Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Homeland security 

This story about a Maine man living on the border with Quebec has been in the local news, and now Reuters has picked it up. Cross-Border Church Visit Costs Man $10,000

The essence of the story is that Richard Albert lives next door to the border station between Township 15 Range 15, one of the many unorganized territories in northern Maine, and the town of St.-Pamphile, Quebec. Like the other residents of the "town," Albert frequently crosses the border to St.-Pamphile, which is the nearest town where they can shop, fill up on gas, or go to church. Well, the border closes at certain hours, so after babysitting his neice and going to church across the border, he did as he and others have been doing for years,

...he just drove around the locked gate, as he had done every weekend since the gate appeared last May, following a tightening of border security.
He was caught on camera and fined $10,000.

By the way, I love the ironic juxtaposition of "he just drove around the locked gate" and "tightening of border security" in the same sentence.

In any case, Albert is appealing the fine, but in order to obey the law, residents of T15 R15 (as these places are noted on maps and highway signs) have to take a 200 mile detour to the nearest open border crossing, even if they just want to buy a loaf of bread a couple miles away in Quebec. And it's closed on Sunday, so they can forget about going to church.

Bangor Daily News:

The township's 12 residents banded together, saying more hours was a good start, but did not solve their problem. Their local churches, shops, grocery store and hospital, as well as many family and friends, all are located in Canada, and they have no legal way to get to them at night or on Sunday.
Fortunately, one of Maine's Senators, Susan Collins, is working to find a long-term solution. The residents already have special passes from the Canadian government to cross into Canada when the border is closed, and there's no reason the U.S. government can't do the same. It's about letting people live their lives. Somehow I don't think homeland security is served by keeping people away from what is essentially their own town. And since the locked gate can be so easily bypassed, as noted above, it's obvious that homeland security is not really the issue.

The government needs to give these people a break and let them be.
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