Border towns struggle with post-9/11 security measures

http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/1048571–border-towns-struggle-with-post-9-11-security-measures

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** Buzz Roy, a pharmacist from Derby Line, Vt., which abuts the border with Stanstead, Que., stands on the road where he was arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol after his own personal protest of border measures he says have torn the two communities apart.
Andrew Chung/TORONTO STAR
Andrew Chung Quebec Bureau

DERBY LINE, VT.—Feeling like pizza for a late-evening dinner, Buzz Roy called up Steve’s, just a few steps across the border in Stanstead, Que., and ordered a large, smoked meat special for pick up.
A mundane act, on the surface. But this takeout order eventually led Roy, a 69-year-old pharmacist, to be turned around, placed in handcuffs and thrown in a cell that also sometimes holds illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.
Granted, Roy, a rather stubborn man with strong convictions, pushed his luck.
But what’s important, he insists, isn’t what he did. Rather, it’s what governments have done to inexorably thicken a Canada-U.S. borderline that in the past was all but invisible to residents of these two small towns.
“I was brought up in this village,” Roy says, sitting on the sun-drenched sidewalk outside his shop, Brown’s Drug Store, a couple dozen metres from the Main St. U.S. customs post here. “Until 9/11, it was a non-border. As kids we went back and forth walking, riding our bikes. We didn’t think of it as another town — ever.
“Now,” he says, gesturing with his hands, “this is the U.S.
“And that is Canada.”
It’s a common refrain among people in Stanstead and Derby Line, which has historically exemplified the special Canada-U.S. cross-border relationship — but now demonstrates how the 2001 terrorist attacks frayed it.
“Around the world borders are coming down,” says Kim Prangley, a dual citizen who lives on the Canadian side just down the hill from Roy’s store. “But here they’re making it harder than ever. The people are really demoralized.”
On the U.S. side, more border patrol and customs agents arrived — out-of-towners who depersonalized the small-town closeness between residents and authorities. Interrogations and detentions became more frequent. Law enforcement figures were everywhere.
Then they put up gates to block two side roads that cut through both towns. Residents on both sides managed to stop a gate from going up on Church St., which runs along the famed Haskell Free Library and Opera House, an edifice purposely built straddling the international boundary to symbolize the two countries’ friendship.
People assumed they could do what they’d been doing for generations — walk from one side to the other and then go report to customs.
Roy got his pizza, and instead of returning home via Main St., which has a steep incline, he took the more gradual Church. A police officer stopped him a stone’s throw from his store, above which he lives. “You can’t come through here,” the officer admonished. He had to take Main St.
“I’m a U.S. citizen. — I’m coming into my own country,” Roy replied.
After a while the officer let him go. But Roy was not content to let the issue slide. He was also a village trustee. Things were not supposed to be this way.
So he went back down the hill into Canada, simply to cross back into the U.S. again on Church St.
He was stopped again. This time he argued with several officers. And was allowed to check in and go home.
Still fuming, Roy did it again. This time, the Border Patrol had had enough. They threw him in the slammer and gave him a $500 fine. (It could have been $5,000, they warned.)
**Nowhere have the **changes implemented since 9/11 been more keenly felt than in Derby Line and Stanstead. Roy’s plight became a touchstone for people’s growing frustration. Not long after Roy’s February 2010 incident, a demonstration was organized.
After all, these two towns had always acted as one. Like the library, there are several buildings that are partly in both countries. Derby Line gets its water and sewage services from Canada. On one stretch of bungalow-dotted Canusa Ave., the yellow line down the middle marks the border.
Former U.S. customs officer and village trustee chairman Keith Beadle, 63, attended the rally to support Roy.
Disallowing someone from using Church St. to enter the U.S. was an “arbitrary change of something that’s been going on for 100 years,” Beadle says.
“People could see it was going to divide the community.”
As an administrative sanction for improperly entering the United States, Roy had no choice but to pay the fine. But he hired Vermont lawyer David Sleigh, and they have appealed it twice to no avail.
Sleigh and Roy recently gave notice they intend to sue the government at the U.S. Court of Claims in New York, which typically deals with international trade disputes.
For Roy it’s the principle of the thing.
A local magazine asked the question: is he a freedom fighter or rabble rouser?
“I’m a freedom fighter,” he says, smiling. “I despise control just for control sake. The Homeland Security budget is huge, and most of it is for garbage like this. Meanwhile, the 9/11 terrorists entered the country legally.”
No one from U.S. Customs and Border Protection responded to repeated requests for comment.
Miguel Begin, the chief of operations for the Canada Border Services Agency’s Stanstead sector, recognizes that residents might perceive changes to the border negatively. “But the more effort we make in trying to stop people from doing smuggling or illegal entries or criminal activities, it can only be positive,” he says.
The blocking of the side roads was the result of a long process of negotiation with residents, he adds, explaining that few locals recognize the problems created by the roads, and that’s why the fences were necessary.
Still, Beadle insists that “we’re losing a lot. We’re growing further apart from our neighbours.”
One measure of that can be found at the majestic stone and brick library and opera house at the top of Church St.
They call it the only library without books and the only theatre without a stage in the U.S. That’s because the border line runs right through the building, and both the books and the stage are in Canada.
The border tightening has led to less tourism, says the theatre’s manager, Lynn Leimer, particularly among Canadians. Many don’t know that though you’re allowed to walk on the sidewalk from Canada to the building entrance, which is on the U.S. side, you cannot drive to the parking lot, also on the U.S. side, without reporting to customs.
“It’s not as easy to come across, and it’s confusing for visitors,” Leimer says.
For a while, so many people were getting picked up and interrogated by the U.S. Border Patrol that Stanstead Mayor Philippe Dutil put up a temporary fence across the road. He says the border patrol has agreed to not automatically detain people, so the fence has been removed.
But Leimer recalls how a performer from Montreal arrived one day at the opera house, only to be taken away by agents. “He vowed never to come back,” she says.
Since 2009, the U.S. has also required travellers to have a passport to cross. Canadian customs agents in the area have acquired new technology and are now systematically entering all travellers’ information, like at airports.
New issues keep cropping up. Prangley, who ran the Haskell Free Library for 24 years, was furious last May when she tried to walk into the U.S. as a pedestrian — ironically to attend a “dance for universal peace” — and was told by the customs agent to “get in line and advance with the cars.”
She refused. “I could not believe what he told me,” she recalls. “That was the end of any sense of community here. The way we’re treated is really insulting lots of the time. The questions are degrading, they insinuate you have an ulterior motive even if you’re going to go get gas.
“But this is our community for God’s sake, founded on goodwill, intimately woven together.
“It’s just not fun anymore.”

