February 21, 2017 -
As several members of upstate New York’s congressional delegation criticize a plan to move forward with biometric screening at U.S.-Canada border crossings, U.S. Rep. John Katko (R) says he supports the initiative, according to a report by Auburnpub.com.
In an interview with The Citizen, Katko said that while he acknowledges the potential consequences that the screening could have on northern and western New York, he is primarily focused on how biometric technology could strengthen border security.
“I think we can find a happy medium between the two,” Katko, who is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security, said. “I think we need to work to do that. Travel and tourism are a large part of our economic opportunities in New York state and in our district. We need to take a look at that.”
The biometric screening technology, which could involve either fingerprinting or iris scans for all those entering and leaving the country, is one of several clauses noted in the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on January 27.
The implementation of biometric screening was initially proposed in the 9/11 Commission Report, however, the executive order called for the expedited completion of the biometric entry/exit tracking system.
The mandatory biometric screening could lead to long queues at border crossings and a negative economic impact on Western and Northern New York communities, such as Buffalo, that tend to attract a large population of Canadian visitors.
There have been several opponents of the biometric screening including U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R), who criticized it in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Several members of the Northern Border Caucus, such as U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D), also signed a letter sent to Kelly expressing the potential adverse effects of the biometric screening.
“Our border infrastructure is already congested, hampering the seamless flow of goods and people across our border and the economic growth potential that comes with it,” Higgins said in a statement. “Adding another checkpoint layer is logistically unfeasible for many bridges and plazas already at capacity and completely counterproductive to efforts that feed our local and national economies.”
Katko is awaiting the results of a security assessment being done at the northern border to decide on what actions need to be taken to reinforce security at U.S.-Canada border crossings. He said the security results will likely be completed in April.
The first bill Katko introduced in Congress was an initiative calling for a northern border security review, which was approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by former President Barack Obama in late 2016.
“We should let that dictate how we proceed going forward,” Katko said. “Obviously we always have to be mindful of the economic impact of such rules. I think that report is going to inform us that there are security vulnerabilities on our (northern) border. I also think that we can work with our counterparts in Canada and the U.S. to make sure that we don’t unduly disrupt commerce.”