Storiesfrom the border

Published on Thu, Oct 25, 2007
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Stories from the border

Publisher’s Note: Living, visiting and working as we do on the 49th Parallel, the border has an undeniable impact on our lives. Border policies and construction delays are just two of the issues that can have dramatic effect on our day to day activities. Readers of The Northern Light and All Point Bulletin in Point Roberts are encouraged to write of their experiences. Confidentiality is assured. Here are some of the accounts we have received to date. Please address your reports to publisher@thenorthernlight.com.


For some thirty years I worked in a “smokestack” industry around the manufacture of chemical products and feed stuffs. When our smoke stack gave off more than a few seconds of visible smoke—our phone would ring with calls from outraged citizens and concerned regulatory agencies.

Though it was a nuisance to us at times, the citizens were in their right to demand that factory emissions be within legal limits.

Why then are pollution rules not enforced in border lineups?

In all the years of creeping along in lines of vehicles creating immense quantities of air pollution – I have yet to see or hear anybody doing anything about the problem.

I first wrote to our congressman back in 1978, at the time of the second oil crisis, complaining about the pollution caused by long creeping lines of vehicles and the waste of precious fuels.

The congressman’s office wrote back and told me that if the administration at the time (Carter’s) had a proper petroleum policy - wasting fuel wouldn’t be a problem. No concern at all shown about the pollution problem.

Twenty-nine years later no agency is doing anything about the problem of air pollution and fuel wastage in long border line ups. Why not? Their missions are to protect the environment at the very least. Fuel wastage and dangers to drivers and passengers should be concerns of our regulatory agencies as well.

know it is impossible to totally avoid long border line ups. However, there is a solution to the waste and pollution – the railroads have used it for a century at least – so it is not rocket science.

When border line ups exceed a certain time, signals can come on to tell drivers to stop their engines and wait until the line ahead clears to the inspection booths, and then proceed. Surely, there are capital and operating expenses in setting up these “block systems” but all equipment is off the shelf so the expenses will be minimum compared to the priceless benefits of such programs.

If you agree, please write your legislators and regulatory agencies.


I was struck by how out of touch CBP commissioner Ralph Basham was in his explanation on why border travelers have to wait so long to cross the border. He wrote that lineups are often a function of insufficient infrastructure and lack of processing space. Well, come on out to the Peace Arch, buddy. At any given time, half (usually the eastern half) of the lanes are closed. But if you go inside, you’ll see plenty of officers wandering around. You can tell them to go open up some lanes.

He says 45-60 seconds a car? Sure. That’s when there’s one person and they have a passport. It’s more like two minutes a vehicle and can stretch as long as five or more on occasion. If the border guard has got suspicions why don’t they just send the traveler inside? Don’t hold up the rest of the traveling public. I doubt these problems are limited to our border area.

He recommends frequent travelers join trusted travel programs such as NEXUS. Thanks, I already did but it seems plenty of people can’t because they are denied admission due to overly strict regulations or ancient violations according to the letters I read in the newspaper. I have yet to see a rational explanation on why the rules should be so rigid and unforgiving.

Why is our government so anal? The last time “the rules are the rules” explanation worked for me was in elementary school and I was sitting in the vice principal’s office. We deserve to be treated like adult citizens.

Commissioner Basham tells us that, out of 300 million people processed last year, 270 people were suspected of terrorist ties. Given how the government trumpets every arrest of every juvenile wannabe jihadist, how come this is the first we are hearing about it?

The feeling I’m left with after reading the commissioner’s letter and port director Peg Fearon’s add-on comments, is that the government may recognize there is a problem but does not have either the intelligence or the willingness to address it. And where are Representative Larsen and Senators Murray and Cantwell on this?


This is an anonymous letter please.

I’d like to know how the heck mad cow disease (which has not surfaced for a long time!) could possibly live in processed (beyond all processing) corned beef brisket! It is cooked, spiced, processed & then pounded into something that barely resembles food anymore. But … because my grocery receipt (which I voluntarily surrendered) said “beef,” I was hauled inside to be ‘written up’ by the border Gods!

They were very polite to me, I have to admit, then made jokes at me for quite awhile after the incident. If it was so funny, and worthy of joking, why didn’t the border officer simply say “have a nice day”.
Thank you for sharing my story.