Alan Freeman / The Globe and Mail & Canadian Press – 2006-09-17 23:26:00
Use 12,000 Troops to Guard Canadian Border, US Urged
Alan Freeman / The Globe and Mail
WASHINGTON (September 13, 2006) — A task force appointed by a Republican congressman from Georgia has recommended that at least 12,000 National Guard troops and additional agents be deployed on the US-Canada border to halt what it fears is a growing flow of illegal immigrants.
“We’re talking about tens of thousands of illegal immigrants a year coming from Canada,” said John Stone, deputy chief of staff to Charlie Norwood — a Republican who is active in the immigration reform caucus, which is pushing for tough measures to stop illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico.
Mr. Stone and four retired military and border-patrol officials named by Mr. Norwood have recommended the deployment of 8,000 National Guard soldiers to secure the border with Canada, including round-the-clock surveillance of 1,000 hard-surface roads crossing the border that are currently not patrolled.
In a 22-page report, the task force says that these unmanned roads “currently provide . . . quick exit for intruders.”
“Closure of these crossings would turn the time factor back in favour of U.S. and Canadian authorities.”
It also recommends deploying 1,600 Coast Guard and other naval reserves and 400 patrol craft to secure coastal and inland waterways, plus 160 aircraft and 1,280 Air National Guard for increased air surveillance. It recommends adding 1,000 US Border Patrol agents, plus a 25-percent boost in the number of customs personnel.
The report includes photographs of unmanned border points in the woods and complains that “some roads actually cross the border with no obstacles or checkpoints.” Describing an unmanned road on the New York border with Canada, it says “the only obstacle to crossing at the first inspection point was a three-foot ditch and some boulders placed on the old roadway. The crossing was monitored by sensors on both sides of the boundary, but a simple hike through the woods 100 yards in either direction would avoid them.”
It quotes a sheriff from Jefferson County in upstate New York as saying that “the normal encounter of aliens is from Islamic groups going from Canada to southern New York as well as some Russian groups going through the county stealing air bags from vehicles.”
The group acknowledges that the scale of the Canadian problem is tiny compared with the massive influx of undocumented workers across the southern border, but says there is still reason to worry.
In an interview, Mr. Stone said a “large percentage” of those trying to enter the United States from Canada illegally are “Middle Easterners,” plus Chinese, Thais and Pakistanis.
“We can’t overlook the northern border because it has been overlooked in the past,” said Mr. Stone, saying he fears a displacement of illegal activity to Canada if there’s a crackdown on the Mexican frontier.
Mr. Stone was vague when asked about his assertion that tens of thousands of illegal immigrants cross from Canada every year, saying the figure comes from officials he has met on both sides of the border.
According to a statement last month by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there have been 4,011 apprehensions along the US-Canadian border this year, down 19 per cent from the same period in 2005. The service intercepts more than 200 fraudulent documents, arrests more than 60 people and refuses entry to hundreds of non-citizens every day, it said.
A task-force panel that met Canadian officials and toured border points in New York, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire praised Ottawa’s “honest and vigorous effort” to secure the frontier.
“This good-neighbour policy stands in stark contrast to the hostile acts of the government of Mexico against the immigration laws of the United States,” the report says. It praises RCMP co-operation but says border-patrol agents in New Hampshire, which borders Quebec, complained that the Sûreté du Québec, though not actively antagonistic, is “not reported co-operative.”
There is also concern that Canadian and U.S. enforcement agencies operate on different bandwidths, making car-to-car communication between border authorities “very difficult.”
As for the cost of a northern deployment, Mr. Stone guessed between $700-million and $800-million — a fraction of the $2.5-billion (U.S.) cost of deploying 36,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican frontier.
He said he hopes some of the panel’s recommendations will end up in border-security legislation that may pass Congress later this month, before it recesses for mid-term elections.
US Politicians to Study Fence on Northern Border
WASHINGTON (September 14, 2006) — The US House of Representatives has again endorsed a study on building a security fence along the Canada-US border. The politicians passed the measure by a vote of 283-138 Thursday in a bill that also authorizes a 1,126-kilometre barrier along the border with Mexico to deal with illegal immigrants.
American politicians first called last December for a study to see whether the idea is necessary or practical in the north as part of their broader immigration legislation. But the Senate has never included the measure in its own bill.
House legislators are trying to show voters in this November’s mid-term elections that they’re tough on security but not penalizing one part of the country over another, analysts say.
Peter King, chairman of the House committee on homeland security, urged his colleagues to pass what he called emergency legislation in a letter this week.
“So long as our borders remain porous, our citizens are threatened,” he wrote. “Over the past year, we have witnessed numerous terrorist threats and arrests both here and abroad and we owe it to every American to take immediate action.”
Business groups have condemned the idea of a fence along the Canada-US border as absurd.
“The fence initiative is meant to stem the tide of illegal immigrants,” said Scotty Greenwood, executive director of the Canadian American Business Council. “Last time I checked, that wasn’t a problem at the northern border.”
Legislators, she said, need to recognize there are different challenges in the north and south.
© The Canadian Press, 2006
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