Fingerprint dispute scuttles US-Canada border site plans
Washington calls off the initiative
By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post | May 25, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Plans for a screening facility at one of the nation's busiest land-border crossings were abandoned because of a disagreement over fingerprinting travelers, an outcome that has angered business groups in the United States and Canada.
Canadian business leaders are in Washington this week to lobby for the resumption of a US plan to build a "pre clearance" facility at the border near Buffalo that would speed commercial and passenger traffic from Canada into the United States.
Michael Chertoff, Department of Homeland Security secretary, scuttled the initiative last month because Canada would not accept Washington's demand that it fingerprint travelers on Canadian soil who approach the border but, for whatever reason, decide not to cross.
The government wants to be able to take suspects' fingerprints and compare them with terrorist and criminal databases, US government officials said. The prints could be stored in databases for use if, for instance, the traveler seeks to enter at another border crossing.
"If an individual presents themselves for admission and makes a decision about not wanting to come in, there's a reason why," Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said. "It could be perfectly benign. But it could be that they sense that we're onto them for criminal activity or potential security concerns. We have an interest in knowing who that person is."
Canadian law precludes fingerprinting people unless criminal charges have been filed. "Canada will not consider any proposal that does not comply with Canadian law," said Stockwell Day, public safety minister, in an April 26 letter to Chertoff.