December 18, 2018

U.S. border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters

06 July 2018, 08:23 | Edward Lowe

Machias Seal Island is seen

Machias Seal Island

-Canada border on June 3, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.

A border patrol spokesperson said Thursday the agency has been conducting enforcement operations within American water boundaries for "decades", calling them a vital part of immigration and national security efforts.

He has also bolstered border security in the northern frontier with Canada, and the American Civil Liberties Union said U.S. police had been setting up more checkpoints on roads leading to the Canadian border to check people's citizenship. The agency said it hasn't made any arrests, and it's operating within its jurisdiction.

At least 10 Canadian fishing boats operating in disputed waters off the coast of ME were intercepted in recent days by U.S. Border Patrol agents searching for illegal immigrants, according to Canadian news organizations.

A program manager with the association told CBC that everyone is being stopped, "It's not exclusive to Canadians".

The area is in a "gray zone" where both Canada and the United States lay claim. Boats from both countries have fished the waters comfortably for years.

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That debate has come to a head lately, starting with a June 25 Facebook post in which a Canadian fisherman alleged that U.S. Border Patrol attempted to stop a fellow fisherman "in the zone".

Cook was indignant over the search, posting "typical American bullies".

"I tried to asked them, they are tight-lipped, they are not going to tell me what is going on", he said.

Relations between Canada and the United States continue to deteriorate. "To be illegal they would have to be in sovereign waters and they know it", he said, adding an expletive.

Global Affairs Canada distributed a brief statement saying it is investigating "these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters".

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in global law", Babcock said in a statement to the Canadian Press. Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the United States of America has recently begun monitoring more closely. It's not known how many of those were fishing vessels.

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But that's not what fishermen have told Canadian officials.

U.S Customs and Border Protection said Thursday agents whose sector covers the area have interviewed workers on 21 Canadian vessels this fiscal year while conducting regular patrols to enforce immigration laws.

"Canadian fishermen are being harassed by US Border Patrol. As far as I'm concerned, it needs to stop immediately". "Law Enforcement at the Border is doing a great job, but the laws they are forced to work with are insane". The island's only residents, other than numerous seabirds such as puffins, are lighthouse keepers, who are employed by the Canadian Coast Guard.

A former American diplomat to Canada says the episodes late last month underscore the need for the two countries to settle their quarrel over the so-called "grey zone" surrounding the island before it erupts into violence.

Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his administration's policy, and his now-abandoned "zero tolerance" practice of separating migrant parents from their children at the Mexican border triggered worldwide condemnation. In fact, he said the officers appear unfamiliar with the marine world and would nearly certainly be unable to distinguish between Canadian and USA vessels. "Now with Trump as president and some of the kinds of xenophobic and racist arguments that he's presented around immigration, and some of the ways that he's attacked Canada and our prime minister, I think there's more of an anti-Americanism that's starting to bubble up".

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