Tear Down the Border Stations

By Beacon Staff

Just in case you haven’t traveled around Europe, here’s how it works. You can, for example, fly into Spain, rent a car and drive over to France. And what happens when you get to the border?

Absolutely nothing!

No intimidating, nerve-wracking search and interrogation. No long lines or delays. No power-tripping, armed guards in body armor. No taxes or duties. No submissively signing over your private lives to scowling strangers. No confiscating potatoes or oranges or jerky. No passport required. No background search. No border station at all, in fact. All you do is drive over the border. You don’t even need to slow down when you pass the sign that says “Welcome to France.” You can even drive over the border in the middle of the night and not worry about running into a locked gate.

And you can keep on going over to Italy, up to Switzerland, over to Belgium, and onto any member of the European Union. All you ever see at the borders are welcome signs. The reason is, of course, these countries are good neighbors and want people to come in and spend tourism dollars. They don’t consider their borders revenue streams.

Now, think about what I just said for a second and then remember how it was last time you tried to get into Canada.

As you approach the border station, you might have seen a “Welcome to Canada” sign, but right below it, the gauntlet begins. After (if?) you survive it, that sign almost seems like a joke.

I admit to not being an expert on international relations on the USA/Canada border situation. But I’ve been spending several weeks in Canada each year for the past five. I’ve already been up there twice this year and plan to go again in October – assuming, that is, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Service allows me cross the border after reading this commentary.

Let’s just say I have enough experience to know that the border situation is an embarrassing overkill. We need to lighten up and end the border wars. Instead of the current trend of spending endless millions building up border stations and staffing, both countries should start phasing out and become friendly neighbors again.

I dearly hope it isn’t too late to change. It could be, I suppose, because we have now built up a huge lobby for extensive, wasteful and ever increasing government spending on border “security.” In rural counties, the border stations have become big business. Ironically, these same rural communities are filled with conservatives who constantly whine about the federal government and always want to cut the deficit. Nonetheless, they’ll most likely oppose any effort to cut runaway border spending.

Yes, I know what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. I actually – and intentionally – wrote this commentary on Sept. 11. I know we need to keep terrorists and drug dealers out of the USA. But I also happen to think these unsavory characters find plenty of ways to cross the border – and probably always will regardless of how many millions we waste building up the border staff and infrastructure.

But not so for some poor sucker who made a mistake. This happens, you know. It might have even happened to you – getting a DUI or committing another minor felony and getting black listed by Canada. You could be as pure as newly fallen snow for 40 years, but you still could not get into Canada. Outrageous, eh?

And self-defeating for Canada, too. The harder it becomes to cross the border, the less enthusiasm we have for doing it, and there goes those coveted American dollars.

The last time I crossed the border a few weeks ago, the border guard said, as he handed our passports back, “Spend lots of money. Canada is a poor country.”

I wanted to ask: “If that’s what you want, how come you just gave us an intimidating and totally unnecessary 45-minute wait to get over the border?” If I had blurted it out, though, I’d probably be writing this from a Canadian jail – assuming they didn’t confiscate my laptop.

On top of the hassle factor, Canada’s border stations double as toll booths to collect taxes and duties on a variety of items. As an outdoor writer, for example, I have to buy a $150 “work permit” to go fishing up in Canada and write about it – and spend an hour or more at the border filling out forms, getting interrogated and searched. And all I plan to do is spend some of my money in Canada and promote tourism there.

Now, here’s the other side of the Loonie. When I’m up in Canada having one of those pricey Canadian beers with my friends up north, they say the same thing. They get nothing but grief and hassle every time they try to cross into the USA.

So, how do we get out of this mess? Well, I’m not expecting Canadian immigration bosses to read this commentary, agree with it, and start relaxing laws and regulations and tearing down border stations, so let’s take the initiative. Let’s at least stop spending millions we can’t afford to beef up borders stations and staffing in our zeal to make it even tougher for Canadians to enter our country and spend their money here. Then, let’s gradually start dismantling the stations and phasing out the work force.

Guilt is a powerful motivator. Perhaps Canadians will get the message and follow suit after coming down to the USA a few times and not even stopping when they drive by the “Welcome to the United States” sign.

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