robertogreco + 2002 + customs   1

WRONG SIDE OF THE BORDER ("I didn't do anything wrong!")
"POHENEGAMOOK, Quebec — Michel Jalbert never imagined that his usual excursion to gas up at the cheapest place in town would land him in a Maine prison for five weeks and create an international incident. Even now, after U.S. officials finally released Jalbert on $5,000 bail and as he awaits his trial in U.S. District Court early next year, the spirit of cooperation that forms the social and economic fabric of this Canadian border town remains frayed.

People who once thought they had written permission to cross briefly into Maine to buy gasoline without visiting U.S. Customs now worry about the risk to save 20 cents a gallon. Pohenegamook is a mostly French-speaking community where houses and families straddle the border and logging trucks barrel out of the Maine woods to feed the town's thriving lumber industries. But now its residents are rethinking their habit of comfortable coexistence with their American neighbors. The fallout has even reached the four Mainers who live at the edge of Pohenegamook and count on the town for utility services, snow plowing and trash collection.

Jalbert's arrest and imprisonment made headlines across Canada for weeks and inspired an outpouring of moral and financial support from people in both countries. It raised speculation that he was singled out as an example to all border scofflaws in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Canada on the day of Jalbert's release, calling the ordeal an "an unfortunate incident" and promising future fairness for Canadians who cross the border regularly for gas and other errands. Still, Jalbert's treatment raised questions about the logic and fairness of customs and immigration operations at Maine's northernmost outpost.

The toll on Jalbert has been severe. A part-time woodsman, Jalbert ran up more than $5,000 in telephone bills, legal fees and lost wages while being held in Piscataquis County Jail in Dover-Foxcroft. He suffered depression and anxiety attacks and lost 10 pounds while separated from his common-law wife, Chantail Chouinard, 26, who is five months pregnant, and their 5-year-old daughter, Debbie. There were days, alone in his cell, when he sobbed in despair.

The 32-year-old Jalbert returned home Nov. 14 to his family's cozy rented bungalow set back from busy Route 289. With temperatures in the teens and more than a foot of snow on the ground, his work in the woods is finished until spring. Last Sunday he had his first good night's sleep in more than a month. … "
2002  border  quebec  maine  immigration  customs  borders  law  legal  homelandsecurity  us 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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