Border Rules May Alter Life on Canada-Vermont Line

A Border Patrol agent speaks to Nancy Rumery in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House i i

hide captionA Border Patrol agent speaks to Nancy Rumery in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House that marks the U.S.-Canada border in Derby Line, Vt., in this 2006 photo.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A Border Patrol agent speaks to Nancy Rumery in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House

A Border Patrol agent speaks to Nancy Rumery in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House that marks the U.S.-Canada border in Derby Line, Vt., in this 2006 photo.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Large national issues like immigration and terrorism can often reach into the tiniest communities. That is certainly the case with towns along the Vermont/Canada border, where longstanding inter-connectedness faces new complications.

For over a century, local residents on both sides have shared a library, using back streets to get to it. The U.S. Border Patrol now wants to restrict access along those back streets. Under the proposed plan, cars would be banned in the area. And even pedestrians might have to pass through a customs barrier.

Someone going in the front door of Derby Line's Haskell Free Library and Opera House would be, as expected, standing in Derby Line, Vt. But upon crossing the building to check out a book, they would instead find themselves in Stanstead, Canada.

In the library — the only one in either town — stacks are on the Canadian side, with half the books in English, half in French for the francophones living in Stanstead.

Residents on both sides of the border say they are worried that everyday chores like those carried out at the library could get more complicated if the traffic between the two towns is more rigorously controlled.

There are also concerns about what these changes will do to cross-border social life.

On a recent day, Tish Labaree was visiting the library from Connecticut. She was born in Newport, Vt., 50 years ago to Canadian parents who now live across the border in Quebec.

As a child, Labaree said, she easily went back and forth between the towns two or three times a day.

"You were either going to someone's house for lunch," Labaree said, "or you were coming over to pick something up, and it was just an ease of travel. It wasn't — you weren't going to a foreign country."

Labaree says her aging parents are so intimidated by increasingly probing checkpoints that they now think twice about visiting American friends.

The U.S. Border Patrol declined interview requests for this story. An official said the agency prefers to make its views known at a public meeting on the new border procedures this week. The plan is expected to bring hundreds to a public meeting Tuesday.

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