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Vermont wonders if it will get a Border Wall?

"That's a cockamamie idea" - US Senator Patrick Leahy

The US/Canadian border at Derby Line-Stanstead in northern Vermont

It had to happen. Tighter controls are coming to the the US Canadian border. And there's debate in Washington on whether to erect a 3,000 mile wall, (perhaps a Berlin style one with watchtowers and minefields?) between the US and Canada. This time the wall's intentions would be to keep people out rather than to keep them in. The plan to build a wall, under consideration by the US Senate Judiciary Committee has since been dropped. Senator Patrick Leahy calls it a "cockamamie idea."

"It's clear to me that those who want to build an enormously costly barrier across it haven't a clue about the character, the history and the day-to-day commercial importance of the northern border. It's best to stop this foolish idea before the government starts shoveling taxpayers' dollars at it," says Leahy.

But, visitors to Canada and visitors to the United States are already being subjected to closer scrutiny. Sometime in the future you'll need more than a driver's license to cross into either country. A passport is the best piece of identification that you can carry, but in the US it costs $100 every time you renew it which occurs every 10 years. Many Americans and Canadians don't carry passports so demanding passports could block people from returning to their own country! A less expensive system — some kind of border crossing identity card may become available. Vermont wants the identifty card to double as a driving license. Canadian co-operation would be needed for whatever is implement.

It's all because of 9/11.

A driver's license may not be sufficient especially if your name is not French or English.

Phillipe Tremblay

For Americans, it's security first and trade after," says Phillipe Tremblay, a Canadian immigration lawyer. Mr. Tremblay adds that a driver's license may not be sufficient "especially if your name is not French or English."

On the US side the fear of terrorism has led to the doubling and quadrupling of border agents. Black Hawk helicopters from the Department of Homeland Security are a common sight along northern Vermont's border with Quebec. Armed, black uniformed border guards patrol backroads leading from the border and if you are a hunter in these parts you had better carry good ID.

Of course, the border atmosphere is really no different to what you find in many other places around the world, especially in Europe where they've been dealing with the threat of terrorism for a lot longer. Nine-Eleven woke up Americans to what can happen, just as Pearl Harbor did.

Since the increased security, the sleepy indolence of Vermont border towns has sometimes been shown to be anything but that. Smuggling is always a way of life for some people in border towns, no matter where they are. Vermont is no different. A few rusted, machine gun riddled Packards of the 1920s can still be found in the woods along the border; silent testimony to the days of prohibition. With the increased security, the smugglers, mostly trafficking in drugs, have been forced further underground, amid a plethora of drug busts and raids to collect evidence. But just like in the days of prohibition, the authorities will never completely eliminate it — not as long as there is a demand. So, if you are visiting northern Vermont and are ready for a border adventure in Quebec, be forewarned that you may be subjected to closer scrutiny when you cross the border.

Other border stories, sites and features:

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