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HIGGINS, OTHERS URGE MORE BORDER SECURITY AID

As the White House wrestled with the aftershock of its border passports proposal, New York's senators and two House members from Western New York Wednesday asked the Bush administration for more money and help for northern border concerns.

Rep. Brian M. Higgins, D-Buffalo, asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to consider Buffalo's Peace Bridge as a potential target and possible conduit for terrorists entering the United States.

In a letter, Higgins asked Chertoff to designate a revenue stream to help with infrastructure and security arrangements for the bridge.

"As a region where a terrorist sleeper cell was situated, I think a very strong case can be made to appropriate Homeland Security dollars for capital improvements to the Peace Bridge," Higgins wrote.

Higgins pointed to the continued disparity plaguing states such as New York in the allocation of Homeland Security funding, noting that Wyoming receives more than $35 per capita, while high-target states such as New York receive about $5 per capita.

Bridge expansion could start as soon as 2007, Higgins said, and the government should arrange now to secure the bridge properly. "They have to see northern border security as national security," Higgins said.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., announced separately that they are reintroducing legislation calling for creation of a northern border coordinator in the Homeland Security Department.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., invited Chertoff to visit border cities in New York to see for himself the impact the Bush administration's passport proposal could have.

On April 5, the administration said passports would be required for travel across the Canadian and Mexican borders as of 2008. Passports would be required for Caribbean travel as of 2006, and for air travel to and from Canada and Mexico in 2007.

Officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget told The Buffalo News on Wednesday that the proposal is undergoing a review that could take up to 90 days.

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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