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Canada-US border the final frontier for refugee-seekers

SAINT-BERNARD-DE-LACOLLE, QUE. Security officials scrambled on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border Monday morning when two men, a young woman and an infant made their way to the busiest hole in the frontier.

On the American side, the group was flagged to the U.S. Border Patrol. Agents intervened and brought them in for questioning and verifications to ensure that they were legally in the country, said Norman Lague, an officer with the agency.

When they passed the inspection, the group loaded their three backpacks, the baby s diaper bag, a stroller and car seat into a silver taxi van and continued along Roxham Road, a dusty dead-end street, on their way to Canada.

It is a version of the scenario that happens now several times a day every day here near the Quebec town of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle a taxi arrives, a family emerges, luggage is hauled across a border that is nothing more than a ditch, the RCMP arrests the asylum seekers, and takes them to be processed into an already overloaded system.

Read more:

Montreal becomes third Canadian sanctuary city for non-status refugees[1]

Toronto not truly a Sanctuary City, report says[2]

How Canada should react to Trump and refugee crisis: Opinion[3]

But despite the heartwarming photos of police officers helping with young children, or offering an arm to negotiate the slippery snowbanks, it appears that the status quo is starting to stress Canada s border protection and refugee-intake system.

From corporals to a staff sergeant to an inspector, the Mounties who spoke to reporters during a media tour Monday were too stoic to admit such a thing. But Brad Cutris, an acting division chief with the U.S. Border Patrol said it loud and clear from the American side of the border in response to questions lobbed at him a few feet away in Canada.

A solution would be great, he said.

Like what? a Radio-Canada journalist asked, while teetering on the snowy bank of a creek running between the two countries.

I wish I knew, ma am. I m not a policy-maker.

Monday s group of stunned and likely frightened border crossers was greeted in Canada by many of the nation s media outlets, plus a few American journalists who were visiting to better understand that the U.S. is not alone in having people streaming across its borders.

The tour for reporters began at the RCMP s emergency operations centre in downtown Montreal, where the force showed off its remote surveillance capabilities, including high-resolution cameras and regular helicopter patrols.

Cpl. Fran ois Gagnon, a media spokesperson with the force, told reporters that the increase in illegal border crossings into Canada has been the greatest in Quebec. It has meant more work for patrol officers but not more than the force can handle, he emphasized.

But when the tour moved on to Roxham Road a once-unknown country street that has become Canada s version of Ellis Island for some migrants Gagnon was among the dozen RCMP officers thrust into action when unexpected border-crossers arrived.

The 13 dramatic minutes from the time that the migrants taxi pulled up to the border in the U.S. to the time they were driven away in Canada was captured by frenzied photographers and television cameras.

Unlike other asylum seekers who obtain tourist visas to travel to the U.S. and make their way directly to Canada upon arrival, this group appears to have been living south of the border for some time.

One of the men who had pulled his black toque down to hide his face told Cpl. Gagnon that he was from Eritrea and had been living in the U.S. since 2013. Another RCMP officer who seized the border-crossers passports held a Minnesota drivers licence and what appeared to be a Sudanese passport in his hands.

At Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec s largest border crossing, Canada s newest refugee claimants would have been taken to the basement of a decommissioned building that has been set up with couches, offices, computers and vending machines to process the elevated number of refugee claimants.

Normally, the Canada Border Services Agency sees between 10 and 20 claims per day, said Dominique Fillion, an enforcement officer with the agency. Last month there were 452 asylum seekers who made claims at that particular border crossing. The agency will not say how many of those people crossed into Canada illegally.

Fillion said the CBSA has been redeploying agents from others posts and duties to help fingerprint, photograph and process the increased number of refugee claimants.

Every day we get more officers coming in, she said.

Like the RCMP, Fillion would not, or could not say if the agency is looking at any long-term solutions to ease the demands on the system.

Refugee advocates in Canada and the U.S. have urged the federal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which forces refugees to make their claim in whichever country they first reach. That would remove the need for asylum seekers to sneak into Canada in order to exploit a loophole in the deal.

Ottawa has so far rejected such calls, but there is increasing pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau s Liberals to develop a plan that will reduce the illegal and sometimes dangerous crossings.

Illegal crossings are unsafe and a burden on local communities, MP Tony Clement, the Conservative party s public safety critic, wrote on Twitter over the weekend. Our laws should be enforced.

References

  1. ^ Montreal becomes third Canadian sanctuary city for non-status refugees (www.thestar.com)
  2. ^ Toronto not truly a Sanctuary City, report says (www.thestar.com)
  3. ^ How Canada should react to Trump and refugee crisis: Opinion (www.thestar.com)

JFK Airport Security Breach: 11 Stroll Through Deserted TSA Checkpoint, Board Planes

JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NY Eleven airline passengers strolled through a Terminal 5 security checkpoint at JFK Airport that had been deserted by federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents in the early-morning hours of the Presidents Day holiday, and are believed to have boarded their flights without proper screening, airport officials told Patch. At least three of the passengers set off the metal detector, but were not screened afterward, according to the TSA. Only three of the 11 improperly screened passengers had been identified as of Monday afternoon. These three boarded a plane to California, and will be screened once their plane touches down, according to the Port Authority (the state agency that runs JFK Airport).

It was unknown by 4 p.m. Monday if any of the passengers posed a security threat to others aboard their flights. Despite all this uncertainty, TSA officials insisted: “We are confident this incident presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system.”

Two full hours passed after the 6 a.m. breach before “a TSA supervisor discovered and alerted Port Authority Police to the lapse,” the Port Authority said in a stern statement Monday that lowkey blamed federal security officials for the breach. Beginning around 8 a.m., Port Authority cops scrambled to locate the 11 people who had walked through the checkpoint while it was deserted to no avail.

“It is believed the travelers in question boarded various flights,” a Port Authority spokesman said.

“Police were able by video to identify three people who got on a flight to California, where they will be screened upon arrival,” the Port Authority spokesman said Monday afternoon. “Port Authority Police are continuing to assist federal authorities in efforts to identify and locate the other eight passengers.”

The TSA, meanwhile, would not confirm the Port Authority’s 11 count, and overall played down the security breach in a statement sent to Patch:

The Transportation Security Administration is reviewing reports of a possible security incident this morning at John F Kennedy International Airport Terminal 5.

Early reports indicate 3 passengers did not receive required secondary screening after alarming the walk through metal detector. All personal carry-on bags received required screening. A K9 team was present at the checkpoint at the time of the incident. TSA conducted security measures at the passengers’ arrival airport.

TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen. We are confident this incident presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system.Once our review is complete, TSA will take appropriate action.

Patch sent followup emails to the Port Authority and the TSA late Monday, asking for further explanation on the discrepancies between both agencies’ narratives.

Port Authority Police spokesman Joe Pentangelo did not immediately respond.

Below is TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson’s response.

Everyone who went through that checkpoint was screened. A supervisor saw 11 passengers go through and immediately sent another supervisor to review CCTV to be able to track the passengers down.Three of them should have received secondary screening because they alarmed the metal detector. We focused on those three. Based on available information we determined they presented minimal risk to aviation security.I need to emphasize that ALL of the passengers walked past an explosives detection K9 and ALL of the passengers had their carry-on bags screened.

The TSA is a federal agency run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Donald Trump administration. The Port Authority, meanwhile, is controlled by New York and New Jersey state government officials.

We’ll update this post with anything else we find out about the Presidents Day security breach at JFK.

This is a developing story. Refresh the page for the latest.

Lead photo by Kyle McCarthy[1]/Flickr

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References

  1. ^ Kyle McCarthy (www.flickr.com)

Loblaw resets passwords for all PC Plus accounts following security breach

TORONTO Loblaw has reset passwords for all its PC Plus rewards collectors online accounts after points were stolen from some members accounts. The company (TSX:L) posted a warning on its website saying it requires all members to create new passwords regardless of whether or not they changed them following the recent security breach. Earlier this month, Loblaw urged members to create unique, secure passwords after some people noticed their points were missing.

The company said at the time that the breach stemmed from people using favourite or weak username and password combinations across multiple sites. Those were stolen from other sites and used to access PC Plus accounts.

The company said it s reimbursing members whose points were stolen.