A Life Time Crossing the Border between the USA and Canada
Guest contributor Daniel E Dullea gives his own personal experience of the border between Canada and the US and how it has transformed from a more soft border to a hard one over the past 20 years.
Where I live, the border between the US and Canada has transformed from transparent to locked down in the last 16 years. This is just the opposite of what has been the experience on your Island of Ireland during the same time period. People of Ireland should be prepared for the reintroduction of hard border controls that are likely to follow a hard Brexit. You don’t want to go back!
I live in Northern New York State, 20 miles south of the Canadian Border crossing at Massena, NY. Crossing into Canada is usually not hard but it is a secure border with a full stop and questions. That part is relatively easy. The experience is not the same on the way back into the USA… expect a queue and a wait. Then, you must show your passport, expect to be questioned and possibly have your car fully inspected!
In the late 1970s when we were first married, my wife and I, along with friends, would go canoe camping along the St. Lawrence River in a resort area called “The Thousand Islands”. The border snakes along and among these islands. We would cross back and forth into Canada by canoe to go to a favorite bar and then back to our Mary’s Island NY State Park camp site. At the dock in Canada there was a sign-in book for Americans. That was the border control! Then came 9/11. The border locked down.
Now in my county, border control has expanded to include a zone of 60 miles south of the actual border. The US Border Control Officers set up temporary roving road blocks randomly on highways and secondary local roads. Everyone passing is stopped, questioned as to who they are, where they are from and where they are going. If the officer is for any reason suspicious (and racial profiling is rampant), you will be required to show ID and asked to give permission to inspect your vehicle and possessions. Deny the request and you are more suspect. You will be detained till a warrant can be obtained. They will find a reason, valid or not. Commercial buses, even those that have not crossed the border are routinely stopped and boarded. Everyone aboard is required to show valid identification.
The train I ride to New York City, I board in the city of Plattsburgh just south of the border. The train originates in Montreal in Canada and stops for inspection at the border at Rouses Point NY. The train is always at least an hour later then scheduled by the time it arrives in Plattsburgh.
As a boy, I remember learning in school that the USA Canadian border, more than 3,000 miles long, was the longest unprotected border in the world. This is no longer true and likely to get worse in Trump’s xenophobic America.
I fear that Trump’s “America 1st” really means “America Alone!”
Daniel E Dullea is an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Communication and Media at Clarkson University, New York.