By ALAN FREEMAN
Toronto Globe and Mail
September 13, 2006
"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 House Republican who is active in the immigration-reform caucus, which is pushing for tough measures to stop illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico.
Stone and four retired military and Border Patrol officials named by 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 favor 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 U.S. 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 that "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, 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 Stone, saying he fears a displacement of illegal activity to Canada if there's a crackdown on the Mexican frontier.
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 officials, there have been 4,011 apprehensions along the U.S.-Canadian border this year, down 19 percent 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-neighbor 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 Royal Canadian Mounted Police cooperation, but says Border Patrol agents in New Hampshire, which borders Quebec, complained that some Quebec authorities, though not actively antagonistic, are "not reported cooperative."
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, Stone guessed between $700 million and $800 million - a fraction of the $2.5 billion cost of deploying 36,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border.
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.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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