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Monday, June 01, 2009

Hardening the Border

Want to know how to win friends and influence your allies? Shut down the border and turn your country into a fortress. That's one way to send a message.

Today's the day that new regulations go into effect at border crossings between Canada and the USA. Now Canadians need a passport to get into the USA—so do Americans who are returning from Canada. This hardening of the border is a direct response to American "national security" issues. The American government believes that it will be more secure if shuts down the open border that has existed for so long between Canada and the USA.

Canadians are upset for two reasons. First, it will have an economic impact because Americans, who by and large don't carry passports, will not visit Canada. Second, it makes Canadians feel like they are terrorist suspects instead of friendly neighbors.

Canadians, and presumably Americans, have been proud of the fact that our border was the longest undefended border in the world.

The newspapers are full of stories about the new rules. Nobody in Canada thinks it's a good idea [Passports please: Need for papers kicks in at Canada-U.S. border]. Janet Napolitano, the U.S. Homeland Security secretary with the Obama administration, made headlines in April when she suggested that the Sept. 11 terrorists entered the USA from Canada. That's patently false, as any number of studies have shown.1 If that's the sort of thinking that's led to increased security at the border then shame on Janet Napolitano and the American government.

I suppose that one of the benefits of a restricted border is that Canada will be protected from American terrorists like the one who just killed George Tiller in Kansas. In spite of this, I oppose the new restrictions at the border. The negative psychological effect on Canadians and Americans is likely to cause problems and this isn't outweighed by the possibility that an American terrorist might come into Canada.

America is paranoid about terrorism and this paranoia is causing the American government to treat every foreigner as a potential enemy. In the long run, that's not how you make friends and allies.

[Photo Credit: Panoramio]

1. Napolitano, a former Governor of Arizona, subsequently apologized for her mistake.


  1. Don't forget that the would-be Millennium bomber (target: LAX) came through Canada. Nice job stopping him before he got to our side.

  2. He had a passport. How would the new rules have helped?

  3. Anonymous: what you write shows that the old border system worked as it should.

    Whatever new border system put in place could not have done a much better job at stopping Ahmed Ressam. He used a legitimate passport: and what you need now to get across the border is a passport.

    So, in this case, the new system would have either failed or succeeded by the same means: he had the proper documentation, so only alert border agents would be able to stop him.