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Bordering on absurd

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Northern New Yorkers are reminded almost daily about tighter security as the noose at our border crossings along the St. Lawrence River has tightened since Sept. 11, 2001.

Easy trips to and from Canada now require passports or expensive enhanced driver’s licenses or NEXUS cards. Boaters find aggressive agents inspecting their boats and passengers if they are operating in or near international waters. The green striped border security vehicles of the federal Customs and Border Protection agency are spotted along the highways as they stop all cars looking for what are described as undesirable travelers.

Despite all that security at border crossings, despite the effort to prevent undocumented people from entering the country, just how did Jiamei Tian arrive in Washington with a valid Chinese passport but an expired visa? Ms. Tian is accused of splashing green paint sloshed from a soda can on the National Cathedral and suspected of also defacing the Lincoln Memorial.

It is reasonable to assume that determining if a travel visa has expired would be one of the easiest pieces of information for a border agent to verify. Apparently not.

The fact that the accused vandal was traveling here illegally points to the challenges of maintaining a secure border. However, it raises the question as to why border agents who are required to determine the validity of identification and travel authorizations could let such a flagrant violation of entry requirements to occur.

No agent at the border could be expected to determine whether Ms. Tian was going to deface public monuments and facilities in the nation’s capital. But they should know that using an expired visa to enter the country is not a good omen. The Customs and Border Protection agency, which devotes so much human capital to flooding the north country with enforcement officers, needs to investigate the circumstances of her presence in the country and whether the visa was valid the day she entered.

The only good news from the vandalism of the Lincoln Memorial is that it will not hamper a planned observation of the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivery of his “I Have a Dream” speech. Civil rights group plan a march on Aug. 24 from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial.

The memory of Dr. King’s powerful and generation-changing speech will overwhelm any remnants of green paint splashed on the memorial by someone who probably should never have been allowed to enter the country.

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