By Ron VandeBoom
U.S. Border Patrol Agents along the U.S./Canadian Border have been busier than usual lately due to an increase in the number of illegal Middle East aliens trying to cross the border in the Havre area.
Robert Finley, chief Border Patrol Agent for the Havre Sector, describes the increase as "something we have not experienced in the past."
According to Finley, a total of nine Middle Eastern aliens have been apprehended trying to enter the United States. since the end of December when stations throughout the Havre Sector were ordered to maintain a heightened state of alert.
At that time, Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian, was apprehended with nitroglycerin and other explosives at the Port Angeles, Wash., border crossing aboard a ferryboat from Victoria, British Columbia.
Local agents, since that time, have concentrated their enforcement efforts at transportation hubs as well as the remote ports of entry along the thinly populated Canadian Border.
Finley said he has no idea why this portion of the border is experiencing such an increase at this time and added that it is something the Border Patrol is trying to establish "as we speak."
He would not speculate on a possible connection between the aliens and any known terrorist groups or activities.
Finley provided the following examples:
On Dec. 24, 1999, a U.S. and a Canadian citizen, both from Tanzania, were arrested at the Sweetgrass Port of Entry and detained on narcotics charges;
On Dec. 29, 1999, two citizens of Sudan were arrested near the Sweetgrass Port of Entry after one walked around the port in an effort to be smuggled into the U.S.;
On Jan. 10, 2000, agents monitoring transportation centers apprehended a native and citizen from Algeria. The subject had entered the United States using a false passport;
On Feb. 5, 2000, three naturalized Canadian citizens from Lebanon were arrested by Border Patrol agents after running the Morgan, Port of Entry north of Malta;
On Feb. 7, 2000, agents apprehended a native and citizen of Kuwait who had entered the United States as a visitor and had remained after his visa expired.
Finley said aliens apprehended are held in local jails near the ports of entry where they are apprehended until they can be transported to deportation centers in Seattle or Denver. The U.S. Attorney may also prosecute some of the aliens on narcotics or other charges if applicable.
Also on the increase in recent years, according to Finley, is the transportation of narcotics across the border.
"We have not noticed this as much in the past," Finley said. "But it seems to be occurring in other sectors as well."
Finley said the Border Patrol agents in the Havre sector are also aware that chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine are cheaper and easier to get in Canada then they are in the United States. A traffic, he said, has developed transporting these chemicals into the United States where they are used to manufacture the drug.
The methamphetamine, he said, is then smuggled north into Canada where it can be sold or traded "almost pound for pound" for a type of marijuana known as B.C. Bud. The initials B.C. stand for British Columbia and the word Bud refers to the flowering bud of a marijuana plant that is high in THC - the drug that produces the euphoric high of marijuana.
B.C. Bud is a type of very potent marijuana grown by aquaphonics - a process that requires no soil and where the plants are fed nutrient rich chemicals through flowing water.
"I think its just becoming more prevalent all over," Finley said when asked about the increase being specific to the Havre Sector. "We know that some of the meth is coming up from the southern border."
Finley admits it is hard for his limited force of agents to cover a 454-mile long span of border and said he wishes he had more people.
"Congress is talking about it," he said.