Larsen visits Blaine hot spots for fed bucks

Published on Thu, May 30, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Larsen visits Blaine hot spots for fed bucks

By Meg Olson

U.S. Representative Rick Larsen started his Tuesday afternoon visit to Blaine checking on NEXUS commuter lane progress. He ended it learning about the needs of partners in the regional sewer project and the restoration of the Semiahmoo site where American indian ancestral remains were dug up as the city started a sewer plant expansion.

At the Pacific Highway border crossing Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) district chief of inspection Ron Hays said the NEXUS enrollment office should be open and issuing cards for the lane by the end of June. “We hope to have the equipment in by June 16 and start training then,” he said.

Enrollment forms for the program could be available online through Canada Customs as soon as June 4 and the INS would have paper forms by June 10, Hays said. “As soon as you have one you can fill it out and take it with your check to the CANPASS office across the street and get processing started,” he said. Pacific Highway INS port director Bruce Bruner added they planned to also accept faxed applications with credit card payment information. Cost for the program will be $50 U.S. for a card valid five years. “For ten dollars a year people will get quite a service,” Larsen said.

After initial processing on the Canadian side, the applications will come to the U.S. processing center and applicants will be called in for interviews, a photo, and fingerprinting. “They’ll be asking the same questions they do out there in the booths but in more detail,” Hays said, adding the program was open to U.S. and Canadian citizens and residents. “One thing that’s different is we’ll be asking for proof of place of residence for the last five years,” Bruner said, explaining that the case of John Walker Lindh, a U.S. citizen arrested in Afghanistan with Taliban forces and being tried for treason, had prompted the decision. “So if it came up you spent the last five years in Afghanistan I suppose that would be a problem,” Larsen said.

Larsen was given a sample of the cards approved program participants will be issued. “People will be walking out the door with them,” Hays said. “Everyone in the car needs one, even infants.” He added the NEXUS lanes at Pacific Highway and Peace Arch would open the same day after there were enough enrollees in the system.

Larsen asked when the lane would be open at Point Roberts. “That will follow supposedly in mid-July,” Hays said, explaining that only 450 of the 189,000 PACE enrollees had Point Roberts addresses. “They’re among the top 450 people in my life right now,” Larsen said. Point Roberts residents will get the benefit of being first in line to enroll for NEXUS in consideration of their need to cross the border twice to get to most services.

Cards for everyone in a vehicle will need to be within view of the antenna for it to use the NEXUS lane. Database records with photos and information about participants will then be available to the inspector in the booth.

While the INS is the lead agency for the NEXUS program, it will be run and staffed through four agencies, Brunner said: INS, U.S. Customs, Canada Customs and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “Customs has seven people coming up to help staff this enrollment center,” said customs area port director Peg Fearon.

“One of the benefits we get from this system is that it’s an integrated system,” Hays said. “It’s like a duck on the pond,” Larsen agreed. “To the user it looks like it’s just gliding along smoothly but four agencies are paddling like hell underneath.”

After leaving Pacific Highway, Larsen visited the Semiahmoo Spit wastewater treatment plant site where members of the Lummi reburial team have been working to stabilize the site and recover ancestral remains from piles of excavated material.

“There were more people buried here than anyone knew,” said tribal representative Sharon Kinley, who said the remains of approximately 200 individuals have been recovered. Tribal members and elders have been working with archaeologists and learning their methods to find out what they can about the people who lived and were buried at the site. “For thousands of years people lived on this very place – were born here, gathered here, were married here and when they died were buried here,” Kinley said. Tribal members are also learning about site analysis so that they can work with other projects to prevent further burial sites from being disturbed. “We’ll never be free of growth and development, so how do we work together to make this never happen again?” Kinley asked.
“We’d like to have training for our young people come of this so they know how to handle things like this,” said tribal elder Lutie Hillaire. “Every development that goes on we need to have our people there so a foundation can be moved a little so they won’t be disturbed.” She added that they wanted to see new laws reflecting a better understanding of how important it is to native Americans that the remains of their ancestors be left undisturbed where they were buried. “We had to learn your ways, now it’s time for us to educate you,” she said.

“Out of every tragedy something good comes,” said James Hillaire. “Maybe out of this will be a better relationship, better understanding.”
Larsen said he was working to get funding for the recovery of the Semiahmoo burial site as well as development of a regional sewer that needs to be in place before the city of Blaine can leave the site completely. “Seeing a place makes for better understanding,” he said.
“It’s important for me to be here to educate myself. What’s been exciting is seeing everyone, Blaine, Lummi, Birch Bay Water and Sewer District, saying at one time “this is what we need to do”, as one voice, as one project.”

“A lot of people have things here that are important for them for a lot of different reasons,” said Lummi chairman Darrell Hillaire. “We’re thankful you’re here to work with us.”


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