As many of you know, United States Homeland Security is an all-encompassing term for efforts to protect the US proper against terrorist activity. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), established after 9/11, combined and reorganized many of the functions of previously separate US agencies and is now responsible for a large percentage of policy related to the concept of protecting civilians within, at or outside the US border. Particularly, the DHS has assumed responsibilities relating to border crossings, and in doing so has altered the process considerably.
Before 9/11, crossing into the US was a fairly easy process. Canadian citizens needed only to present a driver’s licence or ‘Smart Card’ to gain immediate entry, and applications for work permits under NAFTA were available and could be granted at the border, on the spot. The US only employed 340 border guards, and a declaration of citizenship was usually enough to be believed.
Now, however, things are completely different. As of next year, over 2,000 guards will be stationed along the border. Predator drones with 16-mile range infrared cameras patrol the skies, searching each and every traveler for suspicious items. Yellow posts at all border crossings scan vehicles for RFID-enabled cards (such as the new enhanced driver’s licence) which transmit your identity to the CPB official’s computer before you arrive. A second camera snaps a picture of vehicle occupants’ faces, comparing them to police and criminal databases. Random sweeps of person and property are authorized and carried out commonly.
Ever since 9/11 and the establishment of US Homeland Security, border crossing practices have become much more stringent. A once friendly and trusting relationship has been slowly taken over and transformed into one of suspicion and constant vigilance. Travel to the US is no longer a spur-of-the-moment thing. Now, regardless of if you are a businessperson, ex-convict or law-abiding civilian, you must be prepared.