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Same rules, tougher enforcement at border

The Sept. 11, terrorist attack on the United States had a tremendous impact on national security and international commerce.Will there be more restrictions on entry?Will the Immigration laws change to...

Daniel Joyce
Daniel Joyce

The Sept. 11, terrorist attack on the United States had a tremendous impact on national security and international commerce.

Will there be more restrictions on entry?

Will the Immigration laws change to limit people who want to live, work or visit the U.S.?

Are certain nationalities being targeted or refused entry?

The basic answer to these queries is nothing has changed as of this moment except the level of enforcement and detection.

Visa applications are still being processed and still being accepted, without any change.

No one is being refused entry to the U.S. solely on the basis of his/her nationality.

Waiver applications are still being accepted and processed the same as always.

(There are, however, some new developments in waivers and border crossing cards, not related to the terrorist attacks, and they are discussed below.)

Perhaps the most obvious example of “same rules, more enforcement” is the delay in border crossings due to more detailed inspections.

In the past, both Canadian and U.S. citizens may have been asked their citizenship, without having to produce proof.

Now, ID is routinely requested and reviewed in most cases.

I recommend all individuals crossing the border carry with them at least two forms of identification, including photo ID, as well as proof of citizenship.

Contrary to a popular rumor that spread quickly, there is still no passport requirement for Canadian citizens.

The special attention to document review has produced other consequences, as well.

Many people who have crossed the border frequently in the past without problems have been refused entry due to criminal records.

This doesn’t mean they were admissible before and the rules changed, it just means that the level of detection has increased.

As background checks and identities are run more fully through government computer systems, it is not surprising more people with old criminal records will be popping out of the files.

This in turn will lead to more waiver applications.

On Oct. 1, the start of the government fiscal year, the INS announced it would allow Canadian citizens who were also holders of border crossing cards to continue to use the cards for at least another year.

With attention focused on other matters, the INS has decided to once again extend the validity of border crossing cards for another year.

Unfortunately, there is no system in place for applications for new or replacement border crossing cards, and everyone else is still subject to the one-year, renewable waiver system.

The proposed five-year waiver remains, “on hold,” with no target date in sight.

Where do we go from here?

No one wants to restrict legal immigration, and no one wants to close our borders.

They just don’t want terrorists to utilize the immigration laws and border crossing procedures for illicit purposes.

In the short-term, it means an added strain on law-abiding people to patiently accept the increased security measures designed to prevent the entry of undesirables into the United States.

In the long-term, it may involve restrictions on lawful Immigration and/or permanent changes in border entry procedures and identification.

In 1996, Congress enacted a law that required the Immigration and Naturalization Service to institute a tracking system for all people entering and exiting the U.S. at land border crossings.

This measure was swept into the background and eventually abandoned due to budgetary concerns and an outcry on both sides of the border from the trucking industry and other advocacy groups regarding the prospect of huge delays.

The issue has reasserted itself with a new perspective.

Now that we have experienced the delays, and have seen that people are more tolerant and understanding of the reasons behind them, we can certainly expect to see some changes that emphasize national security at the expense of some personal and professional convenience.

– Daniel Joyce can be reached at Hirsh and Joyce, Attorneys at Law, at 716-564-2727.

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