Letters to the Editor -- August 26, 2004

Published on Thu, Aug 26, 2004
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Letters to the Editor

The Editor:
As the area port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the Blaine service area, I would like to share some thoughts with the readers of The Northern Light. Since the September 11 tragedy, the priority mission of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been and still is to prevent terrorists and implements of terror from entering our country. The job of the men and women of CBP has never been more important or more demanding. The frontline officers work around the clock to ensure the safety and security of our citizens.
CBP was created in March, 2003, formed from the merging of the U.S. Customs Service and offices within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The transition to a new agency has been challenging. Employees have experienced many changes in the 17 months since its inception.
CBP employees have refocused their efforts on building a new organization, a new culture and a unified workforce. They are trained to carry out their duties with respect, dignity and professionalism. And they do. Every day.
It is disheartening to see all of the hard-working employees of CBP unfairly accused of being heavy-handed or of needing attitude adjustments. CBP neither condones nor tolerates unprofessional treatment of persons entering our country. Such instances are addressed immediately. A new professionalism course has recently been developed and will be delivered to every CBP employee by the end of October. This will serve to remind all employees about their duty to treat travelers with dignity and respect.
In the meantime, I am confident that travelers arriving at ports of entry within the Blaine service area will experience a professional inspection and will be treated with the dignity and respect they expect and deserve. If that does not happen, the traveler should immediately bring the situation to the attention of the supervisor on duty. And, of course, travelers are always welcome to contact me.
Margaret R. Fearon
Area Port Director, U.S. Customs and
Border Protection
Blaine

The Editor:
I would like to take a moment to thank the communities of Birch Bay and Blaine for their support of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce during my tenure. Coming from a family whose roots stretch back five generations to the early 1900s it was my honor to represent the community and lead the chamber into a new era of prosperity and cooperation with the Blaine and Ferndale communities.
It is unfortunate that with every successful program, campaign, or operation there will be naysayers who protest against change, but then again how would any of us know of our success if it were not for those who protest? The Birch Bay chamber conducts all of its business with a dedicated group of individuals who are elected by the general membership every two years. These individuals are entrusted by the membership to make decisions on behalf of the chamber that will benefit not just a few individuals but will positively impact the community as a whole.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Ball only lives in Birch Bay during the summer season. It is also unfortunate that Mr. Ball was not present for presentations by Audubon Society, 2010 Washington State Olympic Task Force, British Petroleum, McPhail’s Berry Farm, sheriff Bill Elfo, local proprietor Ellen Shea, and county executive Pete Kremen.
The sand sculpture contest being held August 28 is the product of a year’s worth of work provided by Karl King to bring the contest to a professional level and attract more visitors to Birch Bay at the end of the summer.
Unfortunately, since Mr. King resigned from the board of directors he has refused to participate in any of the events sponsored by the chamber. If Mr. King spent 1/10 of the energy he uses to complain about border guards and conspiracies he would be a great benefit to the community.
Change is inevitable and the Birch Bay chamber stands poised on greatness with their current board of directors and even though I have resigned as president of the chamber I am still and always will be an active participant in the community. One day I will welcome my grandchildren to the beach where I will take them into the warm waters to introduce a sixth generation of Jerns to the squishing of sand between their toes.
Nick Jerns Jr.
Birch Bay

The Editor:
I have been reading a lot of complaints about the border and they seem to be all one sided: Canada against the U.S.
My family and I moved to the area from Wisconsin in 1994. I worked at Geographics for almost six years and bought a house in Blaine. We crossed the border two or three times a month to have picnics, see movies, go out to eat, sight-seeing. One time crossing, the agents wanted our IDs. No problem, they asked us to park and go in. We were asked the usual questions, no problem, then they asked if I had ever been convicted of DUI. I told the truth, yes, over 15 years ago, when I was still single. I was more responsible now, with wife, kids and we owned our own home. I was informed that I was not allowed in Canada because of that conviction. If I wanted to enter Canada, I had to apply for a minister’s permit. I got the paper work in Seattle, supplied all the information, including fingerprints, driving records, copy of my birth certificate and a fee of $299 U.S. I mailed it and waited for six months to hear the result. I wrote them a letter asking them what the status of my minister’s permit was and a few weeks later, I got a letter explaining that my information was under review and to be patient.
I waited another four months and wrote them back again. This time the letter explained that my information was incomplete and that I needed to re-send the information and the fee had gone up to $699 U.S.
I wrote back again saying I wanted my $299 back. I decided not to go to Canada anymore. I got a response explaining that the $299 was not refundable.
I got robbed $299 by Canada.
Name Withheld by Request
Blaine

