Visa legislation on shaky ground

Two U.S. senators are trying to push through legislation before an October deadline so that Canadians will be allowed into the States without needing a visa.
Sen. Rod Grams (R-Mn) and Sen. Spence Abraham (R-Mi), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, have 31 co-sponsors on legislation that would amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which easily passed the senate by a 97-3 vote in 1996, to exclude Canadians from its visa requirement.
So far, the proposed amendment has made it past the senate judiciary committee and moved onto the senate floor. The U.S. House of Representatives is coming forward with companion legislation on the same bill.
Once both pass, any differences are worked out by a committee, then are sent back to the house and senate. If passed again, the bill moves on to the White House for the president’s signature.
But when that happens–and whether it’s done before the 1996 law takes effect this October–is up in the air.
“We’re hoping it’s soon. It’s going to be a mess if this isn’t fixed,” Randy Wanke, press secretary for Sen. Grams, said yesterday, stressing they recognized visas would hurt commerce and the culture that presently allows Canadians and U.S. citizens virtual hassle-free legal access into both countries.
“It has bi-partisan support,” Wanke added.
Local MP Robert Nault noted Ottawa has been lining up support in the U.S. Senate. He felt senators understood what significant economic impact this legislation would have if it was not changed.
And he was optimistic Canadians wouldn’t have to carry visas to cross over the border, or have to report at Customs when leaving the country, noting he understood the amending bill was being voted on this September–just one month before the Immigration Reform Act comes into effect.
Nault also said he would be surprised if there wasn’t a change made, noting the Immigration Reform Act was put in place to deal with the immigration problem the U.S. had on its southern border.
The northern border slipped by in a piece of omnibus legislation.
“I think that it would be an awfully big step backwards,” Nault, adding it would go against everything the two sides had been working towards over the past years.
In 1996, 116 million travellers entered the U.S. from Canada.