Saturday, March 08, 2008

Border Patrol States- Fishing on Sag in the Winter is Illegal but OK

The Gunflint Trail Association met with Joe Kempa, of the Department of Homeland Security- US Customs and Border Protection, "agent in Charge," and two other agent on March 5. The purpose of the meeting was to clarify current rules governing returning from Canada at remote locations i.e. Sag and Gunflint Lake, and other issues and concerns expressed by Gunflint Trail residents.

Joe Kempa, started at the start of the meeting his regrets about the accidental killing of Ken Petersen by a Border Patrol officer but stated "that since the case was still under investigation he could not discuss it."

The first question to come up was whether it was legal for ice fisherman to cross into Canada through Sag in the winter or for that matter for cabin owners and residents on the Canadian side of Sag to return to the US through Sag. Kempa after a long discussion stated it was against the law to cross into the US in the winter through anyplace other then an "Official Border" crossing office i.e. Grand Portage. He then went on to state that the Border Patrol however is not enforcing this law.

Therefore folks it is your choice- you can fish or got to your homes on the Canadian side of Sag but it is illegal to return to the US but the Border Patrol may not be "looking".

Kempa went on to state that in the summer, it is legal to return to the US from Canada through a remote location provided you have a I-68 form and you call-in your return to the Border Patrol. The I-68 is a photo/finger prints document that must be obtain in person at an "Official Border" crossing office. Mike Prom, of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters stated that , "this not a very convenient option for someone coming from Chicago and who is planning to go into Quetico on a canoe trip." It was noted that there are special video-phones that have been installed at other remote border crossings in Minnesota that would deal with this problem. Congressman Oberstar has stated in the past that he would help secure these phones for at least the Sag Landing and on Gunflint Lake. Prom said he would follow-up on this with Oberstar.

The question was then raised about Border Patrol agents that have been traveling at excessive speed on the trail, particularly through the 40 m.p. h. in the mid trail area. Kempa stated that after hearing from many people about this, he has issued a memo to his officers that they are required to obey the legal speed limits. He did go on to acknowledge that while Minnesota State regulation require that official vehicles responding to an emergency must have their flashing red lights and/or siren on, the Border patrol is not required to abide by this State regulations. Therefore Border Patrol officers sometimes maybe speeding when responding to an emergency call and not bothering to turn on the lights or sirens.

The final item discussed was the impress by many Gunflint Trail residents that the Border Patrol officers were not very friendly or willing to talk to local residents. Kempa agreed he has heard this concern and will try to encourage his officers to be a bit more open with the community. He stated that, "this meeting is at least a start in this direction."

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