You all know the saying, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”? Well, the open border between the US and Canada ain’t broke. It’s worked fine since 1814, with no sign of wearing out.
Up until recently you could have read a book in two countries at once: the public library in Derby Line, Vermont had the border run right through it. Sit in the right chair and there you’d be, half in Derby Line, half in Rock Island, Quebec. Not so much any more: Now Main Street in Derby Line is a permanent traffic jam.
A friend of mine, Claudette Hebert, had a grandfather who owned a “Line House” during Prohibition. The front door was in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, the bar was in East Hereford, Quebec. Prohibition wasn’t enough to close the border. But now phantom terrorists, the bugaboos of Tom Tancredo’s fantasy life, the all-purpose excuse for the Homeland Security folks who need to come up with ever more ridiculous schemes lest they not be Seen To Be Doing Their Jobs, want that to destroy commerce and tourism and just plain friendship.
To what end? None visible. Not one single terrorist has entered the US by slipping across the Canadian border. But I can name dozens of terrorists who entered with valid passports (the entire 9/11 crew to start) or who didn’t need passports (Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph being only a couple of the more notorious ones).
Can we afford three thousand miles of minefields, barbed wire, and unmanned drone aircraft to stop a non-existent threat? Can we afford to do it and cut taxes at the same time? Aren’t the neo-cons aware that smoking that stuff is illegal?
So. To the point. Another story from my local newspaper, a paper that doesn’t run its stories on-line, a story that you’d never otherwise read.
By Donna Jordan
When President George Bush signed the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill—approved by both the house and senate last week—there was a provision written into the bill by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont which extended the land travel passport deadline which will be of interest to those attempting to figure out what new requirements will be necessary when traveling back and forth across the nearby Canadian border.
The deadline for passports is now three months after the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security have certified that the technology and personnel are in place to handle the new passport rules—or until June 2009, whichever comes first. The original deadline for needing passports was June 2008, but the delay of one year has been welcomed by New Hampshire and Vermont senators and representatives.
However, most people from the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean will still need to present to the U. S. customs officers with a birth certificate or some other document establishing their citizenship when they enter the United States on or after Jan. 31, 2008. (Senator Leahy has opposed this requirement as well.)
In an interview with CNN recently, Senator Leahy said that terrorists are “not going to come across with a valid passport” and that that the passport requirement is “really insulting to Canada.” In New Hampshire and Vermont, U.S. and Canadian citizens have long crossed from one country into the next with little concern. “All this is going to do is stop the people who want to come to the United States to spend money and the people who want to involve themselves with business or travel, education, heathcare—whatever—between the U.S. and Canada,” said Leahy. “It won’t deter a single terrorist.” Leahy also said that Canada was the “closest friend” the United States has.
In New Hampshire, U.S. Senator John Sununu said that he welcomed the measure to extend the deadline, saying, “Travel between the United States and Canada is routine for thousands of New Hampshire residents, as it is for our northern neighbors. Federal rules requiring every man, woman and child to have a passport for such travel represents an over-sized solution that does not reflect the way of life in the border states. Mandating that residents and visitors purchase costly passports will inevitably lead to fewer cross-border trips, ultimately discouraging the flow of commerce.” Sununu also said that the amendment provides more time to explore the concept of using secure drivers licenses for land travel between the Unites States and Canada.
“I’m glad that Vermonters now will have one less thing to worry about for awhile,” Leahy said in a statement. “This buys breathing room to try to find better and more sensible answers for northern Border security. The passport requirement is the wrong answer to the wrong question. It creates major hassles for law-abiding citizens and communities all across the longest peaceful border in the world. It adds nothing to our security while costing Vermont and our national economy billions in lost commerce. Instead, for only a fraction of that expense, we could and should be beefing up our intelligence and working with Canada to seek out potential terrorists long before they even get near our borders.”
By June of 2009 we’ll have a new president. We’ll have a new congress. With any kind of luck the Department of Homeland Security will have been dissolved. Maybe Senator Leahy has bought us enough time that this security-theater insanity will miss us entirely.