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Yes what a shame. What a dam shame! I have been to Haskell Free Library and Opera House several times over the years. The Opera house (upstairs from the library) has the stage in Canada and part of the audience in the USA. What used to be routine for Canadians attending a concert there or entering the library (entrance is on the U.S. side) is now akin to crossing Checkpoint Charlie in the 1960’s in Berlin - one never knows what will happen to you as you may wind up in a Bush initiated jail or maybe in Gitmo!

As far as Canusa road is concerned, the Canadian part of it is Quebec Highway 247 and if you’re going South on this road, you suddenly find yourself in another country - still without Bush cronies stopping you, well for now anyways…- for about a mile or so, then returning into Canada. Several houses have the border line crossing inside (like the Haskell Free Library and Opera House) and there also used to be the Butterfield Drill Company, where part of the factory was in each country (now gone).

Unfortunately, the way it used to be (simple, enjoyable, a one village atmosphere, etc.) will probably never return. Our most recent trip there was last Summer where we stayed on the U.S. side at a lovely B&B called The Birchwood in Derby Line Vt. We crossed the border to get a pizza at the very same place mentioned in the Toronto Star article but were warned in no uncertain terms to “report back to U.S. Customs (some distance away) when re-enteting the U.S. or face a $5,000 fine”, by the U.S. Border Guard recently imported from the South border.

