Mention border security and illegal immigration to someone and the border between the United States and Mexico likely comes to mind. But what about the U.S. border with Canada?
With the recent arrest of terrorist suspects in Canada, we decided to take a look at border security in the area near Buffalo, New York. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say that in terms of cars and trucks it is the busiest crossing on the northern border. Only about two hours from Toronto, millions of vehicles enter Buffalo from Canada through a number of bridges in the area. Checkpoints are in place for those vehicles. But the border itself in that area is all water. Securing it, as we found out, can be difficult.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Buffalo patrols a 600 mile stretch of the coastline, which is just a small fraction of the roughly 4,000 mile long northern border. The unit took us along to give us a sense of what it's like on the front lines of this nation's border defenses.
Outside of Buffalo, the Niagara River separates the United States and Canada by less than a mile in some stretches. Coast Guard boats patrol the river for everything from boaters in distress to safety violations; they also look for smugglers and terrorists.
They say one of their most difficult tasks is trying to spot suspicious behavior in these waters due to the traffic of pleasure and commercial boats. They tell us that people have tried to slip through the border by using this waterway -- some use little boats, others use life jackets, many try to cross using a cloudy morning or the darkness of night as their cover.
While the number of illegal immigrants trying to get through the northern border is much smaller than on the southern border, the job of securing the Canadian border is coming under increasing scrutiny with the recent arrest of 17 terror suspects in Toronto.
Some terrorism experts say there are two main reasons to be concerned about the possibility of terrorists slipping through our border with Canada. One reason is the terrain. Because the border is made up of vast stretches of water and forest, it is nearly impossible to seal.
The second reason is that Canada has more lenient laws than the United States when it comes to political asylum. The Canadian ambassador has denied that claim. But some experts say Canada's recent arrests should get our attention. They say a problem in Canada could easily become a problem in the United States.