Council asks for break at borders

Published on Thu, Oct 11, 2001
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Council asks for break at borders

Blaine city council has sent the following letter to the members of the Washington congressional delegation.

On September 30, 2001, a large group of business owners, elected officials and interested citizens came together to meet with Representative Rick Larsen. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the issues related to increased security at the U.S./Canadian border.

Without going into great detail, the meeting participants told of failing businesses, employee layoffs, children unable to attend school, emergency medical transport problems and serious problems getting to and from work on both sides of the border. The meeting also included a number of practical suggestions that could temporarily mitigate some of the problems until longer-term solutions are identified and implemented. Here are a few of the ideas we would like you to consider supporting at the federal level:
1. It was generally agreed that the primary problem at the border is lack of adequate staffing. The officers are working sixteen-hour days. Congress must appropriate more money specifically for hiring people to work the northern borders.
2. The federal agencies and Congress should look for more effective ways to cooperate and use the staff that is already assigned to the border. We have three separate agencies working side-by-side with distinctly different leadership and direction. We also have separate management for the same agencies working at the four border crossings in Whatcom County. There must be a better way to provide this servicee.
3. The federal agencies and Congress should look at departmental policies and collective bargaining agreements to see how they might be changed to provide more staffing at the border. There are numerous reports of only one inspection lane being opened while other employees appear to be doing nothing.
4. There must be a more effective way to inspect local traffic. The PACE lane should be re-opened for those with passes. The inspection can still be rigorous while allowing frequent users like students, employees and businesses to access the border in a more efficient manner.
5. As you consider changes at the border, there must be a balance between tighter security and our reliance on commerce with one of our nation’s best trading partners. We hope that the emphasis for the long term is placed on strategies that protect the perimeter borders of the two nations rather than the internal borders. In the end, this will best service our nation’s security and economy.

One of our local business owners recently compared the current situation at the border to experiencing a severe winter storm and a person showing up at Home Depot the next day to buy a snow shovel only to find one cash register open. The current situation at the border is not new. We have had problems for years. They have been ignored. The terrible events of September 11, 2001, have only made the problems worse. Our fear is that the impacts of this event together with the glacial pace of decision making to address the secondary effects will result in the literal bankruptcy of our community.

We recognize that the magnitude of the recent events in New York City and Washington D.C. overshadows our concerns here in Blaine. We ask for your help in preventing our community from becoming a casualty of neglect in the greater effort to stop terrorism
Blaine City Council

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