Alleged 'lane flushing' at the border causes concern

| Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nobody likes to wait in line, particularly when you’re on a tight shipping schedule or you have lots of miles to go on a limited number of hours.

Thousands of truckers experience such waits at the U.S.-Canadian border at the Detroit-Windsor crossing – sometimes. Other times, some people say, border officials are cutting corners and letting some trucks go right on through without proper inspections.

The Detroit Free Press interviewed more than a dozen people in a position to know what really goes on at the border, and their stories differ depending on their affiliation.

Border guard union leader Charles Showalter told the Free Press that border personnel are frequently told not to hold up the line. Showalter accuses the government and bridge officials of putting commerce ahead of safety and caving in to large interests who demand the expediting of their freight.

But border officials and the president of the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge Company, Dan Stamper, said border personnel never abandon their duty to keep the border safe.

An anonymous former inspector told the Free Press his supervisor would ask inspectors to flush the lanes and keep traffic moving. The former inspector also said he was pulled midway through a truck inspection to man a booth during a peak period.

Port of Detroit Director Robert Perez of the Department of Homeland Security, denies the practice of lane flushing. He told the Free Press the border is safer than it ever was before.

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