Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Quebec-Vermont border battle makes the NYT.

Last month, I commented on a Boston Globe story on how residents of the neighboring communities of Stanstead, Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont are reacting to a plan to increase security at their stretch of the border between Canada and the United States. Now the New York Times has gotten wind of the story:

The border between Canada and the United States does not get much more udefended than where Lee Street, a sleepy residential lane, meets Caswell Avenue. Other than a simple green and white sign, nothing indicates that motorists navigating the intersection have entered the United States.

Once a symbol of cross-border friendship, Lee Street has become a source of anxiety for security officials in both the United States and Canada who have stepped up border security since Sept. 11, 2001. But a proposal by a joint border task force to block Lee and two other unguarded streets that cross between Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vt., has, if anything, united the towns.

"If you come home and your neighbors have put up a fence, what are the first thoughts that come to your mind?" said Raymond Yates, an appliance repairman and dealer who is Stanstead's mayor. "It gives you the wrong opinion when you see some kind of obstacle."

Roland Roy, a Derby Line trustee and pharmacist, agreed. "We don't want to build barriers to our neighbors," he said. "You're just plugging a hole in the dike, and another one will pop up."

The movement to keep the roads open is an almost philosophical crusade in a part of the world where national boundaries can be confused and few families are without members on both sides of the border.
Read the rest here. The NYT's Ian Austen goes on to note that some area residents cross the border every time they back out of their driveways (their homes are in one country, and the street is in another) and also reports that many older residents of Stanstead are dual citizens simply because it used to be easier for expectant mothers to get to a hospital in Vermont than to make their way to a more distant one in Quebec.

Though concerns about illegal immigration are the stated reason behind plans for greater security, an RCMP representative quoted in the article seems to imply that the number of illegal immigrants sneaking across the border between Derby Line and Stanstead isn't particularly large ("We're not talking about thousands going through," the Mountie says). Local residents are skeptical, to say the least, and I'm with them. Though I'm not optimistic, I hope the publicity they're getting from the NYT helps their cause. AMDG.


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