border, too

If you're interested in the recent thread about Canada-US border security and openness, you might want to go back and catch up on comments. Friend of wmtc Scott M is a former customs officer, so we are lucky enough to get an inside perspective.

I find Scott's info very interesting. Even though I cross the border regularly (and quickly), the motives behind the various questions and procedures are not obvious to me.

Scott's comment here lays out some of the trade-offs border security faces.
The current system of observation and -- dare I say it -- profiling has a major advantage: speed. This advantage is not to be minimized... the vast, vast majority of those crossing the border have no immigration issues and are welcome in our country (Canada at least). Our job as Canadian Customs officers is first and foremost to facilitate the crossing of the border. The unfortunate thing is that this means that while we can catch a lot of people crossing illegaly from an immigration standpoint, we are not guaranteed we catch 100%.

Now, if you decide that ensuring 100% of people who enter via a port are legitamite, and that you really don't care if you slow down the border or make things difficult for the vast majority of legal visitors, than having a border card makes sense.

It's difficult. All the US is doing is changing the balance of inconvenience (which all borders have) and security (which all borders strive for). Where's the right balance? I don't know.

One advantage to the Border Services folks requiring ID is that they will no longer be accused of racial profiling when pulling people over for immigration issues. That's a major plus... not because there's no profiling-- in fact, there is. There must be. All of customs and immigration is based on profiles: this look of person with this accent with this route is more likely to be a drug runner so search them.

You can only take a second glance at 5% of folks (at a maximum). You've got to choose wisely, random's not good enough.

So, if you decide to check immigration status of 100%, there is no profiling argument. Unfortunately, the customs side of the house will still require profiling and all the controversy around that.
I've also learned that we really weren't supposed to rent a car in Buffalo and drive it around Ontario without paying import duties. Guess we dodged a bullet on that one. Goddess knows we had enough going on the week we landed without that.


gito said...

Hi L, wow I think it so rare to actually read or know the opinion of an actual officer. John just went through the tunnel, Detroit-Windsor and everyone was forced to get out of the cars for an inspection... I think they are on high alert for what occurred in Toronto, with the 17 persons that had to do with terrorist plans. Anyhow, I keep wondering where this world is heading, for one side, w bushy still trying to fight the marriage thingy, and then Harper announced that he is putting it for a vote in the Fall, hmm makes you wonder, it would be very nice if you could talk about that issue too, if you are in the mood that is... see you friend.

laura k said...

Hey Gito. I will blog on that, sure. I'm glad to get a request. :)

Right now Harper's own party is getting cold feet about revisiting the issue. Lots of Conservative MPs want to leave it alone.

Translation: it's still better here. :)

gito said...

Thanks L!