House members from northern border states are taking extreme measures in another attempt to kill Section 110, the law that requires U.S. immigration agents to grill Canadian tourists on their way home at Niagara River spans and all other crossing points.
Scheduled to go into operation March 30, 2001, the checkpoint program threatens to create massive traffic jams and delays at most Canadian border points.
Angry and frustrated, 14 House Republicans representing Canadian border states on Thursday threatened to block passage of a $35 billion appropriations bill unless the GOP leadership kills the proposed system of checkpoints once and for all.
The spending bill their votes could block includes pay for federal judges, and funding for the FBI, the National Weather Service, drug enforcement, and the nation's foreign embassies.
Among the 14 Republican signers are Reps. Jack F. Quinn of Hamburg and Amo Houghton Jr. of Corning. An earlier version of the appropriations bill passed by only four votes.
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, working closely with Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., is taking the lead in this latest repeal attempt. Abraham's Senate version of the bill would repeal Section 110, but the current version of the House bill does not.
Rep. John M. McHugh, R-Watertown, said "last year we were successful in delaying the implementation date until 2001, but we need to settle this matter once and for all."
The group letter sent to Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., an appropriations subcommittee chairman, warned "we have not been placated by last year's extension and vague assurances that it will 'not significantly disrupt trade and tourism.' Who will decide what level of disruption is 'significant?' "
The 14 Republicans said they will not vote for the House-Senate conference report on appropriations for the Commerce, Justice and the State departments unless it contains a repeal of Section 110 of the Immigration Reform Act of 1996.
Rogers heads the House delegation to that conference.
Copies of the letter are being sent to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill; Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas; and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
The letter contains an attack on Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, without mentioning him by name. Smith is the main defender of Section 110.
"Proponents of this misguided policy," the letter said, "say it's necessary to deal with illegal aliens who entered the U.S. illegally but failed to leave." They said the law provides no means of locating these aliens and no money for enforcement.
"The same is true for terrorists and drug traffickers, which Section 110 was never intended to deal with but which its supporters now invoke to try to find a justification for its implementation."