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Ashcroft wants to speed up U.S.-Canada border crossings

Attorney General John Ashcroft said that the addition of several hundred National Guard troops and military helicopters at U.S.-Canadian crossings will improve border security and speed the flow of trade.

Ashcroft said that after the September 11 terrorist attacks, congestion at the border hurt both nations’ economies, noting the many U.S. automakers rely on parts made in Canada.

``We don't want to be shutting down our automotive industry because we don't have a fast enough inspection process,'' Ashcroft said.

Tighter security since the terrorist attacks also meant the U.S. government had to transfer agents from immigration and naturalization services to man checkpoints along the 4,000-mile border. Ashcroft said the addition of National Guard troops would relieve those workers and let them return to regular duties.

Ashcroft said about 500 U.S. agents man the U.S.-Canadian border, compared with 9,000 on the Mexico border, which runs about half its length.

``Just like we have some National Guardsmen at our airports now, we need to relieve some of our folks to get back to their normal duties by having National Guardsmen help with inspections at the border,'' said Ashcroft.

The United States and Canada agreed in mid-November on Cabinet-level cooperation to improve border security and speed the flow of trade despite heightened security concerns after the terrorist attacks.

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