The controversial immigration executive order signed Friday by President Trump does more than ban visitors from some Muslim-majority countries. It also requires a new tracking system for every traveler, including U.S. citizens, that could cause the Peace Bridge and local economy to suffer.
Section 7 of the executive order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry and exit tracking system.
"I think Democrats and Republicans will categorically reject such a stupid idea," said Buffalo Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins.
Higgins says a previous study found taking fingerprints or iris scans from every traveler entering and leaving the United States would cost more than $6 billion to implement.
Peace Bridge General Manager Ron Reinas points out the United States and Canada already have an entry/exit agreement in place.
"The entry into Canada becomes the exit for the U.S., but it's based on a biographical traffic system," he says. "So any passport information that is swiped in Canada is matched against anything in the U.S. and is shared with the U.S."
If Trump's order is carried out, Reinas says the Authority will have to build an outbound inspection plaza in Buffalo for everyone to stop at before going to Canada.
"That is dramatically different than what is currently in place," he says, "and so you would obviously increase the length of time it takes to cross the border."
More than 5.3 million vehicles and nearly $40 billion in trade crossed the Peace Bridge last year. Higgins says the Western New York economy, including retail, the airport, professional sports teams and universities all depend on support from our Canadian neighbors.
"The administration should do its due diligence before it advances ideas that are not workable and that really are ridiculous," he says.
Higgins says what will improve security is more border personnel, not barriers.