CALAIS – With over 600 miles of border between the United States and Canada, some people are concerned whether or not the country has enough security to monitor who is coming and going. There is a new bill that will focus on ways to strengthen the northern border.
“It’s the 3rd longest border of any border patrol sector in the nation,” said Chief Patrol Agent, Daniel Hiebert of the Houlton Sector.
Mix that with woods, a simple mile marker or even just rivers as a dividers. There’s not a lot of infrastructure to physically separate the two countries.
“There’s a perception that there’s not as much law enforcement, not just border patrol, but other law enforcement on the border in Maine,” he said, “It makes it an attractive location for people to attempt entry into Maine.”
20,000 border patrol agents are working 24/7 to constantly monitor the border and ensure the safety of Americans.
“That’s our job is to secure that border,” said Hiebert, “Anything that looks suspicious or out of hand, we will stop and talk to them.”
They are in constant communications with Canadian officials.
“Whenever we have activity that seems like it’s going into Canada – if we have already talked to the individuals, looked at the vehicles and there’s no legal reasons for us to detain it, but we have a good reason to believe they are going to Canada, we notify the Canadians on their side because Canadians have the same laws about people entering their country illegally as the states does and they like to be on top of that,” he said.
According to Senator Susan Collins, the border is the most vulnerable during the winter.
“It is vulnerable to smuggling, to human and drug trafficking and we need to get a more complete assessment of what the vulnerabilities are and how we can address them,” said Senator Collins.
Officials say the border is well marked, and there’s really no excuse for crossing it illegally, especially for people who grew up in the area.
“There’s a physical marker throughout the land border. It’s either a slash, which is a six meter clearing along the border in the wooded areas,” said Hiebert, “We have monument markers in most places. The Saint Croix River itself is the boundary, as well as the St.John River. There really isn’t much of an excuse.”
They are monitoring the borders through sensors and a variety of vehicles no matter the weather conditions. Locals also do their part by reporting suspicious activity.
“Our bill is really forward looking,” said Senator Angus King, “What are the threats? Are they serious? Are they serious enough to justify additional personnel and technology? We really can’t answer that question effectively until we look at the facts.”
Earlier this year, the senate passed The Northern Border Security Review Act. The bill requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fully evaluate security threats and challenges at the border.
“That will help us out and the Canadians as well too, because we will identify specific locations where we might have threats,” said identify some that might be here that we might not have seen yet and it will go a long way towards ensuring that the northern border might get some resources that we’ll need in the future too.
According to Senator Collins customs and border patrol could only detect illegal activity along about a thousand miles. They really only had operational control and full situational awareness of 32 miles
“But given what a busy border this is. With 300,000 people crossing each day, we have to make sure that we are letting our friends in and keeping our enemies out,” she said.
“Particularly as ISIS is squeezed in the Middle East. They are going to look at ways to strike us in other ways and particularly here in the country,” said Senator King, “We need to understand that and be prepared to take reasonable steps to protect ourselves while not impinging legitimate travel and trade that’s so important to the country.”