US/Canada: Border towns face security crackdown
There are many border towns across Canada and the US who share everything, from Apartment buildings, Schools, Bars to Family Bloodlines, separated by an invisible line which runs through back alleys and streets. These Border towns in times past never really had a big problem with illegal immigration, but in the last three decades and a post 9/11 culture Border Towns are feeling the scrutiny from both US/Canada Police, Customs and Immigration as even citizens now are stopped as they go about their daily lives. Unfortunately, this may get worse as illegal immigration is becoming a daily occurence in this Norman Rockwell style towns.
Border towns face security crackdown
Craig Offman, National Post
Published: Saturday, October 27, 2007
STANSTEAD, QUE. - Intentionally built on the border of the United States and Canada more than a century ago, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House is an enduring gesture of peace between two nations. But last month it played host to a unusually awkward moment.
While some locals from Stanstead, Que., gathered to celebrate a noted filmmaker in the area, four customs officers burst in on the festivities. They were looking for an illegal immigrant, someone who had crossed the street from Derby Line, Vt. -- in effect entering Canada without checking into customs.
"Most of the time they're diligent, but I guess they're under severe orders," said the town's Mayor, Raymond Yates, who was attending the event.
The suspect turned out to be a New York Times journalist, and they fined her $1,000.
For tourists visiting the neighbouring villages of Stanstead, Que., or Derby Line, Vt., the offence is easy to commit. More oblivious souls might not realize they had stumbled across an international frontier because no officers intercepted them. On some residential streets, outdated signs warn visitors to report -- but they do not warn them to do it immediately, which is what newer Canadian law commands.
Locals, on the other hand, note that strategically placed cameras monitor their movements, so if they are planning an international trip that lasts longer than a few minutes, they had best hustle to the nearest customs port.
Now there is a new, emerging class of border-jumpers who have infiltrated this quaint, Norman-Rockwellian universe and turned it into an express lane of criminal activity: They are human smugglers and illegal immigrants, and they advocate an entirely different strategy to border crossing: Run for it. And they are doing it in droves.
Nine out of 10 of them are trying to sneak into the United States; one in 10 in the opposite direction, according to authorities.
Much to the frustration of locals in Stanstead (population 3,200) and Derby Line (population 800), their quiet towns are awfully well policed. This month, members of the RCMP's Integrated Border Enforcement Team [IBET] arrested 31 people, many of them Colombian, trying to enter Canada along a leafy intersection. Some carried maps depicting side streets that could be used to cross the border undetected.
"We caught them on our sensors and went straight to Lee and Church," said Sergeant Normand Houle, whose four IBET teams monitor the unguarded roads around the official border crossings.
In the past nine months, 166 crossers have been arrested, Sgt. Houle said, and 21 of them charged. "There are two or three cases of this kind a week we know about," he added, a spike his U.S. counterparts have also noted. "It's definitely a trend."
Quiet and deliberate with the demeanour of a gentle math teacher, Sgt. Houle has many fresh stories from the border-crossing trenches. East Indian asylum seekers smuggled from Canada frozen in the snow last winter. Chasing other East Indians through the woods by foot with dogs. Neighbours on either side of the divide who have set up a smuggling operation. Or a visit from Canadian Senator Colin Kenny, who was inspecting the border in the area when the IBET team sprung to action when they saw a suspicious car with Florida plates scouting the border. "He must have thought we were acting, but this was for real," Sgt. Houle said.