The Editor:
Blaine city councilors are soon going to be asked to make a decision about the future of the spit - that precious strip of land between Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay.
Trillium Corporation has applied to build 72 homes on just one of four tracts it owns on the spit. The Lummi Indian Nation has plans for a Heritage Park on the part of the spit it owns, once the present wastewater treatment plant is relocated. Whatcom County is responsible for a small park on the spit.
All this activity, including moving the road – and more to come – could change forever an area that is unique in Whatcom County, Washington state and probably the Pacific Northwest.
Apart from the all-important environmental impact statement, there are many issues that should affect the council’s decision. Surely, it would benefit everyone if all parties convened publicly to reveal all their plans and discuss the future of the spit, as a whole and not just fragmenting it from time to time? This is important, not only from an environmental viewpoint, but also as far as traffic, security, tourism, the Brant Festival, shellfish protection and the birding committee are all concerned, as well as future business at the hotel and marina.
Our councilors and the public need to be aware and understand all future plans for the spit that will impact this area, before any decision is made regarding this one application. Wouldn’t this be better than asking ourselves – “whatever were they thinking?” – a few years down the road?
Trevor Hoskins
Blaine

The Editor:
I realize that the border issue may have had all its ‘juice’ wrung out of it recently, but still, the problem cannot be ignored. The problem is not limited to non-American citizens entering the United States. The problem seems to be the power hungry, perhaps not well enough trained, officers on duty. In response to the way we were treated last week I wrote this letter. Please do not publish it if you have to publish my name. I am genuinely concerned about retribution from the border authorities, and many of my extended family live north of the border.
Bravo to our fearless U.S. border guards who protect us from evildoers. Bravo to those men and women who stand watch in their little booths tirelessly weeding out those who would jeopardize our homeland security. Bravo to those who make traveling from Canada to the United States a suspect, potentially criminal activity. Bravo to that gentleman who, at 11 o’clock at night, took the time to chastise a woman in a mini-van because she had all of her documentation behind her in her diaper bag and had to reach for it, rather than holding it out the window. When she approached the booth there was no line-up, so she pleasantly remarked that it was unusual to have no line, and she needed to reach behind her to get her papers. That always alert gentleman scolded her not once, but three times, that it was “unacceptable” to not have her papers ready. Bravo! After all, what kind of law abiding citizen travels with four children at that time of night? Was the diversion of reaching behind her, and the time lag of perhaps 5 seconds really a plot to throw off the vigilant employee of her tax dollars to further her scheming plans to breach homeland security? It is possible. It may never have occurred to most of us average citizens that producing ruder border guards would have prevented the tragic events of September 11, but bravo to the person who thought of it! The guard had no way of knowing that this same woman had sat in line for over an hour just the week before in the heat entertaining her tired and fussy children just to get back in the Good Ole’ USA from visiting their grandmother. Did she get flustered or impatient? No! She was thankful that security was being considered. Did she snap rudely at the officer once she reached the booth? No, she smiled cheerily, with her documentation out the window, having had more than 60 minutes to prepare for this occasion. Again, bravo! As it is inscribed on the Peace Arch so beautifully, “May these gates never be closed.” At least not fully closed. Please withhold my name due to certainty that the next occasion to head north and return home might not be as pleasant an experience.
Name Withheld by Request
Bellingham

The Editor:
Thank you for your continued support of Birch Bay and informative news articles from the local area.
The article appearing in the August 19-25 issue of The Northern Light regarding the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce did not include information regarding the “Special Salute and Award of Excellence” awards. Several business people and friends of the Birch Bay chamber signed the awards.
These plaques were presented to retiring president Nick Jerns and incoming president Mike Harward, thanking them for their outstanding leadership, vision and accomplishments.
Although we are saddened and disappointed because of Nick’s departure, we feel positive about our future and look forward to new opportunities and ideas.
For those people concerned about the SAC – Student Ambassador Committee, this program is an excellent organization for our future business leaders. The meetings and fellowship these young people are experiencing will be valuable lessons learned in the early part of their lives.
Further, to the appointment of Patti Nichols as treasurer, and Genée Haws Kay as secretary, they were appointed on June 15 at the board of directors meeting.
Genée Haws Kay for
Board of Directors
Birch Bay Chamber of
Commerce

The Editor:
In the upcoming election we will be asked to vote on a large array of candidates and issues. It is easy to lose track of “minor” positions as we focus on the national and statewide candidates. However, it is the local offices that have the most immediate impact on our daily lives. One such position is Superior Court Judge.
I have had the opportunity to observe court commissioner Charles Snyder on several occasions in juvenile court. He conducts himself in a very professional manner. He has shown firmness, restraint and good judgement when confronted by difficult situations. His thoughtful and controlled demeanor made a positive influence in a young person’s life. It was clear to me that when difficulties arose he was able to assess the situation and make choices to deflect and diffuse problems before they got out of hand. He always had firm control over the proceedings in his court no matter what highly emotional situations arose. I strongly support and recommend him for the position of Superior Court Judge.
Phil Heft
Bellingham

