Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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Border patrol seeking to improve security

by Candice Miller on October 12, 2011

Times Herald
Gene Buel, 85, of Marine City remembers a time when he would run across a frozen St. Clair River to Sombra, Ontario to grab hot dogs for lunch and sneak fireworks back into the United States with his friends.
Those days are long gone — and no one knows better than Buel.
“It was a whole different world back then,” Buel said. “We had a lot more freedoms. You didn’t need papers to get into Canada. They just took your word for it.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proposing enhancing its northern border security program as a measure of national security. The agency, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will be assessing possible environmental and socioeconomic impacts that could happen during the next five to seven years if major program enhancements to security patrols were implemented.
One of the first steps was an environmental impact statement released in September. U.S. Customs and Border Protection had a public meeting in Detroit this week to generate feedback, a federally mandated procedure.
The document outlines a list of possible plans:
» No action;
» Replacing or providing new permanent U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities to accommodate for general wear and tear;
» Increased patrol activity using new technology for detection, inspection and surveillance;
» Expanding access roads to increase U.S. Customs and Border Protection presence and building fences and/or vehicle barriers in selected areas to deter cross-border violators
» Combination of any of the above changes based on what U.S. Customs and Border Protection deems to be effective.
Sanilac County Sheriff Garry Biniecki said instead of additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection patrols in his county, he’d rather see more federal funding.
“We need more personnel,” Biniecki said.
He said he could staff two sheriff deputies for the cost of one federal agent.
Policing of shorelines and communities should be a job left to local law enforcement, Biniecki said, as those departments have a local knowledge base and community trust.
“I think they’re doing a fantastic job, but we don’t need to duplicate services,” Biniecki said.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, has been advocating actively in Washington for more attention to be given to the northern border, as it is the longest non-militarized open border in the world. Most federal funds go to the southern border.
The Stone Garden Grant the St. Clair County Sheriff Department was awarded to purchase additional marine patrol equipment now is only awarded to communities along the southern border, Miller said.
While Miller said she believes in installing fencing in certain urban areas along the southern border, the same tactic would not work between the United States and Canada.
“The dynamics of the northern border are so fundamentally different,” Miller said, throwing her support behind using unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance, which have been effectively used in combat zones like Afghanistan.
Biniecki said the advanced technology has helped his department intercept a large illegal shipment of drugs in the past.
“The equipment is fantastic,” he said.
Buel said he’s watched U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s presence slowly increase in the area — and appreciated the road patrols along the river as well as the surveillance cameras.
“If we didn’t have them, what would happen?” he said.

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