Bombs, Drugs and Migrants

Bombs, Drugs and Migrants
Posted by FoM on February 01, 2000 at 15:05:54 PT
United States risks creating new complications
Source: Globe & Mail
Traditionally, Canadians have been proud to live on one side of the longest undefended border in the world. Indeed, many argue that the 6,500-kilometre frontier between Canada and the United States is not only undefended but indefensible -- and a good thing, too.Fear of drugs, migrants and terrorists slipping into the U.S. from Canada has many Americans so twitchy that they are pressuring the Clinton administration to impose security measures on their friendly neighbour to the north akin to those used along the border with Mexico.
The legislation has already passed through Congress, and the arrest of alleged terrorist Ahmed Ressam in December has speeded up implementation. The U.S. Customs Service is expected to hire nearly 600 additional agents, and hopes to to receive increased funding for bomb-detection equipment. There is also a plan, loudly touted by Lamar Smith, a Republican congressman from Texas, for an automated immigration tracking system that would record all foreigners, including Canadians, entering and leaving the U.S. Additionally, Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan wants 5,000 new border-patrol agents hired over the next five years.The prospect is daunting. The border between the U.S. and Mexico is roughly half as long as the Canadian border, but the United States employs twice as many customs inspectors to screen goods and people and almost 25 times as many border-patrol agents to combat illegal drugs and aliens crossing its southern frontier. Most of that border is now protected with high steel fences, barbed wire and 24-hour armed patrols.Since that degree of security has not stopped the flow of illegal migrants from Mexico into the U.S., it seems only reasonable to ask whether it is even possible to secure the Canadian border, which consists largely of lakes and rivers, dense forests, open fields and deserted country roads.Even if it were possible, is it worth it? Certainly drug trafficking, especially the movement of marijuana across the border from British Columbia into Washington, is flying high, so to speak. The same is true of illegal migrants slipping into Canada through our elastic refugee program and then quietly sliding across the border.But traffic generally is soaring in the aftermath of the North American free-trade agreement. Cross-border trade has more than doubled since 1989 and is expected to double again within the next five years. Most of that trade travels by truck through congested border crossings near Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The costs of slowing down legitimate trade must be weighed against the advantages of nabbing traffickers in illegal goods and aliens.Finally, how concrete is the Canadian-spawned terrorist threat looming over American citizens? The fact that Mr. Ressam was arrested and the bomb-making materials in his car were seized during his attempt to infiltrate the U.S. is an indication that the existing system works. Besides, it is prudent to remember that the two biggest terrorist bomb attacks in American history were planned in the United States, by long-time residents in the case of the World Trade Center and by citizens in the case of Oklahoma City.Compromising the good will and the lucrative trade that exists between Americans and Canadians with futile attempts to inspect and track everybody and everything that crosses the border creates a problem instead of a solution.Published: January 31, 2000Copyright  2000 Globe Information Services.Related Articles:Super Pot: B.C.'s Bonanza - 2/01/2000 Jane In The Hot House - 1/02/2000 Careful Kicking Down the Door - 1/01/2000 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on February 01, 2000 at 16:23:55 PT
I can just see it now...
Hapless individual at Niagara being questioned by newly hired, overzealous and paranoid Border Patrol personnel who have been given crash courses in how to identify Canadians.BP: What is this? (holds up a napkin).Individual: A serviette.BP: Freeze, MFer! Hands on your head!This is getting out of hand. 
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: