U.S. beefs up border security

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ST. STEPHEN, N.B. — The U.S. Border Patrol is bringing 60 veteran agents to Maine and hundreds more to the northern border in intensified efforts to keep out terrorists, weapons, drugs and illegal immigrants.

The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection announced the move last week. The addition of 375 agents brings the total to 1,000 permanently assigned agents on the Canadian border – triple the number prior to Sept. 11, 2001. Most of the Border Patrol’s more than 10,000 agents are assigned to the southwestern border.

The Border Patrol has also deployed additional aircraft to provide coverage across the entire northern border. And, earlier this year, U.S. officials announced plans to explore the possibility of deploying unmanned aerial drones, similar to those used in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to monitor wide-open areas of both the northern and southern U.S. borders.

In border communities such as St. Stephen, changes in border security measures always draw interest.

St. Stephen mayor Bob Brown said he’s confident the addition of veteran agents will increase security without impacting the flow of traffic into the U.S.

He said agents at the border checkpoints are conducting thorough but efficient inspections and are keeping traffic moving so far this summer.

“We hate to have the line-ups in the streets but we have to have the traffic for the economic well-being of our community and the province and the Maritimes,” said Brown.

Brown is still looking forward to construction of a new international bridge, designed to divert traffic from downtown St. Stephen.

Tony Huntjens, the MLA for Western Charlotte, said traffic hasn’t been a major problem this year and that may be bad news.

He’s concerned the strength of the Canadian dollar is hurting trade and possibly keeping tourists away.

“I don’t notice as many trucks coming through,” Huntjens said.

“And we have a real decline in tourism. The Americans, so far, aren’t coming over in as many numbers as they were in the past,” he added.

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