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Minnesota-Canada border hassles take a toll on both sides

Associated Press

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ROSEAU, Minn. (AP) — Local officials in northwestern Minnesota say they’re not optimistic about a return to normal hours at two customs stations used by many residents on both sides of Minnesota’s border with Canada who had built their lives around the old order of convenient crossings.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection cut the hours of the stations in Roseau and Lancaster in January of 2018 as it shifted officers to the Mexican border. The Border Patrol said in a statement this week that more than 300 of the 731 officers it had redirected south from across the U.S. were now being sent home and that they would be “equitably distributed back to their home ports of entry.”

But Roseau city planner Todd Peterson told Minnesota Public Radio that Border Patrol officials said officers returning north will be sent to crossings viewed as more important than Roseau.

“They made up their minds,” he said. “That’s it. I don’t think there’s much we can do to change that.”

The Roseau station, which used to be open from 8 a.m. until midnight, now closes at 8 p.m. The nearby Lancaster crossing, which was once open until 10 p.m., now closes at 8 p.m. in the summer and 6 p.m. in the winter. The stations on the Canadian side are still open until midnight. That means people can drive from Roseau into Canada until midnight. But if it’s after 8 p.m., they can’t get back without taking an hourlong trip to the 24-hour border crossing in Warroad, Minnesota.

Roseau leaders and citizens raised their concerns at several town hall meetings and came away thinking the Border Patrol would be flexible, Peterson said.

“We aired our concerns,” he said. “And they didn’t listen. It was all for show.”

The shortened hours have been a nightmare for people like Darcy Wakefield, a nurse who crosses from Manitoba into Minnesota four days a week to help deliver babies. She loves her job at LifeCare Medical Center in Roseau, the closest hospital to her home, but said: “I don’t know how long I can do this.”

For her 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, she has to drive into the U.S. before 8 p.m. She then spends the three hours before her shift starts catching up on the rest of her sleep in a windowless basement room at LifeCare.

It’s also been hard on employers in Roseau. Josh Broten, a Roseau resident who works at the local Polaris ATV factory, said the operation has struggled to get workers since the crossing hours were cut. The new schedule makes it impossible for Canadians living just 12 miles (19 kilometers) away to work many of the available shifts.