Canada - land of snowboarding prime ministers and cold weather sports - is generally not known as a terrorist haven.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker learned this during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination when he expressed interest in building a wall along the U.S.-Canadian border. Widely mocked for the comment, he’s now former presidential candidate Scott Walker.
The northern border is a vulnerability, and it always has been.
Shawn Moran, VP of the National Border Patrol Council
But border officers and U.S. officials have long taken seriously the possible threat emanating from the north - if not as seriously as the more famous southwest border - since even before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Now, Congress is acting on that concern. A bill to require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a northern border threat analysis passed the House late Wednesday; a similar Senate bill is awaiting a floor vote.
The union that represents border patrol officers applauded the move, saying the government needs to focus more on the potential terrorist threat from undocumented immigrants crossing the northern border. “We’ve always said that illegal immigration is like water - it’s going to take the path of least resistance,” said Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council. “The northern border is a vulnerability, and it always has been.”
As an example, Moran cited the 1999 arrest in Port Angeles, Wash., of Ahmed Ressam, an al-Qaida member dubbed the “Millennium Bomber” for being part of a plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport and other targets during millennium celebrations. Moran also expressed concern about Islamic State radicals crossing into the United States through Canada.
The U.S-Canadian frontier, the longest border in the world at more than 5,500 miles, is patrolled by more than 2,000 Border Patrol agents, DHS officials said. That’s far fewer than the more than 17,000 agents stationed at the southwest border, but far more than in the past. In 2001, officials said, there were only about 300 agents on the Northern border.
DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has also traveled to a number of northern border states to discuss security in recent months, including Montana and North Dakota. DHS declined to comment specifically on the congressional bills since they are pending.
The bipartisan House bill, whose primary sponsor was Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., requires DHS to conduct an analysis of “current and potential terrorism threats posed by individuals seeking to enter the United States through the northern border.” It also requires a look at whether more agents and officers are needed along the border.
A similar Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., passed the Homeland Security committee in July and is awaiting a floor vote. “Keeping North Dakotans strong in safe in their communities is my top priority - and an important part of that means making sure federal border security officials and local law enforcement have the resources and personnel they need to secure our Northern Border - the longest common land border in the world,” Heitkamp said.