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Our view: Concerns arise with proposed U.S. border hours

Herald editorial board

Our advice to American citizens who live in the Northwest Angle and who travel to Roseau, Minn., for medical services: Don't have an emergency between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Same goes for any Canadian residents who live north of the border, within an easy drive of Roseau.

That's because starting Jan. 7, the working schedule of the Roseau Port of Entry is expected to change, from the current hours of 8 a.m. to midnight to a closing time four hours earlier. U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the new hours in October.

Without help from the federal level, the change probably will happen.

It's not that travelers in the region cannot pass from the United States to Canada or vice versa. There is another port of entry at Warroad, Minn., about 20 miles east of the Roseau port. The Warroad port is modern and open 24 hours.

That's fine for casual drivers and truck traffic, we suppose, but it won't do much good in an emergency for someone near Roseau. Nor will it offer much help to merchants in Roseau who depend upon nighttime customers to make ends meet.

Similar changes are happening at the Minnesota port of Lancaster, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection seeks to close at 4 p.m., instead of the current 10 p.m. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the changes are being made to redirect staff to ports with higher traffic.

We don't like the plan, and adjusting the hours at these ports raises great concern.

Roseau, for example, has a population of more than 2,600. It has an airport and vibrant business community, with many of those businesses relying on night-time traffic to and from Canada. It is in a tourist-rich region.

It also has a hospital, and that's where our chief concern lies, since closing the border early could limit access to the facility.

Yes, the port at Warroad is open 24 hours, but it's distinctly out of the way for someone traveling from the Northwest Angle—the sliver of American land that abuts the western edge of Lake of the Woods but which is bordered on three sides by Canada—to Roseau.

Warroad has a border crossing, but it doesn't have a hospital. Thus the problem.

Lancaster may have a population of less than 350 people, but reducing hours at the port will have an impact that resonates all along U.S. Highway 59 and Provincial 59 on the Manitoba side of the border.

Residents should make themselves heard, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection is offering that opportunity at 7 p.m. today (Nov. 2) at the Roseau Civic Center. A similar meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6 at the Lancaster Community Center.

We suggest anyone with concerns attend these meetings. We also hope lawmakers are listening.

We hope U.S. Customs and Border Protection changes its mind, or is swayed to do so by concerned lawmakers.