But if the area immediately surrounding the inn and the border crossing at Blaine is one of the more secure along the U.S.-Canadian border, the other 4,000 or so miles are a security nightmare.
Given Canada’s open immigration policies, terrorist organizations have established cells there seeking “safe havens, operational bases and attempting to gain access to the USA,” according to a 1998 report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The report said that more than 50 terrorist groups might be present, including Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical Islamic groups from Iran and Algeria.
A 2006 report from the Nixon Center, a Washington, D.C., policy institute, quoted a senior FBI official as saying that Canada is the most worrisome terrorist point of entry and that al-Qaida training manuals advise terrorists to enter the U.S. from Canada.
The report concluded that “despite widespread alarms raised over terrorist infiltration from Mexico, we found no terrorist presence in Mexico and a number of Canadian-based terrorists who have entered the United States.”
And as security is ratcheted up along the nation’s southern border with Mexico, law enforcement officials up north fear that the bad guys—terrorists, drug smugglers and illegal aliens—may increasingly be headed their way.
Even senior Border Patrol officials concede that the heightened security on the Mexican border could spur new pressures up north.
“It’s logical they will look elsewhere,” said Ron Colburn, the deputy chief of Customs and Border Protection, of those trying to clandestinely enter the United States.
Nearly 12,000 federal agents patrol the U.S.-Mexican border, along with National Guard troops. Of the 6,000 agents expected to be added to the Border Patrol in the next year, most will be assigned to the southern border.
Along the northern border, which is twice as long, there are fewer than 1,000 agents.
In Derby Line, Vt., the Haskell Free Library and Opera House straddles the border. The front door is in the United States. The checkout desk is in Canada. That could come to an end. Earlier this year, two vans carrying 21 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere were stopped in Derby Line.
Residents of North Dakota and Minnesota fear that their frigid winters may have frozen the motion detectors along their border with Canada. The border in some places is separated by nothing more than a broken fence. In one incident, a rancher on Montana’s desolate prairie stopped two Jamaicans dressed in T-shirts and shorts.
“It would be difficult to secure the (northern) border with the assets we have there now,” said Greg Kutz, a Government Accountability Office investigator and the author of a recent study that found terrorists carrying nuclear material could easily enter the United States from Canada.