The Squeeze Is On: Mayberry on Lockdown

It looks like Border Patrol has realized we have a northern border as well as a southern one. The Washington Post reports that Homeland Security has beefed up operations on the Vermont/Canada border – even inside towns that straddle what until recently was an invisible line. Local residents interviewed for the article seem sadly resigned and accepting of the increased enforcement presence and the barricades being erected through their lives – even down the middle of residential streets – dividing neighbors and families who until now had lived without regard for the international boundary and, somehow, survived.

On the one hand, the vengeful one, it's about time that the failings and humiliations of border militarization reached our boundary with Canada. Since DHS has regularly used the specter of terrorism to drum up support for border enforcement, it seems just that the northern border finally has to deal with the militarization and disruption that the southern border has contended with for years: After all, the north provides much more convenient access to potential terror targets (think how far terrorists would have to travel to find something worth blowing up if they crossed into Arizona) and lies much closer to places where terrorist activity has actually been discovered in the USA (Detroit, Buffalo, etc).

On the other hand, increased enforcement in the north is nearly as ridiculous as it is in the south. Do they really expect to shut down 4,000 miles of border? And for what? In a connection I still can't quite understand though I've heard it so many times now, DHS uses rhetoric about increased danger since 9/11/01 – the threat of terrorism – to justify attempts to stop drugs and 'illegals'. (Who knew that Vermonters imported drugs?)

That alone contains a strange gap in reasoning; but, according to the Border Patrol itself, the Vermonters/Canadians interviewed by The Post didn't even know they were under threat from drugs and 'illegals' until the Border Patrol showed up and told them so: "They never considered themselves in danger," says agent Fernando Beltran. In fact, unsurprisingly, violence arrived with the BP.

As The Post says,

"[W]ith the increased Border Patrol presence, the North is starting to look more like what border residents of Texas, California and Arizona have been seeing for years.

"As that presence has increased, so has the risk of violence."

The article quotes another local BP agent, Norman Lague: "There's a lot of violence on the southern border, so some of that's going to transfer up here."

Measures DHS claims will make U.S. citizens safer actually increase the rate of violent incidents? Go figure.

But I'm still hung up on the short-sighted view of history under which we operate – our refusal to learn from the past that eases our acceptance of today's idiocies. In what sounds to me like a way of justifying border enforcement in the south by claiming it's natural, agent Lague says that "there's a delineated line with Mexico. . . . Here, if you were to walk around this town, you would probably walk into Canada and not even know it."

Contrary to the ideas of agent Lague -- who spent five years working the USA-Mexico border -- there are many places along our southern boundary without delineation. And the reason there's any delineation at all there is that we created it.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 settled the Mexican-American War (during which the U.S. Marines invaded and occupied Mexico City) and ceded to the USA Mexican territory that now makes up all of California, Nevada, and Utah, most of Arizona and parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. The Gadsden Purchase in 1853 established today's southern border of Arizona (and part of New Mexico) – currently the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings into the USA.

So, to say migrants who cross that border now are invading our land seems just a bit reactionary. We didn't even start enforcing the border -- and disrupting hundreds if not thousands of years of local life -- until much later. So, when people are dying in the wilderness, trying to enter the USA from Canada, maybe I'll have a touch more sympathy for people for whom home "may have been Mayberry before, but it's not anymore," according to BP agent Fernando Beltran.

All this is to say that, as absurd as this increased border enforcement in the north is (and it certainly is), sympathy for these Vermonters really seems even more absurd in comparison, especially looking at how easily they've acquiesced. What have we become that locals in one of the now-divided towns say: "We living in a different world now. It's too bad." and "We understand that Border Patrol and Homeland Security have a job to do. . . . The general public doesn't understand what's crossing that border, whether it's drugs or illegals." (Wait. I thought the whole thing was about terrorism.)

Vermont BP agent Mark Henry sums up the whole sad mess, as he justifies the surge in enforcement:

"It was freer before, but we live in a different world now."

We'll have to change "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- though I'm not sure we want to kick off the Super Bowl with "the laa-and of the people who used to be more freee-EEEEEE." But, judging from the recent past, we'd just get used to it.

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