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May 24, 2010

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy: Close Morses Line Border Crossing

F-crossingtheline-border In the wake of a spirited public meeting on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is urging Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to close down the Morses Line border crossing.

"The past nine years have seen a dramatic change in the way America protects its borders — and aging ports of entry critical to security and commerce need upgrades.  It is my opinion, and the opinion of all who spoke at the Franklin public meeting, that the Morses Line port is not a critical link in the chain of our nation’s security or commerce," wrote Leahy. "If it requires a major influx of taxpayer funding to ensure the dedicated agents who protect or borders can do their jobs safely, then it is best to close the port and focus on more critical border security needs."

Leahy, who is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he hoped Napolitano would voluntarily close down the port, but added that he would be prepared to close it as part of the budget review process.

The meeting, held in the Franklin Town Hall, was packed, according to an Associated Press report by John Curran. Napolitano promised last month to hold such a hearing while being questioned by the committee Leahy chairs — the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A proposed upgrade to the border crossing (see "Crossing the Line," 9/30/09) has stirred passionate debate in Franklin County for months. After initially proposing buying 10 acres of the Rainville's land for the project, the CBP scaled back the project's footprint to 4.9 acres. During the Saturday's meeting, the proposal was reduced to 2.2 acres. Because the Rainvilles aren't interested in selling their land, no price has been offered yet for the parcel.

"Though I was pleased Customs and Border Protection worked to reduce the footprint of the port modernization project from 10 acres to 2.2 acres, the process to do so was plagued by communications shortcomings and too little understanding of the value of agricultural land," wrote Leahy. "I have long believed that enabling cross border trade must be carefully balanced with ensuring our nation’s security.  I also believe that when border security issues are implemented at the local level, we must acknowledge that every community is different."

Leahy's letter, issued Sunday, comes on the heels of a joint legislative resolution passed in the waning days of the session. Closing the border crossing is a real option, according to CBP officials. On Wednesday, Brian Rainville is headed to Capitol Hill to testify on the matter because, he says, "A house oversight committee would like to know why DHS developed a $15.4 million plan for a crossing they should have closed."

(Photo credit: Matthew Thorsen)

Here is the full text of Leahy's letter to Napolitano: 

May 23, 2010

The Honorable Janet Napolitano, Secretary

Unites States Department of Homeland Security Washington, DC 20528


Dear Secretary Napolitano:

Thank you for arranging Saturday’s public meeting in Franklin, Vermont concerning the Morses Line port of entry modernization project, as I requested when you appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 27, 2010.  I am writing to request that the Department of Homeland Security follow the overwhelming public sentiment expressed at that meeting – that the existing port be closed.

The past nine years have seen a dramatic change in the way America protects its borders – and aging ports of entry critical to security and commerce need upgrades.  It is my opinion, and the opinion of all who spoke at the Franklin public meeting, that the Morses Line port is not a critical link in the chain of our nation’s security or commerce.  If it requires a major influx of tax payer funding to ensure the dedicated agents who protect or borders can do their jobs safely, then it is best to close the port and focus on more critical border security needs.

In addition, the Morses Line port of entry modernization project threatens a multi-generational operational dairy farm owned by the Rainville family.  Though I was pleased Customs and Border Protection worked to reduce the footprint of the port modernization project from 10 acres to 2.2 acres, the process to do so was plagued by communications shortcomings and too little understanding of the value of agricultural land.

I have long believed that enabling cross border trade must be carefully balanced with ensuring our nation’s security.  I also believe that when border security issues are implemented at the local level, we must acknowledge that every community is different.

I appreciate the hard work you and the entire Department of Homeland Security do to balance these complex issues.

I hope this request to close the Morses Line port of entry can be made without any further appropriations from the Federal government. However, as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I stand ready to work with you during the appropriations process to close the port if necessary.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of my request.
 
Sincerely,

PATRICK LEAHY
U.S. Senator

Don't ever forget, don't ever forget we can thank a guy by the name of Osama Bin Laden for this. Don't ever forget.
Bin Laden continues to win as this was his focus, raise havoc within the U.S. He has been succesfull to some point, but don't ever forget, we must never give in. We must strive to win by using common sense, and by gathering farmers land by eminent domain in a small town where the hottest action is the late traffic to the Quebec strip clubs, shows no common sense.
Bigger fish to fry, Bin Laden is his name, now let's get him, and leave our family farmers alone. We can and will live without Bin Laden. We will never live without our family farms.
Before focusing on marathons this weekend stop to memorialize your deceased veterans, they are why we are here.

I'm going to be really disappointed if they close Morses Line. For nearly all of my trips to Canada (admittedly only 3 or 4 per year) I take the small rural crossings and not Highgate.

I don't want them to take the Rainville's land. Just please leave the station as it is.

Actually, I have one question. Was the overwhelming public sentiment really that the port be closed? Or was that only when confronted with two options, intrude on the Rainvilles or close the port? I'm really very surprised that locals would want crossing the border to be made more inconvenient; it stands in stark contrast to what's going on over in Derby.

It would be disappointing, but not a huge deal, for me to route my trips east through Berkshire instead, but it seems a bit more out of the way for people already up in Franklin to have to go around.

From St-Armand Qc. and Franklin Vt. we are starting the battle to keep this port open. We have here one community, it is our border; we don't want two dead end.

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