As time goes on, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration continues with its aggressive plans to combat undocumented immigration into the United States. Those plans have now drawn the U.S. into the beginnings of a confrontation with Canada, thanks to border patrol officers boarding Canadian fishing vessels that were operating in waters that are not widely understood to solely belong to the United States.
The Canadian government is reported to be investigating the boardings in a process that has included consultations with U.S. agencies. Over the course of two weeks, including at least the end of June, at least ten Canadian lobster fishing vessels were intercepted by U.S. border patrol. Agents with the border patrol reportedly sought information about possible undocumented immigrants to the United States on the boats after boarding.
Chairman of the advisory board for Lobster Fishing Area 38 Laurence Cook commented:
‘There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere. They’re in international waters, so border patrol shouldn’t be boarding Canadian vessels.’
The waters in question are, to be clear, international more by mutual understanding than by formal agreement. The Canadian vessels in question were stopped while operating around Machias Seal Island, which is an an area known as the Grey Zone to the east of Maine. The area has been claimed by both the United States and Canada, but fishing boats from both countries have long operated there.
In the past, that simultaneous usage of the waters has been allowed by the fact that neither the U.S. nor Canada have made the ownership of the maritime area in question a major issue. Thus, it’s been able to simmer under the surface instead of boiling over into something bigger — until now.
Cook certainly has no idea why, explaining that he’s never seen U.S. border patrol agents operating in the area before and commenting:
‘All of a sudden the attitude has changed. What caused that? You’ll have to talk to border patrol.’
As mentioned, the Canadian government is undertaking its own effort to understand the situation, Global Affairs Canada spokesman John Babcock explained.
The Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association added a comment that the boarding may have been part of a “regular” exercise, issuing a statement reading:
‘We understand that a few Grand Manan fishermen were approached by the United States Border Services during the month of June. Our understanding is that this was a part of a regular exercise being conducted along the U.S. marine border.’
This incident — matching up with other harsh anti-immigrant measures undertaken by the Trump administration — is not the first time that the current White House has sparred with Canada. Infamously, Trump referred to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “weak” following him lobbing criticism at the U.S. over harsh tariffs imposed on nations that are traditionally American allies.
That criticism came as Trump was preparing to meet with the dictatorial leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un.
These developments, including the dispute over border patrol activities in the Grey Zone, are a part of the broad reshaping of the United States’ relationship with the world underway under the leadership of Donald Trump.
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