Canada and America – true BFFs

Canada and the U.S. are friends. Not just NAFTA friends with mutual Bieber Fever but true BFFs these days (Border Friends Forever). So much so that they’re sharing intimate secrets in ways they never did before. They tell one another absolutely everything these days and are always by each other’s side. They’re not quite besties like Europe, but they’re close.

The Times today reported on something I’ve long suspected, that the U.S. and Canada have been planning to strengthen border security through better information sharing and cooperation, rather than costly and repetitive exit screening and controls. I also suspect that this is the first act in a broader plan for North America, with a virtual border that could run from the Canadian Arctic to the Guatemala River where Mexico meets Central America, with intermediate levels of control in the middle.

North America is blessed to have three big countries with only two real borders (save the Alaska/Yukon-BC frontier), making it easier to monitor and control than the byzantine lines dividing Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Unlike in many countries, the United States, Canada and Mexico do not impose exit controls on visitors, meaning that those leaving the country are not directly checked for possible visa overstays. Instead, many airlines cooperate with the government to match up departing passengers to those who passed through immigration upon arrival. Land and sea controls are more complicated, but this program is an important step to address this gap.

Giving looming immigration reform in the U.S., the political timing of this good news and the subsequent press coverage is sure to cause some suspicion among paranoid Republicans, but the promise of better information sharing between the U.S. and Canada is a great step towards greater regional security through an approach that cuts costs and operates at a high level of efficiency. Mexico, similarly, has shown an important commitment to reinforcing security and monitoring on its southern borders with Belize and Guatemala, where the majority of folks crossing to the U.S. are coming from these days. Now, if only Mexico could do better with its land border than the Tijuana turnstile…

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