Watertown Daily Times
October 6, 2011
by Josh Gore
MASSENA — Residents of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation and the village of Massena told U.S. Customs and Border Protection representatives Tuesday night they do not want a fence along the northern border.
Representatives of the border security agency came to solicit feedback and official reaction of the Northern Border Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which purposes to “provide a well-integrated, reasonable framework for sustaining and enhancing security” over the next five to seven years.
Of the 30 people who attended the meeting at the Massena Veterans of Foreign Wars post, most did not know much about the document, but they did know a fence was discussed.
Corey Tarbell, 37, Akwesasne, found out about an hour before the meeting and rushed over, he said.
“I don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish today,” Mr. Tarbell said.
A PowerPoint presentation and posters throughout the room explained possible security situations.
Future administrations will look at the report when making decisions about how to handle future threats, Customs and Border Protection representative Don Beckham said.
Mr. Tarbell and many others were agitated when told they could not speak at the meeting but could record their comments in a microphone in the back of the room.
“I’m steaming about this,” he said. “These recordings don’t mean anything to them.”
Speaking into the recording device or giving a written statement were the only ways audience members could make official comments.
The group, though, decided to speak its opinions aloud for about 30 minutes.
“We can’t predict what the security will be,” Mr. Beckham said. “Please put your comments on the record.”
Many did walk to the back of the conference room to speak into a recording machine, but some left after just speaking to the audience.
Jessica L. Jock, Massena, said drafting a report that covers the entire border and not each specific area doesn’t do the area justice. She also said another meeting should be held to explain better the future security in the local area.
According to the impact statement, fencing off the border in “trouble spots” could be used to deter illegal activity.
“They are screaming terrorism and taking away our civil liberties,” said Kakawerais, a 55-year-old grandmother from Akwesasne.”You don’t care about the people, and you don’t care about the environment.”
Mr. Beckham, though, said fencing would be in specific areas only and would not blanket the border.
Many at the meeting said the presenters were not familiar with the area and were reading information they could present to people anywhere along the northern border.
“It’s just blanket information — not specific,” Mr. Tarbell said. “I still don’t know what’s going on.”
Mr. Tarbell, who crosses the border five to seven times a day for work, also said the United States is trying to make people afraid.
“They have done everything else; a fence is next,” Mr. Tarbell said.
Those who would like to submit an official comment can do so at www.northernborderpeis.com.