Border security? Let's talk about our northern neighbors

  • Article by: FRANK CERABINO , Palm Beach Post/Cox Newspapers
  • Updated: February 6, 2013 - 7:33 PM

The southern border seems about as secure as it will ever be. Should we be more concerned about Canada now?

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Canadian and American flags fly side-by-side near the airport in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Photo: Joey Mcleister, Star Tribune

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- While eating my poutine lunch, I was thinking about how we're not doing a very good job of sealing the border with Canada.

Poutine (pronounced, "poo-teen") is a Canadian concoction of French fries, soaked in brown gravy and dotted with marble-sized lumps of cheese curd. Eating it makes you want to shovel snow.

And, yes, the Canadians have misappropriated the most American of foods: the french fry.

At the Poutine Dog Cafe in Lake Worth, Fla., a downtown diner with a distinctly Canadian flair, you can get your poutine 14 different ways.

"There's a large influx of Canadians that come here," said restaurant owner Tim McCarthy, an American with lots of family and friends in Canada. "Lake Worth's a real melting pot."

Should we be concerned about the Canadians?

With such a porous border to the north and laws that allow Canadians to live here for six months a year, we're in danger of having our community overrun with excessively polite people who can explain the icing rule in hockey while putting extra stress on our precious national bacon reserves.

"Poutine is as traditional as apple pie," McCarthy said.

Ay, caramba!

Maybe we've been concentrating on the wrong border.

Our obsession with the southern border of the United States has led to some dramatic enforcement efforts there. Twenty years ago, there were only about 4,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents. There are five times as many today.

Since 2007, we've gone from four aerial drones to nine patrolling the border, and we've got about 300 radar and camera towers looking for border-crossers, a doubling of that kind of surveillance.

We've spent billions of dollars on lucrative contracts with defense contractors, 64 percent more than we were spending six years ago, and we've created an ever-expanding network of hundreds of detention facilities capable of detaining as many as 34,000 people a day.

Meanwhile, a record 1.5 million undocumented immigrants have been deported during the past four years, and border apprehensions are at the lowest levels they've been since 1971.

"After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants -- most of whom came illegally -- the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed," said a study published last year by the Pew Research Center.

"The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico's birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico," the study said.

So the southern border seems about as secure as it will ever be.

Enough posturing over that. I realize that claiming that border security is a grossly neglected item on our national to-do list is a key false obstacle to those politicians who need to court Hispanic voters by pretending to be for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here. (See: Rubio, Marco.)

But it's getting harder and harder to insist on preconditions that, to a large extent, already have been met.

So maybe for a change, we can start ginning up dismay over the Canadian cold-weather refugees from the north. After all, they don't even mow our lawns.

On the other hand, that poutine was pretty tasty.

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