The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new strategy for enhancing security along the U.S.-Canada border that seeks to deter and prevent terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal immigration while encouraging and safeguarding the flow of lawful trade and people.
The Northern Border Strategy calls for Homeland Security "to improve information sharing and analysis" within the department and other government partners, and to enhance coordination with Canada. The department said it also will deploy technologies to aid joint security efforts and continue to update infrastructure to facilitate trade and travel.
The strategy is the first department-wide plan to guide its policies and operations along a border that Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in 2011 was "grossly underprotected" when it comes to terrorists, drug smugglers and other illegal activity.
The new strategy says the 5,525-mile border with Canada is the "single-greatest security threat" for terrorists and other violent extremists to get into the U.S.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano said the report provides "a unifying framework for ... enhancing the security and resiliency along our northern border while expediting legitimate travel and trade with Canada."
Canada is the U.S.'s largest trading partner.
"With communities and businesses that reach both sides of the border, the economies and security of the United States and Canada are inextricably linked," Ms. Napolitano said
She noted that the U.S.-Canada border "presents unique security challenges based on geography, weather and the immense volume of trade and travel." She said 300,000 people and $1.5 billion in trade crosses the border every day.
Rep. Candice S. Miller, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House subcommittee on border and maritime security, was "encouraged by the release" of the plan.
Mrs. Miller said she had been calling on Homeland Security to focus on the unique challenges on the border by putting a stronger emphasis on sharing information, facilitating trade, and decreasing wait times for cargo and people who cross the border.
She said that while she was "pleased" the new strategy emphasizes a partnership with Canadian officials, "more work needs to be done to understand the security challenges and gaps."
Other common threats along the border include illegal migration in both directions and the smuggling of illicit drugs. It notes that Canada is the primary source country for Ecstasy smuggled into the United States and is also a major source of high-potency marijuana. It also says cocaine is the largest-volume drug smuggled from the U.S. into Canada.
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