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

Posted by admin on Jun 11th, 2009

Ian MacLeod, Canwest News Service . Published: Thursday, June 11, 2009

OTTAWA — Just days after a passport requirement for Canadians crossing U.S. land borders took effect, the United States is preparing to dispatch 700 more agents to patrol its northern border, the Ottawa Citizen has learned. The move, confirmed Thursday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, represents a 45% “plus-up” over current staffing of 1,550 agents. It will bring the total number of northern U.S. border agents to about 2,200 by September, 2010, more than a sixfold increase since 9/11.

Much of the additional manpower is needed to operate new border monitoring equipment and to run down investigative leads and other information generated by the new technologies, said a CBP spokesman in Washington.

“We want to be sure and allocate resources to do the best job possible … to make the technology and all that stuff that we’re using up there work,” said Lloyd Easterling.

The technologies include radiation detectors, hidden ground sensors, security cameras and air and marine units, including Predator unmanned patrol planes monitoring remote border regions for potential terrorists and other criminals heading south across the almost 9,000-kilometre boundary.

“We can’t just put the technology in without having the people to go out there and actually move around and make arrests and investigate suspicious activity as needed,” said Easterling. “So we need to make sure that we plus-up on the border in order to answer the border security challenges all along that northern border.

“We’ve been working with Canada on a whole lot of things and working together to make that border environment safer all the way around and this is just part of it.”

A week after being sworn into the new U.S. administration in January, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a review of vulnerabilities along the border with Canada. She and homeland security officials later portrayed the review as routine due-diligence by the incoming administration and dismissed suggestions the U.S. was considering a further “thickening” of the border.

In May, Ms. Napolitano fuelled fears that U.S. border policy continues to be influenced by myth more than facts for suggesting — incorrectly — that the 9/11 terrorists entered the U.S. from Canada. Her office quickly issue a correction.

Last week, she announced $60-million in funding for border states to beef up their contributions to border security. More than three-quarters of the money is to go states neighbouring Mexico, where extensive drug trade is threatening border security.

A passing line in an accompanying press release noted the increase of 700 northern border agents, but failed to indicate whether the addition was previously planned or new. In May, 2008, the U.S. said its total complement of northern border agents would reach a maximum of 1,845 by this September, the end of the U.S. government’s fiscal year.

Meanwhile, two U.S. senators from New York State on Thursday called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ms. Napolitano to step in and resolve a dispute between the federal government and a Mohawk group that has shutdown a border crossing between eastern Ontario and New York.

Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said the border closure has been “economically devastating” to Massena, N.Y. and the surrounding area. Mr. Schumer called Canada’s decision to shut the link between Ontario and New York “shortsighted” and unacceptable.

“The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security can provide much needed leadership to break this impasse,” said Mr. Schumer in a statement. “We must work together, let cooler heads prevail and open this crossing as soon as possible.”

The Canada Border Services Agency closed the crossing, which sits on a Mohawk reserve near Cornwall on May 31 after the community of Akwesasne said it would not allow the June 1 planned arming of border guards.

Since then, the bridge spans linking New York state to the Canadian crossing, and the crossing to the Ontario mainland, have remained shut to the general public.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has so far refused to meet with the Mohawk leadership to resolve the impasse and his office has repeatedly stated the matter was in the hands of the CBSA.

State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said Clinton would answer the correspondence.

Ottawa Citizen, with files from Canwest News Service


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