01 November 2011

US immigration checks eased on Canadian border

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As debate rages over immigration policing along the southern US border with Mexico, US Border Patrol has scaled back its operations along the northern border with Canada.

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US Customs and Border Protection has stopped routine visa checks on the Canadian border and in the American interior.

US immigration authorities will no longer conduct routine US visa checks for vehicles and public transport on or near the Canadian border and throughout the American interior following an order from the Obama Administration.

The American news media was alerted to the order by a media statement released by the trade union representing border patrol agents on Monday.

"Orders have been sent out from Border Patrol headquarters in Washington DC, to Border Patrol sectors nationwide that checks of transportation hubs and systems located away from the southwest border of the United States will only be conducted if there is intelligence indicating a threat," the statement read.

The routine random immigration status checks have long been a staple of the American border patrol framework, and have been met for some time with staunch criticism from migrants' rights and civil liberties groups who argue the practice is conducive to racial profiling.

In response to the leak to the media, US Customs and Border Protection have emphasised the order signifies a change of law enforcement tactic rather than immigration policy and will keep power in the hands of local authorities.

"It's up to the local commander to position his agents the way he wants to position them. What we've done is gone to a risk-based posture," said customs and border protection spokesman Bill Brooks.

Border arrests in the northern and central United States have been in decline over a number of years, largely due to changing economic circumstances and fewer job opportunities for migrants, regardless of visa status.

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