A proposed border entry fee into the United States has drawn strong opposition from those living along the northern border. Many small businesses rely on Canadian entry into the U.S. for a large portion of their income. Canadians are likely to cross into the United States in order to purchase cheaper goods, primarily gas, but also beer, wine and milk.
The price of gas is astonishingly cheaper in the United States compared to Canada, about $1.30 per gallon, so it stands to reason that Canadians living near the United States border would be willing to travel into another country in order to purchase their fuel. According to Michael Hill, a gas station owner in Washington state, about 90% of the people filling up at his station come across the border from Canada. He even has a ‘Thank You Canadians’ sign hanging in his store. Beer, wine, and milk are all about half the price on this side of the border.
With a percentage as high as Hill claims filling up, the Canadians crossing into the country make up a large part of the economies in these cities. With a gas tax of only a penny, small towns along the border can easily generate 30% of their street maintenance funding from their neighbors in the north.
A fee to cross the border was proposed as part of President Obama’s 2014 Fiscal Year Budget as a way to generate funds for border operations. This measure has faced criticism from both sides, and a countermeasure recently passed unanimously through the House of Representatives. The Department of Homeland Security has requested they be given nine months to study the potential impact of a fee.
Members of the local towns fear that if such a fee is implemented, that the money raised wouldn’t stay with them. Northern opposition to the proposed border entry fee is drawn on the fact that border security is a national issue. They feel that a solution to border issues should be something that affects the entire country rather than one that would only hurt the many small towns along the border.
Many locals such as Michael Hill feel that the United States should welcome in the business of its neighboring countries, especially when our own economy is still recovering from a devastating recession.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has sponsored a bill that would bar the Department of Homeland Security from conducting its study. This would mark a victory for the strong northern opposition and its efforts to block any sort of border entry fee from being drawn up and implemented. A similar bill was proposed in the House.
However if one were to move to the Southern half of the United States and ask around the Mexican border, the attitudes would be starkly different. Both lawmakers and citizens in the South such as democratic congressman Ruben Hinojosa have said that they would support an entry fee “only if the funds garnered would be used to upgrade our facilities, provide better equipment for our agents, or used for the hiring of more agents at our border crossings.”
This isn’t the last we’ve heard of this debate, as the proposed border entry fee has drawn a line in the sand between those on both U.S. borders, garnering southern support and northern opposition. Who ultimately wins, and whether a fee is ever put in place remains to be seen.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
The Guardian Express