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How does Trump's executive order impact Peace Bridge?

Posted at 7:13 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-30 19:14:48-05

An official with the Peace Bridge authority said President Trump's executive order on border security "would be devastating to the bi-national regional economy".

"The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States," reads section 7 of the President's order titled "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States".

Biometric screenings involve finger print checks and eye scans, something Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge Authority, said would increase border crossing times in both directions.

"It would take longer to enter the country and certainly much longer to exit the country," he explained.  "It is implementing a whole new system that doesn't exist today."

Rienas said the U.S. would need to add screenings for travelers leaving the country, something they don't do right now.  Under the current agreement, Canadian officials gather information on people entering their country and share that with U.S. officials.

Since Canada does not currently do any biometric screenings, American border officials would have to add more screenings if these security measures are someday required.

Rienas also said the economic impact would be felt soon after these additional measures are put in place.  The added wait time and more intrusive screenings would cause travelers to stay home, according to Rienas.

"It would put at risk sales tax revenue, sports franchises like the Bills and Sabres, ski resorts," he said.  "All things that Western New York relies on."

Homeland security expert Steve MacMartin doesn't agree that wait times would necessarily increase.

"The addition of biometric scanning isn't going to back up traffic significantly," he said.  "It's going to eventually create a significantly safer atmosphere in the United States."

MacMartin said the additional information gathered under the President's executive order could help identify potential threats during the border crossing process and also help law enforcement with any investigations.

President Trump's order does not specify a timetable for the implementation of these screenings.  It calls for periodic updates from the Secretary of Homeland Security "until the system is fully deployed and operational".