The Editor:
I have closely followed all the border stories this summer wanting to react yet resisting. Why? Because of fear of reprisal. My border crossings started 50 years ago with visits to a great aunt in Birch Bay. They continued as my mother loved shopping in Bellingham and Seattle four times a year as duty allowances then permitted and my dad, a salesman, considered Americans superior at marketing, and loved to visit their stores. My husband and I have had recreational property in Birch Bay for 25 years. Other members of my family have followed suit. We were PACE and now NEXUS participants. We have regularly crossed the border for some weekends and holidays, always trying diligently to observe the rules and regulations, never wanting to endanger access to our vacation property which we enjoy so much. As we love to shop, eat out and sightsee, even when our dollar is low, we have certainly contributed to the U.S. economy!
Lois Walsh’s letter prompted me to react. Yes, the border personnel work diligently at an essential and often thankless and frustrating job. But they are also human beings who are fallible. The U.S. border personnel have been granted such absolute power since 9/11 and that power can be abused. Abusive power combined with the wearing of guns can be extremely intimidating for many Canadians.
For the most part we have found border personnel to be purposeful and fair but I have been particularly concerned this past year at what I observed when my husband and I were sent in for more frequent checks. We were not told but I surmise our checks were triggered by our change in visiting patterns. I’m a school administrator who was on a three-month medical leave as I recovered from a severe back injury. I found the one-stop shopping at the newer Fred Meyer’s with its electric handicap carts and wide aisles much easier to negotiate and we would cross more frequently midweek.
In one instance at the Peace Arch counter, I stood next to a local U.S. store owner who I know has very little English – his wife and son are well spoken. Although my husband and I were treated respectfully and efficiently as we filled out forms while our vehicle was checked, I was appalled at the demeaning, belligerent manner in which he was questioned by a large, intimidating agent. “Whatd’ya mean you don’t know. You live in this country and you can’t speak the language?!!!?” and so on and so on in an increasingly louder, more aggressive manner.
How would that appear to all the other visitors waiting on the bench? Would you want to be subjected to this crossing a border? If there were major problems, could he not be interviewed in a room? My husband whispered to me “bite your lip” as he knows at school I would always intervene in a bullying or racist situation. I said nothing. Why? Fear of reprisal but I was ashamed of myself.
A female relative was contacted by phone by a U.S. border employee who must have used the database to track her down. When she said she was married, he said he knew! Abuse of power certainly. Did she complain? Absolutely not. Again, fear of reprisal! He has the power to deny entry.
Finally, in spite of the recent publicity promoting NEXUS, is there an antipathy to the NEXUS program among some border personnel?
When we were sent in to be checked at the Pacific Highway crossing, as identification we submitted our passports, birth certificates and NEXUS cards which are all folded together but the agent literally flung the NEXUS cards back on the counter and said, “These don’t count here!” Another case of bite our lips.
We were not using it as a primary ID source which it clearly states, but surely it can be considered supplemental picture ID which shows we have had a background security check and submitted to fingerprinting.
Sadly we have other law abiding, respectful friends and acquaintances who will no longer visit us in the states. We had felt they were overreacting but our recent experiences have caused us to question, “Is it worth the hassle?”
Name Withheld by Request
West Vancouver, B.C.

The Editor:
The proposed Georgia Strait Crossing (GSX) Pipeline sets dangerous precedents for more pipeline development along our shorelines, endangers humans and wildlife, creates environmentally unsound outcomes, and does not benefit Whatcom County nor Washington state residents (its purpose is to transport natural gas from mainland Canada through approximately 80 miles of rural and shoreline Whatcom/San Juan counties, and back to Vancouver Island). When the Canadian government rejected the original, all-Canadian route of the project, the developers devised the current route.
Also, if readers want to see the alarmingly unsafe track record of the Williams Companies, one of the pipeline developers (the 1999 pipeline explosion that killed three boys and devastated Whatcom Falls Creek was one of their pipelines), they should go to the web at www.sqwalk.com/Williams NotWantedInAnyonesBackyard.html for an article written by the co-founder of a Vancouver Island citizen’s group (who would supposedly be beneficiaries of the pipeline) who have opposed the pipeline from the outset three years ago.
Please let the community know that the grass-roots neighborhood organization, Neighbors for Birch Point (NFBP), is sponsoring a Whatcom/San Juan county-wide and state-wide petition against this pipeline.
The text of the petition reads:
To: Whatcom County Hearing Examiner
I (we), the undersigned, respectfully request that the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner deny any and all shoreline permit requests by Georgia Strait Crossing Pipeline LLC to build and operate a natural gas pipeline and associated facilities that will extend from Sumas to Vancouver Island, B.C. and which will cross through Whatcom and San Juan counties. I (we) absolutely do not want this pipeline in our community nor in Washington state.
NFBP is conducting the petition both over e-mail and via the traditional printed petition campaign. It is crucial that we get as many signatures as possible before August 31, 2004, as the public comment period on the pipeline closes on September 1, 2004.
Anyone wishing to join the petition or desiring more information, please contact me immediately at 371-0301 or via e-mail at josl@nas.com.
Jo Slivinski
Neighbors for Birch Point
Birch Point

Letters Policy
The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank-you letters should be limited to 10 names. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.

Please send your letter to:
225 Marine Drive, Blaine, WA 98230 or fax 360/332-2777.
E-mail:editor@thenorthernlight.com

Letters Policy

The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank you letters are limited to five individuals or groups. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.

Please email letters to letters@thenorthernlight.com