I was told by a local that there was even a question that Homeland Security wanted to put up a high fence between the two towns, but it seems that they have abandoned - at least for now - that idea…

G

So sad and so strange .
My Kids where stationed In Germany for the last three years and they could drive from Germany to Italy or Holland and never had to stop . you can drive all over Europe at any time .
Now we have the USA that seems to be getting paranoid and are arresting people who have fished on The Niagara River for years if the get pushed by the current in to the wrong area.
I used go to USA 20 times a year and now it is so difficult 2 or three times at the most.
I wonder if this closed door attitude is part of the difficulty why they are hurting so much and we are not .
I liked the old way better and I think most Americans do too

How come they don’t do that on the South Border? Don’t you hockey players vote democrat?! :shock:

Only when we are focused :shock:

Where does duty become paranoia one wonders when reading the following:

Looking back at 9/11: Border restrictions trump fighting fires

Chief Paul Martin of the Richford, Vt. fire department backs his truck into the station (Sept. 6, 2011)

Chief Paul Martin of the Richford, Vt. fire department backs his truck into the station (Sept. 6, 2011)

Updated: Tue Sep. 06 2011 2:53:38 PM

ctvmontreal.ca

As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks draws near, there is no question that the relationships between the United States and the rest of the world have changed.

Volunteer firefighters who live near the border are particularly aware of that because they have seen the camaraderie they shared with their U.S. counterparts eroded over the past decade.

Paul Martin, Chief of the Richford, Vermont fire department, says he has noticed the chill in relations.

Barely a kilometre from Canada, Richford firefighters used to come into Quebec often to battle blazes or offer assistance, like they did when the Camille Hotel in Sutton caught fire, or when the ice storm hit.

“I spent one whole night up there during the ice storm, pumping water from one reservoir to another reservoir. so the people of Sutton could have water,” said Chief Martin.

That assistance went both ways, including when Richford’s mill went up in flames.

“We had maybe 15 departments here, including Canadians. Three quarters of the top of the mill burnt off that night,” said Martin.

But when the Twin Towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked, and passengers of an airliner fought back against hijackers, everything changed.

Now firefighters rushing to help are stopped, often, by border officials.

“When you get to the border who ever is on duty can ask you to turn around because you don’t have your passport or your legal paper with you,” said Martin Blanchette, a firefighter from Sutton.

Less than 10 km from Richford, Blanchette says border officials stop and ask questions first, rather than letting them deal with an emergency.

“We’re a fire truck and we’re not trying to smuggle nothing or nobody we’re just trying to go and help the town that needs some help,” said Blanchette.

Restrictions, including mandatory passport checks, have affected people who grew up going across the border like water through a sieve.

Rosaire St. Pierre, originally from Quebec, owns a restaurant in Richford called The Crossing.

Much of his clientele is from Canada, but the guards, the guns and the requirements keep people away.

“Before 9/11 I thought the future was going to be no borders,” said St. Pierre. Now, “they’re almost treating everybody like a terrorist.”

Members of the border patrol acknowledge there was a time when a wave and a hello were enough to pass from one country to another in border towns. But those days of trusting one’s neighbours are unlikely to return.

Greg Starr of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the terrorist attack spread fear throughout the U.S.

“I understand completely what we’re talking about here, but I’m just not sure we’ll ever go back to the easy ways of crossing the borders,” said Starr.

However there are signs that ten years without an attack launched by foreigners has convinced officials to make changes that would allow firefighters to cross the border and do emergency work first – then deal with border agents.

“We’ve made agreements with them that possibly we’d follow them down to an place and then deal with their situation later as to whether they had the right documents to come into the country,” said Starr.

If this deal is worked out, it could mean an end to border thickening, and the pendulum may swing back to when the countries that share the world’s longest undefended border can start trusting each other again.

Just a thought…

G

Thanks Gilles,
We can only hope But I do not see any changes in fact the Ammericans are tightening up the border even more .

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Unmanned+plane+patrolling+stretch+Canada+border/4174183/story.html

Unmanned plane patrolling stretch of Canada-U.S. border

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/boost+Canada+border+presence/1686875/story.html

U.S. to boost Canada border presence by 45%