Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Call On Feds to Work to Resolve Massena Border Crossing Issue

Jun 11, 2009

D.C. –
Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today called on Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
to step in and mediate a resolution to the Canadian-Mohawk dispute which
has closed the Seaway International Bridge in Massena, New York.  As
a result of a dispute regarding arming border personnel in and
around Mohawk land, Canadian officials recently closed the Seaway
International Bridge on Cornwall Island.  The bridge is a vital link
in the North Country economy and closure is economically devastating to
Massena and the surrounding community. North Country community leaders have
stressed the need for this situation to be resolved as quickly as possible to
reduce economic fallout.

State Department and the Department of Homeland Security can provide
much-needed leadership to break this impasse,” said Senator Schumer. “DHS and
State Department must work together with Canadian officials
and leaders of the Mohawk community to immediately reopen the
Seaway Bridge. The Canadian decision to close the bridge
is short-sighted and not acceptable. It is doing significant economic harm
to the communities along the Seaway.  We must work together, let cooler
heads prevail, and open this crossing as soon as possible. I have no doubt
that negotiating in good faith can forge a sensible solution to this

Seaway International Bridge is essential to the economic wellbeing of North
Country communities,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. “During these tough economic times, it is important that
the federal government engage in the situation to reduce the impact on Massena.
It is critical that this situation to be resolved as quickly and efficiently as

applaud the efforts of our U.S. Senators and join them in urging the State
Department and the Department of Homeland Security to bring this crisis to an
end,” said Assemblywoman Addie Russell.  “The economic impact of the
bridge closure has already proven devastating to Massena and Northern St. Lawrence
County. A cooperative resolution must be reached as soon as possible.”

and Americans taking a shortcut through Canada represent a significant portion
of customers that frequent local restaurants and stores, as well as the St.
Lawrence Mall.  According to local officials, since the border closing,
Canadian traffic at the mall is down a staggering 50 percent and down a similar
amount at other local businesses.

Seaway Bridge connects the Akwesasne reservation in Ontario to Massena, New
York, and serves as an important trade route. The bridge was closed in May
with no indication of when it will be reopened.  Community officials have
explained that the route was deemed unsafe due to unrest among several members
of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe who were protesting the Canadian initiative to
arm all of its border officers.  While the Canadian custom service has
stated that arming officers enhances the safety of its officers and their
ability to do their jobs, members of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe believe that
this policy affects their sovereignty.

their letter, Schumer and Gillibrand wrote, “We believe that we need to work
with both the Canadian customs officials and residents of the Akwesasne reservation
to reach an equitable solution as quickly as possible in order to reopen this
integral trade route.  We urge you to focus on this issue.”