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U.S.Canada commit to provide security, prosperity and freedom along the border
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Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge at a Joint Press Conference with Deputy Prime Minister Anne Mclellan (Remarks as Prepared)

Thank you. I am honored to be here with the Deputy Prime Minister and all of our colleagues and friends from Canada. These trips are usually short, but always productive. And this occasion has been no different. We've had the opportunity to discuss - and come to agreement on - a variety of issues that are critical to the work we are doing together to secure our border.

Along that border, we share an equal commitment to the principles of security, prosperity and freedom. And by reaching across those 5,525 miles, we've forged a partnership to help us achieve all three of these principles for our citizens. That partnership began in earnest when I signed the Smart Border Declaration with Deputy Prime Minister Manley nearly three years ago. And it has continued every day since, at every level of our governments, and at every checkpoint or border crossing from Vancouver to Maine. Today, I am pleased to announce that we've made even more progress.

Deputy Prime Minister McLellan mentioned our work to install two new dedicated FAST Lanes, improve cargo security by working together overseas, and begin commercial pre-screening at the Peace Bridge crossing. These initiatives will further enhance border security and speed the flow of commerce between two great trading partners.

We're also going to make sure passengers who travel frequently between the United States and Canada - for work or pleasure - will have a quicker and more secure trip through our airports. Starting in just two months, we will launch the NEXUS Air pilot project at Vancouver International Airport.

Approved frequent travelers who enroll in the program will be interviewed, checked against law enforcement databases and watch lists, and then identified using biometrics such as iris scans, fingerprints, and digital photographs. These low-risk travelers will then be able to use automated kiosks to process themselves through customs and immigration checkpoints.

When the program becomes operational at the end of the year, we will not only facilitate travel between our countries, but also improve security by focusing our collective resources on lesser-known or higher-risk travelers.

I am also proud to announce that we will establish our fifteenth Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) at Sault Ste. Marie to better coordinate cross-border criminal investigations.

As you know, these teams of federal, state and local partners on both sides of the border are already operating effectively in several locations. This newest border enforcement team will ensure that we continue to investigate, stop, and prosecute any activity that threatens national security.

We can only achieve these goals if we continue to improve communications - not just meetings like this one, but communications on the ground…where it matters most. That is why Deputy Prime Minister McLellan and I have signed a joint communications agreement to improve radio interoperability between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies.

The first of its kind, this agreement will ensure that we can share information more easily and better coordinate our efforts - especially in an emergency. This will hold true regardless of the make, model, or frequency of radios used by first responders and law enforcement officials.

The scope of these initiatives - and our talks with government officials and business leaders over the past two days - show that the Smart Border Declaration is indeed being put into action. Consistent with the cooperative spirit that has marked our relationship for decades…we are making security and prosperity a priority on our shared border.

We're streaming known passengers and low-risk cargo into our countries while we focus our resources on stopping terrorists and criminals before they can harm our citizens. And we're doing this while protecting the freedoms that Americans and Canadians have come to appreciate and expect.

There's still plenty of work ahead. But as we make progress every day, I'm confident that the strength of our partnership and the security of our border will continue to define our friendship for decades and centuries to come.

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