- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

The Pentagon last week extended its agreement to pay for National Guard troops to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border in Detroit for another month.
But immigration officials fear that the additional funding is a Band-Aid for the nagging and dangerous problem of securing the country's 5,000-mile northern border.
The lines at the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, are lengthy. Truck cargo is sometimes taken apart and drivers interrogated at length about their intentions.
The questions are delivered with rote cadence to almost every person in every vehicle at the congested crossing: "Where are you from, why are you coming in to the U.S. and how long will you be here?"
The deployment of the Guard at a cost of $8,100 a day, or $243,000 a month is the first new step toward securing a border that is vulnerable as an entry point for potential terrorists.
"Right now, we take work force from wherever we can," said Jim Michie, a spokesman for U.S. Customs. The guard deployment will help a little, at least he said.
Greg Palmore, spokesman for the Detroit office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service office, has a simple wish list: money. "A monetary injection," he calls it.
"For more people, and more people," he said. "They've taken away the ceiling for overtime. Everybody is getting overtime. But we still need more people."
The September 11 terrorist attacks have triggered a wave of proposals from Congress and the White House, all aimed at enhancing the security of America's borders. But it could take years to adopt and perfect some of the new ideas, such as an electronic surveillance system to monitor foreigners who enter the United States on student visas.
Border stops in remote towns in Montana and North Dakota still close evenings, and cars can and do cruise through both ways unfettered and unquestioned.
There are currently 8 million "unauthorized" immigrants in the United States, the Census Bureau reported Oct. 13.
"There will almost have to be change at that northern border," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. "There is so much work to be done, even though Congress has voted to triple the number of agents, from 300-something to 900-plus. We need a big increase there. And with more people, we need more technology, we need metal detectors, like they have in the southern borders."
Visa control was the focus of Attorney General John Ashcroft's message this week in forming a new task force to crack down on illegal immigration.
Another possibility is a joint immigration control network between Canada and the United States, proposed last week by Paul Celucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
"Everyone has to have a sense of urgency about this," Mr. Celucci said in an interview with Canada's National Post. "We shouldn't be talking years here. We should be talking, for some things, months and for other things, a year or two."
Meanwhile, the agencies charged with controlling the border INS, Customs and the Border Patrol are awaiting congressional action that will give them more funds to patrol the Canadian border, the longest nonmilitarized border in the world.
"There have been no additional resources post-9/11," said INS spokesman Russ Bergeron. But overtime has been approved and vacations have been canceled.
"And even when it is approved, you will still have lead time," Mr. Bergeron said. "Once we get the appropriations, then there is the process of recruiting and hiring and training people. In the case of border patrol agents and inspectors, that process takes months."
The northern border is well-known to terrorists, who used it in 1993 to cross on their way to carry out the first World Trade Center bombing. In 1999, Ahmed Ressam was arrested with a carload of explosives as he attempted to enter Washington state via a ferry from British Columbia.
"We are running this as tight as we can," Mr. Bergeron said. "But we can't keep it up forever."
Critics say the September 11 attacks have not prompted a rapid enough change at the borders.
"The [criminal] databases need to be integrated," said Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA (www.numbersusa.com), which advocates reducing immigration. "And that means one of the priorities of [Tom] Ridge should be to make it happen, if they are serious about it at all. Immigration was one of the major factors behind 9/11, the poor immigration and visa practices we have."


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