Border Rules May Alter Life on Canada-Vermont Line 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. The U.S. Border Patrol wants to restrict access.
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Border Rules May Alter Life on Canada-Vermont Line

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Border Rules May Alter Life on Canada-Vermont Line

Border Rules May Alter Life on Canada-Vermont Line

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Sometimes, big national issues like immigration and terrorism can reach into the tiniest communities. The residents of twin towns along the Vermont-Canada border are experiencing this now. 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.

Charlotte Albright has our report.

CHARLOTTE ALBRIGHT: Over a century ago, the elegant high school library and opera house was built right on the U.S.-Canada boundary to foster international friendship. Literally, the border runs right through it. Martin Drysdale(ph) is Canadian. Every other week, she and her drive or walk to Derby Line, Vermont from Stansted, Quebec to borrow books and tend the tidy library gardens, almost always without passing through a checkpoint.

Ms. MARTIN DRYSDALE (Resident, Canada): And actually, we bring vegetation and, which I shouldn't be saying.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ALBRIGHT: Under the proposed plan, cars would be banned and even pedestrians might have to pass through a barrier and that's got Drysdale upset.

Ms. DRYSDALE: I would really not be happy. This is so comfortable. Why start setting up barriers? You create barriers, you create tension.

ALBRIGHT: In the library, stacks are on the Canadian side, with half the books in English, half in French for the Francophones and neighboring Stansted. This is their only library. Drysdale fears those books will gather dust and some opera sits upstairs will go empty if getting here gets what's convenient.

Inside as patrons browse through a book sale, village trustee and library board member Keith Beetle(ph) walks from the front entrance on the American side towards the circulation desks on a famous well-worn strip of black tape.

Mr. KEITH BEETLE (Village Trustee, Library Board Member): You have the black line here on the floor shows you where you are.

ALBRIGHT: So now, where are we?

Mr. BETTLE: We're in Canada.

ALBRIGHT: We have technically crossed the border illegally, that's what's bothering the Border Patrol, who want better surveillance on small streets like this one that leads to the library. Upstairs in the opera house, Beetle points out more black tape, marking the international border somewhere around row M. Beetle is a former Border Patrol officer himself and says he understands the need after 9/11 for tighter security.

Earlier this year, Border Patrol say they apprehended 21 illegal aliens crossing the border in a van. But Beetle says, closing these streets is unlikely to stop illegal crossing along this porous border and will threaten the heritage of Derby Line.

Mr. BETTLE: And I guess we have to ask ourselves, are we willing to sacrifice our character, our individuality, the things that we treasure in these two villages in the sake of alleged security?

ALBRIGHT: There are also concerns about what these changes will do to cross-border social life. Tish Labaree is visiting the library from Connecticut, where she lives now. She was born in Newport, Vermont, 50 years ago to Canadian parents, who now live across the border in Quebec. As a child, she remembers easily going back and forth two or three times a day.

Ms. TISH LABAREE (Resident, Connecticut): You were either go in to someone's house for lunch 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.

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

For NPR News, I'm Charlotte Albright in northern Vermont.

ELLIOTT: The U.S. Border Patrol declined interviews for Charlotte Albright's story. Officials said they prefer to make their views known later this week at a public meeting on the new border procedures.

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