The U.S. won't introduce border-crossing fees at land ports of entry after all.
The Department of Homeland Security had wanted the U.S. Congress to authorize the study of a fee that could be collected from everyone entering the U.S. at land crossings bordering Canada and Mexico. There are five land ports of entry between Alaska and Canada – at Poker Creek on the Top of the World Highway, on the Alcan Highway near Tok, at Dalton Cache on the Haines Highway, at Skagway on the Klondike Highway and in Hyder.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to amend the Immigration Reform Bill to ban the fee. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the committee, said a fee would stop Canadians from visiting the U.S. and could threaten trade and the economy.
On his website, Leahy pointed out "the harm that a border fee on the northern border would cause to Vermont’s economy and to the historic cultural ties that Vermonters have with Quebec."
Leahy said a border crossing fee would make U.S. border patrol agents “toll collectors instead of law enforcement.”
"There are many steps remaining (before it becomes law), but this was probably the most important step," Leahy's spokesperson David Carle said in an email to CBC News.
The bill still has go to the Senate floor. If passed there, the House will have to act on its own immigration reform bill, Carle said.
In Ottawa on Friday, Government House leader Peter Van Loan said he is "very pleased that the Senate committee in the U.S. has rejected the proposed border fee. A border fee like this would have been very damaging to both the American and the Canadian economy as we work to ensure our economic recovery, continued job creation and economic growth," Van Loan said. "The importance of movement of goods and people across our border to facilitate trade and growth is critically important."
International Trade Minister Ed Fast also applauded the move. "With this decision... the committee has recognized that free-and-open trade, rather than protectionism, is the way forward to create jobs and prosperity for workers in both our countries," said Fast.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said last month that a fee to simply enter the U.S. would be bad for business between the two countries.
Department spokeswoman Emma Welford told CBC News in an email that Canadians spend more than $21 billion annually in the U.S.
For example, in Windsor, Ont., Chrysler alone makes more than 1,600 customs entries in Windsor-Detroit every day.