BORDER GUARDS, NOT VIGILANTES
Border Security Between Canada And The U.S. Should Not Be Left To Trigger-Happy Amateurs
Those flinty-eyed Minutemen who've been riding down aliens crossing from Mexico into Arizona now have their sites fixed on the U.S.-Canada border.
They say the northern states of North Dakota, Idaho and Minnesota have asked for their help in keeping terrorists out and they're thinking of setting up patrols this fall.
So long as these yahoos with rifles on the racks of their SUVs stay on their side of the border, we probably need not worry if we stay on ours.
But we should make sure the border's marked pretty clearly because it would be a shame if a farmer in Dead Tree, Sask., became collateral damage in the Americans' declared war on terrorism.
At least these latter-day vigilantes don't execute aliens they flush out on the spot. They just hold them until the Border Patrol arrives to carry them off. But even President George W. Bush thinks they go too far by interfering with law enforcement and putting citizens and illegal migrants in danger.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks the Minutemen are doing a terrific job. That's to be expected from a politician with the human sensibilities of a terminator, and one who proposed closing the state border altogether last week to keep undesirables out.
Gratified of his "courageous" support, the Minutemen plan to set up patrols along the California-Mexico border in October, just about the same time they're thinking of beginning operations on our border.
But the Minuteman project, launched April, has had one good outcome: It has stiffened the spine of some U.S. Congressmen, both Democrat and Republican concerned about border security. They're vowing to fight the Bush administration to ensure that 400 more Border Patrol agents -- there are about 1,000 now -- are placed on our border, as authorized by a bill signed by the president last December.
Bush's 2006 budget, however, proposes to freeze the hiring of new agents at 210, none of them destined for the U.S.-Canada border.
We don't, of course, buy this campaign to paint Canada as a breeding ground or assembly point for U.S.-bound terrorists from around the world. Ordinary smuggling -- including people without papers -- goes on regularly, and sometimes some who shouldn't get through manage to because Canadian and American agents don't talk to one another.
Last Monday, U.S. customs officials seized a chainsaw, knife, zip cuffs, hatchet, sword, two sets of brass knuckles and a canister of pepper spray from a man in a bloodstained jacket who was walking across the border into Maine from Canada, and then let him go. A few hours later the RCMP alerted U.S. Customs that he was a double-murder suspect.
The biggest border issue for us and the Americans, though, is the southbound traffic in marijuana and the northbound traffic in cocaine and weapons.
We'd prefer those engaging in this cross-border trade to be caught by officials in crisp uniforms and shiny badges rather than by thugs who get a thrill out of hunting exhausted and hungry aliens in the Arizona desert.