Economic opportunity and security challenges along the northern border were among the issues discussed during an Congressional Field Hearing in Buffalo today.
Representative Brian Higgins, the Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence arranged the hearing. Erie County Emergency Management Commissioner Dan Neaverth and Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour were among the witnesses called to testify at Buffalo's Federal Courthouse.
Topics included the "Beyond the Border Initiative" and the opportunities and challenges of fully integrating the U.S. and Canadian economies.
Higgins told reporters afterward that pre-inspection of U.S.-bound trucks in Canada could help reduce delays on international bridges.
"Congestion is not only an environmental problem [and] and an economic problem, but it's also a national security problem. If you have cars that are stuck on the bridge, that makes that a high-impact target versus the more efficient and cost-effective flow of traffic between the United States and Canada [from pre-screening]," Higgins said.
Fellow committee member Kathy Hochul says she believes the forum was a success.
"It's rather unusual to have two members of Congress on the same Homeland Security committee and subcommittee that focus on this, so this adds a lot more clout [and] we have a louder voice in Washington because of our presence there. So when you bring up people from Washington to hear testimony from our local elected officials [and] also our local partners in law enforcement, that helps us make a stronger case on bringing the dollars and the attention up to our area," Hochul said.
Higgins says while he recognizes the importance of increased trade between the two countries, he says there needs to be balance between economic growth and security.