Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002

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Author: George W. Bush  | Date: September 9, 2002

Remarks on Implementation of the "Smart Border" Declaration and Action Plan in Detroit, Michigan,
September 9, 2002

Thank you all very much. Thanks. Thank you all. Thank you for joining us today. It’s a pleasure to be back in Detroit—just across the river from Windsor—to reaffirm a special relationship, an important relationship, and to address a common challenge. America and Canada face new threats to our security. It’s the new reality of the 21st century, and we can’t forget that.

And some of those threats must be stopped at our borders. This great and peaceful border must be open to business, must be open to people, and it’s got to be closed to terrorists and criminals. And so today we’re taking two steps to turn this vision into reality.

I appreciate so very much the Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, for joining us here. He has been a steadfast friend. I really enjoy dealing with him on a personal basis. He’s a plain-spoken fellow with a good sense of humor—probably won’t go too good up here in Canada, but he’d be a great Texan. [Laughter]

I appreciate Tom Ridge joining us. Tom is my adviser for Homeland Security, former Governor of Pennsylvania. I want to thank Tom for working hard with the Deputy Prime Minister John Manley from Canada, who—both these two men work hard to—[applause]. The Prime Minister and I, of course, get the credit if it goes well. [Laughter] They get the blame if it doesn’t. [Laughter] The truth of the matter is, they did a lot of the work, and I want to thank both of you men for working hard for what’s best for our countries.

I appreciate so very much the members of our congressional delegation who have shown up here, Congressman Joe Knollenberg, Carolyn Kilpatrick. I had a chance to say hello to Congresswoman Kilpatrick’s little boy at the airport. [Laughter] He’s doing a fine job as the mayor of Detroit. I know she’s proud of what a fine job he is doing. I want to appreciate very much Congressman John Conyers as well and Sandy Levin and Nick Smith from the—both Republicans and Democrats who share deep concern about our border and what transpires here. So I thank the Members of Congress for coming today.

I also appreciate so very much our Ambassador from Canada, Paul Cellucci, my close friend, for being here as well. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for coming.

I want to thank Robert Bonner of the Customs, U.S. Customs, for being here, and Rob Wright, who’s the Commissioner of Canadian Customs. Thank you both for coming.

I appreciate Jim Ziglar so very much, the head of our INS, for being here. He’s got a tough job, and he’s handling his job in fine fashion. Jim, I want to thank you for your service to the country.

I appreciate very much our friend the Governor from Michigan, John Engler, for introducing me. Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus is with us today. Lieutenant Governor, thanks for coming. And Candice Miller, the Michigan secretary of state, is here as well. And I want to appreciate all the officials for coming.

This bridge right here is a symbol of the close and unique relationship—close and unique relationship—between our two nations. This single bridge carries more trade than any other border crossing on this continent. And that’s saying a lot. This is a—this is an active bridge. Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, more than 500,000 people and over a billion dollars worth of goods cross the U.S.-Canadian border every day. The ties of trade and travel and family between America and Canada are closer than ever. And our countries are better for it.

Yet, nearly a year ago, we saw the terrorists, coldblooded killers, using our openness, the openness of our societies against us. We were awakened to threats that can arrive across our borders. We realized, at least in our country, that we had become a battlefield. And we’ve got to confront those threats. We have no choice but to confront the threats head-on, while we preserve the freedom and the openness of our societies.

We have hard-working inspectors at this border, and I want to thank all the folks who work hard to expedite the traffic here.

I believe my job is to—at least on the American side—is to make sure that you’re able to do your jobs more effectively and to figure out how to use technologies and the systems necessary so that you can do your job in a better fashion. You see, we want our inspectors to be able to focus on the greatest risks, not on legitimate trade and travel. We want their time focused on stopping terror, criminality. We’ve got to recognize that inspections create bottlenecks on both sides of this bridge. That’s one of the realities. When you start looking closer, you’re going to start creating bottlenecks, and that’s not good. It’s not good for families that want to be together. It’s not good for trade and traffic. And so we’ve got to reduce the backups, and at the same time strengthen our mutual security.

So today Canada and the United States are launching what we call the FAST, which stands for Free and Secure Trade. The Prime Minister and I got to see the FAST system in operation. It says that American and Canadian companies can register their goods and their trucks and their drivers with their Governments and then border inspectors can review this information up to an hour prior to arrival. Once the agents have determined the safety of each shipment, the trucks can cross in special lanes, using tested technology, technology that the Prime Minister and I just saw. Border inspectors will be able to instantly verify the contents and identify each truck as it pulls up. Stop times will be reduced from a few minutes to seconds, and that’s important.

We’re also announcing a second initiative for safer and smarter borders that will benefit individual travelers. We’re dramatically expanding a program to issue special photo identifications to people who are screened to ensure they are not security threats to either country. These cards entitle people to travel across the border in dedicated lanes, where there will be little or no delay for inspections. We’re trying to help people cross the borders as quickly as possible.

This kind of program for simplifying travel for thousands of people who regularly cross the border is now in place in Washington—Washington State and British Columbia. And so, starting today, we’re launching the program here in Detroit, accepting applications from Americans and Canadians who want to travel across the border in faster fashion.

With these two initiatives, we’ll ensure faster movement of legal, low-risk goods and faster travel for people across our borders. And we’ll be able to better enhance security. Our inspectors will spend less time inspecting law-abiding citizens and more time inspecting those who may harm us.

We’re doing everything we can here in America to protect our homeland. Along with Canada, we’ve got some of the finest troops in the world hunting down the Al Qaida killers in Afghanistan, hunting them down one at a time, to make sure we can better secure our respective countries.

And at home I’ve asked our Congress to join with me to set up a Department of Homeland Security so that we can do a better job on our borders, a better job with our first-responders. I do not need a bunch of rules and regulations trying to micromanage the process. I want the ability to be able to look the American people in the eye and say, "I’m doing everything," or "we’re doing everything we can to protect you." And so the Senate, the United States Senate must not focus on narrow, special interests, but must focus on the security of the American people.

And so I’m—Mr. Prime Minister, this country is doing everything we can to address a common problem, and you need to know, sir, that we’re determined, and we’re patient, and we’re resolved to win this war against these terrorists, because, like you, we love freedom. We value our freedoms. We want to leave a legacy of freedom behind for our children and our grandchildren.

It’s now my honor to welcome to the podium a friend, a strong leader, the Prime Minister of our important neighbor, Jean Chretien.

Note: The President spoke at 11:41 a.m. outside the U.S. Customs cargo inspection facility next to the Ambassador Bridge. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick of Detroit. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Prime Minister Chretien.

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Chicago: George W. Bush, "Remarks on Implementation of the Smart Border Declaration and Action Plan in Detroit, Michigan, September 9, 2002," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002 in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, September 13, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 38:1521-1522 1522–1523. Original Sources, accessed July 17, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=N69W4RJHQXDL3UU.

MLA: Bush, George W. "Remarks on Implementation of the "Smart Border" Declaration and Action Plan in Detroit, Michigan, September 9, 2002." Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002, in United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, September 13, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 38:1521-1522, pp. 1522–1523. Original Sources. 17 Jul. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=N69W4RJHQXDL3UU.

Harvard: Bush, GW, 'Remarks on Implementation of the "Smart Border" Declaration and Action Plan in Detroit, Michigan, September 9, 2002' in Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2002. cited in , United States. Executive Office of the President, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Week Ending Friday, September 13, 2002 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002), 38:1521-1522, pp.1522–1523. Original Sources, retrieved 17 July 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=N69W4RJHQXDL3UU.