Helena Independent Record: Obstacles to security

SWEETGRASS PORT OF ENTRY — Better communication between United States and Canadian border patrol officers, improvements to the current entry port system and increased security efforts between the ports were identified as ways to further secure the northern U.S. border during a visit to Montana by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the state’s senators.

Napolitano, along with U.S. Customs and Borders Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin and Montana senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus traveled around the state Wednesday to tour border ports in Piegan and Sweetgrass and hold meetings in Sunburst and Havre to talk about security at the United States’ 545-mile border with Canada. The area has seen increased security efforts since the September 11 attack. It has also faced drug-trafficking issues.

Following the Sweetgrass tour, Napolitano said it’s important for the U.S. to work with Canada to ease the collection and sharing of information so that border control agents can know ahead of time what to expect when people are passing through. The option for people to acquire passport cards that allow them to travel between the countries as part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a part of those efforts, she said. It’s important, she said, for trade to move through the border and for lines at the ports to be kept short.

She added that it’s also crucial to bolster security efforts between ports by adding more manpower and technology like sensors and radar to watch for people who might be crossing the border illegally.

“We’ve gotten a lot better at that over the past few years,” she said.

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