittee co-chairs Christopher Carney (D-PA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Larsen included recent stories on the NEXUS program published in The Northern Light that documented faltering local enrollment, a rising rate of denials, and revocations that users describe as “ludicrous.”

“My office has heard from over 40 constituents who have experienced serious problems with their NEXUS applications or renewals,” Larsen said. “We need to get to the bottom of the problems that seem to be crippling this important program.”

After asking readers to send in their stories about crossing the border, The Northern Light and sister publication All Point Bulletin received dozens of replies. More than half of those had complaints about the NEXUS program: a lack of “uniform rules” at odds with a strict zero-tolerance policy; unreasonable standards for admissibility; no consistent process to appeal a revocation or denial.

In a recent submission one user complained that he had been denied when renewing his NEXUS membership, and was initially not given a reason for the denial. During a meeting with a local supervisor he was told his denial was based on information from 1998, in his then-teenage son’s file: the youth, who did not live with his father and was driving his mother’s car, had been pulled over because officers smelled marijuana on his clothes. None was found and he was allowed to proceed. He remained a PACE member.

“Where does it say anywhere the program is a family plan?” he wondered. He was also nonplussed that the denial was based on an incident where no violation was issued, no penalty assessed, no evidence seized. Local supervisors told him “any information could be used” in denying a NEXUS application or renewal.

Larsen said he would ask the subcommittee to look at a number of issues surrounding the program: the zero-tolerance policy, staffing shortages, “disconnects” between the new global enrollment system and local offices, and the lack of an appeals process.

“With long lines at the border and the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia not far into the future, it is imperative that the NEXUS program be efficient, secure, and protect cross-border commerce,” Larsen wrote. “Unfortunately NEXUS has seen crippling problems this summer.”

Larsen’s communications director Amanda Mahnke said while he did not have specific solutions to those problems the hearing would give members of Congress the opportunity to ask tough questions of the Department of Homeland Security.