Pubdate: Fri, 15 Sep 2000
Source: Aldergrove Star (CN BC)
Copyright: Central Fraser Valley Star Publishing, Ltd.
Fax: (604)856-5212
Contact:  Karen Kersey


ALDERGROVE - It may be the longest undefended border in the world. But the 
Canada-US border is about to have beefed up security along the 49th 
parallel from the coastline of Washington State running eastward along Zero 
Avenue and continuing as far into the province and state as the Columbia 
River Valley.

Carey James, Chief Patrol Agent of the US Border Patrol says the $5-million 
US pilot project, dubbed ISIS for Integrated Surveillance and Intelligence 
System, should be up and running this month.

It's the first time the fibre optics system will be deployed between Canada 
and the US, although James says ISIS is currently in operation on the 
US-Mexico border.

"We have an excellent relationship with Canadian authorities, it's 
absolutely unbelievable," James says. "Mexico is too open, we don't have 
that type of relationship on the Mexican border."

Four years ago, James came to the Blaine office from El Paso, Texas, where 
he was involved with tactical and special operations on the US-Mexico 
border, including the canine program. In Blaine, his jurisdiction includes 
the borders between Canada and Alaska, and Canada and Western Washington 
through to the Columbia River Valley. Others are responsible for the actual 
ports of entry, including Aldergrove.

Sensors have been planted along the border for several years now and are 
working well, according to James. When a sensor pattern is established, 
agents on both sides of the border are alerted and the interception is 
made. James says the new ISIS will greatly enhance the ability of 
authorities on both sides of the border to intercept individuals intent on 
smuggling drugs or people.

"It's not a spy network like the media likes to portray it," James says. 
"The cameras are not hidden, they're visible along the border because 
they're meant to be a deterrent."

The existing sensors will tie into the new ISIS. Cameras will focus in on 
the activity, which may turn out to be only the movement of a deer or other 
large animal.

"It adds to officer safety," James says. "The officer will know what to 
expect when he gets there. And with fibre optics, we have the ability to 
control, maneuver the camera and keep the object in sight."

James also has the authority to call in a pilot and airplane on short 
notice, and as far as the shoreline is concerned, he has the cooperation of 
the US Coast Guard. He answers to both the Department of Justice and the 
Department of Immigration and Naturalization.

James explains that the difference between smuggling Mexican marijuana and 
B.C. "bud" into the US is huge. A pound of Mexican marijuana may be worth 
$800 US at the Mexico-US border, but a pound of BC bud fetches $2,500 
Canadian and as soon as it gets across the border it goes to $3,000 US. 
Once in Seattle and the US interior, James says it's worth $6,000 US a pound.

The penalty for drug smuggling at certain "threshold" levels in the States 
is life imprisonment, and James says he hates to be critical but "Canada is 
too lenient on its smugglers." He also has concerns with the quality of 
B.C. bud.

"I don't think long range studies have been done on the high potency (of 
B.C. bud)," James says. "It's unknown what it does to users."

And while Chinese boat migrants grabbed headlines during their much 
publicized landing in B.C. last summer, James says his concern is with 
illegal Mexicans and Koreans entering the US by way of Canada.

He blames the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for the 150 
percent increase in the numbers of Koreans flying into Vancouver without a 
visa requirement, and then being smuggled into the US.

Mexicans use Canada's visa waiver program to fly Mexico to Canada and then 
try to get across the border into the US where they do require a visa.

James says the usual routine is for the Korean or Mexican to enter Canada 
legally as a tourist. They're then moved to a safe location and eventually 
brought across the US border at some remote point. They're met and taken by 
a vehicle to an interior US destination.

The Chinese boat migrants, James says, traveled through Canada on their way 
to Vermont, New York or Michigan where US guides attempted to get them over 
the border in remote areas. Peace Arch Park in Surrey is another favorite 
spot to test the border patrol, even if it is urban, James says.

"We have had successful interdictions when we've apprehended aliens, and 
the guides have made it back to Canada to be taken into custody there," 
James says, comfortable with the language that is totally appropriate given 
his deadly serious demeanor when speaking of his job.

He rolls his chair over to a bookcase where he checks to ensure he's 
correct in stating the penalty for human smuggling.

" . . . starts with a $5,000 fine and two years for each person," he says, 
reading from an official handbook.

Being caught with a certain quantity of marijuana, growing the stuff or 
smoking it calls for "much stiffer penalties," than human smuggling, James 
says. He blames the huge profits in smuggling for the continued pressure on 
the long, unguarded border. And as for the popularity of B.C. bud, James 
says "interdiction, education and treatment" is the answer.

"The US has seen a significant decrease in criminal activity, because we've 
been locking a lot of (smugglers) up," he says. "But we got away from 
education, we need to refocus on education."

He warns that the only reason the criminal activity is reduced is because 
the criminals are in jail. But the US "will start releasing them," James 
says, and the criminal activity will begin to rise again, unless drug 
education and treatment programs are funded and put into place.

ISIS is fully funded by the US government, without support from Canada, 
says RCMP Sgt. Glen Anderson, James' counterpart in Canada. He reinforces 
James' sentiments about the excellent working relationship the two 
countries enjoy, but makes a distinction between the problems each face.

"Our biggest concern is with organized crime and what they are able to sell 
in the US for profit," Anderson says. As head of the RCMP Border 
Enforcement Team, Anderson identifies illegal commodities being smuggled 
north into Canada as drugs, cash and firearms. He very much supports the 
new ISIS as one more tool in the whole law enforcement picture along the 

"On a daily basis, we share resources, equipment and personnel with the US 
Border patrol," he says, "We work very closely."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens