Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The United States is on track to establish an operations centre – equipped with drones – at its border with Canada.

The bipartisan Northern Border Coordination Actintroduced by senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) – both of whom represent border states – passed the Senate last week.

The bill tasks the Department of Homeland Security with opening a centralized northern border headquarters at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, Mich. – nearly 60 kilometres away from the border-crossing Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward, Ont. 

The project has already received $3 million in funding, as well as a commitment from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to put the plan into operation. 

“Along with the funding I secured to launch the centre earlier this year, this legislation will further cement the centre’s role in coordinating border security efforts, supporting personnel training, and conducting testing for new border security technologies,” said Peters in a press release

While serving as a hub to coordinate responses along the longest land border in the world (spanning nearly 9,000 kilometres), the centre will also act as a training facility and testing ground capable of supporting large unmanned aircraft systems. 

The bill calls on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s air and marine operations to “evaluate requirements and make recommendations to support the operations of large unmanned aircraft systems.”

Although the United States border with Mexico receives the lion’s share of political and media attention, there’s been a growing movement across party lines to bolster defences along the Canadian border. 

Canadian Border Services Agency spokesperson Maria Ladouceur told True North that the Canadian government was in regular and close contact with US authorities on enforcement issues. 

“The Canada Border Services Agency works regularly and closely with domestic and international law enforcement partners, including the RCMP, U.S Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, and other Canadian police agencies as well as the provincial and territorial governments, in a joint effort to ensure border security and assist with investigations,” said Ladouceur in an emailed statement.

As reported by True North in May, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a record level of suspected or known terrorists intercepted at the northern border last year. 

During the 2023 fiscal year, 484 individuals suspected or known to have participated in terrorist activities were apprehended by border guards – that’s over five times as many as the 92 detained at the Mexican border during the same period. 

As for Ottawa, little has been done to secure the Canadian border and dampen the daily flow of illegal border crossings in both directions. 

Yet pressure from American counterparts continues to mount, even forcing the Liberals to re-impose visa requirements on Mexican residents in February. 

Before the recent decision to re-introduce travel visas, Mexican nationals were only required to complete a quick online travel authorization to be granted entry into Canada. 

Last week North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley highlighted the issue saying that despite recent changes things are only expected to get worse

“North Dakota is already experiencing negative law enforcement impacts as a result of the Biden Administration’s refusal to shut down the border, but my concern is that the worst is yet to come, both in the context of street crimes and violence as well as in the arena of America’s national security,” said Wrigley.