US tightens security on New England-Canada border
Since last week, most travelers from Canada are being required to show identification and submit to background checks at U.S. border posts in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, said Ted Woo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in Boston.
“It’s such a shock to all of us here,” said Florence Joyal, 68, who works the cash register in a general store in the Vermont village of Derby Line, whose Main Street leads straight into the Canadian province of Quebec.
“Before, you didn’t even show your ID to cross the border.”
Porous in vast stretches and often invisible, America’s 5,500-mile (8,900-km) border with Canada is drawing closer scrutiny after President Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed in March to work together on border security.
The tougher screening was confined to New England and did not represent new U.S. policy, said Woo.
“In the past, if an individual came across the border their IDs would be checked. But there wouldn’t be a cross-referencing of 100 percent of those people into our databases,” said Woo, whose Boston office oversees about 40 border checkpoints in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.
“We’re trying to increase border security,” he said.
While Washington focuses on illegal immigration on the volatile U.S. southern border, a sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnel discovered last year between Vancouver and Seattle and the 1999 arrest of the “millennium bomber” on Canada’s western border highlight concerns about the northern boundary.
The tougher scrutiny of travelers slowed border traffic to a crawl on Canada’s May 22 Victoria Day holiday, frustrating not only Canadians but also U.S. businesses near the border which had expected Canadians to crowd into stores armed with a currency at its strongest level against the dollar since 1978.