Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Border Madness

So what happens if you show up at the US border carrying a "homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood"? Why, you get to enter the US!
On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres.

Then they let him into the United States.

As it turned out, the red stains on Mr. Despres's chain saw (please note his photograph at the above link and ponder why his appearance as well as his weaponry raised alarms) likely were composed of human blood.

The following day, a gruesome scene was discovered in Despres' hometown of Minto, New Brunswick: The decapitated body of a 74-year-old country musician named Frederick Fulton was found on Fulton's kitchen floor. The man's head was in a pillow case under a kitchen table. His common-law wife was discovered stabbed to death in a bedroom.

Despres, 22, immediately became a suspect because of a history of violence between him and his neighbors, and he was arrested April 27 after police in Massachusetts saw him wandering down a highway in a sweat shirt with red and brown stains. He is now in jail in Massachusetts on murder charges, awaiting an extradition hearing next month.

The Despres incident stands as one more example of the complete lack of border security under the Bush administration and puts the lie to all the administration's rhetoric about the "War on Terrorism" and keeping Americans safe. Observe the reasoning of the border patrol when trying to explain Mr. Despres's admission to the US.

Bill Anthony, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the Canada-born Despres could not be detained because he is a naturalized U.S. citizen and was not wanted on any criminal charges on the day in question.

Anthony said Despres was questioned for two hours before he was released. During that time, he said, customs agents employed "every conceivable method" to check for warrants or see if Despres had broken any laws in trying to re-enter the country.

"Nobody asked us to detain him," Anthony said. "Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up. ... We are governed by laws and regulations, and he did not violate any regulations."

Anthony conceded it "sounds stupid" that a man wielding what appeared to be a bloody chain saw could not be detained. But he added: "Our people don't have a crime lab up there. They can't look at a chain saw and decide if it's blood or rust or red paint."

Do they need a crime lab? In the wake of September 11th, hasn't there been any alteration to US law to permit border patrol agents to refuse entry to someone whose appearance absolutely screams potential criminal activity. The border patrol really can't be blamed here. They have to follow the rules written for them by Congress and the White House - it is Washington that has dropped the ball yet again by failing to amend immigration regulations (and enforcement) so as to prevent admitting dangerous people into the US.

Mr. Anthony was right, however, it does "sound stupid" that the border patrol could not detain a man carrying a blood-stained chain saw (and panoply of other weapons). It sounds stupid because it is stupid. But that's what passes for "homeland security" under the Bush administration and the GOP controlled Congress.


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