June 12, 2006, - 3:46 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
So what was that President Bush was saying about beefing up our borders? Uh, not really.
Check out this photo, below, taken by St. Petersburg Times senior correspondent, Susan Taylor Martin. It’s self-service entry into the U.S. for boaters on the St. Lawrence River entering the U.S. from Canada at Ogdensburg, New York. Do you think they all do “the right thing” and check in? Think again.
Read Martin’s entire article about this, but check out this part, which is no surprise to those of us clued in (versus the “peace, love, and understanding” crack addicts):
When private boaters enter U.S. waters from Canada, chances are there won’t be any U.S. Customs officials there to meet them. Instead, they are supposed to go to a videophone – like the one at the city marina in Ogdensburg, N.Y. – and give the home port, boat registration number, the names and citizenship of all passengers and a list of alcohol or anything else acquired outside the country. . . .
“We like to think people obey the law,” says Kevin Corsaro of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. But, he acknowledges, “it’s hard to guarantee it.” . . .
“It’d be easy to get across,” says Jamie Kennedy, an auto mechanic who was helping a friend repair his boat at the Ogdensburg marina, about a mile across the St. Lawrence River from Prescott, Ontario.
“If you turned the lights off in the middle of the night, no one will know it.” . . .
Today, smugglers spirit cigarettes and firearms into Canada, while the main activity in the other direction is drug smuggling – much of it high-quality marijuana.
Then there are the people who try to sneak across.
“For a long time it was predominantly Pakistanis and Indians, a lot of eastern Europeans, then Chinese,” says Ashlaw, whose agents patrol a 40-mile stretch of river. “These were people who got off the plane in Canada and claimed refugee status. They had no intention of staying in Canada, but it was easier to get into Canada.”
In recent years, Asians have largely been replaced by other nationalities, including Arabs from the Middle East.
“Since 9/11 our mission has changed,” Ashlaw says. “We’re no longer looking at just illegal aliens, we’ve apprehended people with terrorist affiliations.” . . .
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents along the Canadian border has tripled, to about 1,000. That is still far fewer than along the shorter Mexican border. . . .
At the nearby city marina, the “U.S. Customs Border Protection Site” – actually a videophone – awaits private boaters coming from Canada.
“Open door, lift handset and press appropriate button to call,” the instructions begin.
After giving the required information, the boat’s captain either receives a clearance number and is allowed to proceed, or else is told to wait for a customs inspector.
The process is even simpler for boaters who pass criminal background checks and qualify for a “trusted traveler” program. All they have to do is call and be on their way.
Last year, about 12,000 boaters entering U.S. waters from Canada reported in to customs sites in upstate New York, according to Corsaro of Customs and Border Protection. It’s impossible to know how many didn’t report, but Corsaro presumes many do – if only from fear of being fined or having their boats seized if they don’t.
“We have various checks and balances,” he says. “We have the Coast Guard and Border Patrol in the water doing spot checks to assure that boaters comply. Certainly we like to think that everyone reports, but I’m sure there are times they don’t.”
Compliance is also thwarted by the occasional nonworking videophone. . . .
Sending the National Guard for a few months to the Southern border won’t do anything to help this situation. Now, don’t you feel safe?
Thanks to Lawrence Friedman of the always interesting Customs Law Blog for the tip.
Tags: Ashlaw, auto mechanic, Bush's "Beefed Up, Canada, Captain, customs inspector, Debbie Schlussel So, Jamie Kennedy, Kevin Corsaro, Lawrence Friedman, Lawrence River, Middle East, National Guard, New York, Ogdensburg, Ogdensburg marina, Ontario, Prescott, President, senior correspondent, Southern Border, St. Petersburg Times, Susan Taylor Martin, U.S. Customs, United States