To U.S. Border Patrol, the Canadian border is 100 miles wide


U.S. border agents are not only patrolling the country’s frontiers for illegal crossers. Under a 1953 federal regulation, they are questioning and detaining American citizens travelling well within U.S. boundaries.

Corey El was watching The Office as the train he takes a few times a year from New York City to Niagara Falls, N.Y., pulled into Syracuse.

When he glanced up from his laptop last Thursday, he was startled. A U.S. Border Patrol agent was looking down at him from the aisle.

This has never happened to him before, and the reason seemed obvious. By land, Syracuse is more than 153 kilometres (95 miles) from the Canadian border.

“I had to look at the stop,” said El, 27. “Like, we’re in Syracuse. What are they doing here?”

It turned out the agent had a question for him and an assortment of other passengers. The question added anger to his bewilderment.

“Are you a citizen of the United States?”

El, a New Yorker born and raised, suspected he might not have to answer. But he also did not think it was worth taking the risk involved in being a Black man who refuses to co-operate with law enforcement.

Instead, he muttered a scoffing “yeah.” The agent turned to move on. El told him he was “pretty sure what he was doing was illegal.”

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