As someone who believes that our nation has a right to enforce its borders, I should have been gratified when the Immigrations official at the border saw the canoe on our car and informed us that anyone who crossed the nearby international waterway illegally would be arrested and fined as much as $5,000.
Trouble is, the river wasn't the Rio Grande, but the St. Croix, which defines the border between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. And the threat of arrest wasn't aimed at illegal immigrants or terrorists but at canoeists like myself.
The St. Croix is a wild river that flows through unpopulated country. Primitive campsites are maintained on both shores, some accessible by logging roads, but most reached only by water or by bushwhacking for miles through thick forest and marsh. There are easier ways to sneak into the U.S. from Canada. According to Homeland Security regulations, however, canoeists who begin their trip in Canada cannot step foot on American soil, thus putting half the campsites off limits. It is not an idle threat; the U.S. Border Patrol makes regular helicopter flights down the river.
In light of the Arizona immigration law furor, imagine the scene as it might be presented by hysterical open border activists. Agents in a helicopter spy us at an American campsite. They hover over the river while a commando descends on a rope. Your papers please, he demands. We show them our American passports, and we're on American soil-but never mind, according to his records, we crossed into Canada and have not re-entered the United States through an authorized port of entry. At which point we would be arrested and fined.
A commando-like strike on a campsite is no doubt far-fetched. Most Border Patrol agents are intelligent people who try to apply common sense to the laws coming from Washington-as are most Arizona police. But the intrusion on the privacy of an American citizen is far greater than that envisioned by Arizona SB 1080. Camping does not break any laws which would permit a law enforcement official to make "lawful contact" and inquire about our immigration status.
I understand that we cannot allow people to cross the border willy-nilly; a border cannot be maintained without specified ports of entry. But in this situation it is obvious that an American family camping on the American shore is not attempting to gain unlawful entry into the United States. The regulation seems like another case of strip-searching Grandma while Mohammed Atta strolls past without being questioned.