Trudeau defends move to give U.S. agents more powers in Canada

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By David Ljunggren | OTTAWA

OTTAWA Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on
Wednesday defended plans to give more powers to U.S. border
agents stationed in Canada, saying travelers would at all times
be protected by domestic laws.

As part of a 2015 deal between Canada and the United States, Trudeau’s government has introduced draft legislation allowing
U.S. border agents based in Canada more leeway to question and
search people wishing to enter the United States.

Critics say this increases the chance of abuse at a time
when the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is
cracking down on immigrants, prompting dozens of people to cross
the border into Canada every week.

“Canadian laws are in place, so there is extra protection
when Canadians go through American customs in Canada,” Trudeau
told reporters.

U.S. border agents have been working in Canada since the
1950s, pre-clearing would-be visitors and addressing potential
security threats. The agents are currently based at eight
Canadian airports and under the 2015 deal, the program will be
expanded to two more airports as well as Montreal train station.

Travelers who change their minds and decide not to enter the
United States are currently allowed to leave. The new law
permits U.S. agents to question and if need be strip search
people seeking not to enter the United States.

Officials say the new tougher provisions are needed to deter
militants probing for weaknesses at U.S.-operated border

Trudeau is under pressure in Parliament from the
left-leaning opposition New Democrats, who say U.S. border
guards are already racially profiling Canadians who wish to
enter the United States.

“What will the government do to secure clear assurances for
Canadians who wish to cross the border? When will the Prime
Minister stand up for Canadians … will he stand up to the
bully?” asked Jenny Kwan, the party’s spokeswoman for
immigration, referring to Trump.

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