A place where the travel ban doesnt matter

The Big Story


Details. Tell me what it's like inside the library. What does it look like it's very sort of warm and inviting it's very small library. There's a main kind of children's reading room that's very brightly decorated. There's a sort of more kind of work like space that has some tables and and chairs and then computers for people to use. There's sort of a stacks area in the back of the library. And then there's like a main hallway, and that's basically, it's you know, there's wood paneling as an American. I was quite amused at there's a moose head on the wall, very true to form it's sort of has this Victorian feel but also very homey at the same time. And then of course, sort of like pretty innocuous on the ground. There's like this piece of black. I'm not sure if it's like electrical tape or actually just painted on. But it's this like thin black line, that's sort of cuts diagonally across the library. And that demarcates the. The international border. And so, you know, it's sort of almost like an afterthought, it's not really a formal marking and not I think also kind of represents that's this library like once you're in. There these borders. Kind of don't really matter that much and people can freely cross, and they don't really have any issues with that. How does this place even exist in two thousand eighteen given are sort of strong, borders, leaders and immigration law? These days, it seems like a total relic of the past it it really does feel that way. It felt to me like it was in this very tenuous situation. And that that it was a very fragile place. And I think that was obvious and the libraries attitude towards the visits, and in some of the interactions that I learned of as I was reporting this story, especially between US immigration authorities, and the Iranians the sense, I get is that it really depends on the agent and. There isn't like a set policy. One pair of sisters. I spoke to and who are in the story came there last September in the September. And we're we're actually blocked from going, and they were told that the reunions aren't allowed anymore, and then when a staff member invited them in for a tour because at that time the opera house was was having tours later that staff member was was chastised by border patrol. You know, I I heard a lot of stories that are also in the in the piece itself about border patrol agents trying to limit the visits to like twenty minutes to to prevent them from happening in other ways telling people they shouldn't be meeting there. I think when you're there when the is actually arrived there, it's it's hard to say no to them because they're usually like very sympathetic people. Are you know, some elderly parents some, you know, the young students even some children's sometimes come like the nieces and nephews of the students and so. There doesn't seem to be an easy universal policy. You know, we we did hear from a library staff member that both US and Canadian authorities had threatened to shut the library down over the visits. I should say that the Canadian authorities deny that and the Americans declined to respond to to our request for comments. But I had heard from, you know, people connected to the library, former board members just people sort of in the community that there was a lot of pressure that the library was facing over these visits. And it's it's not exactly clear to me, why the Canadians told me I I talked to RCMP basically, they have no problem with the visits. They say they're they're legal, and they don't have any fear of legal crossings because the area's very heavily surveilled. There's a lot of cameras around. So they they have a pretty good sense of who's going in and who's coming out. And you know, I put a lot of questions to the American thirties. They didn't answer they sort of pointed me to a general law against illegal crossings. But you know, there's no point in my story or any of the Iranians that I spoke to that indicates that they intended to legally cross they really just wanted to be at this library temporarily and then go back to where they came from. So I think that as long as the library itself remains open to people from Canada coming in without going through a port of entry that it would be very difficult to completely bar the visits from happening, and there's still this sort of grey zone. And you know, now we're into the winter. We don't like these visits are slowing down naturally anyway. And so it will be interesting to see if this continues when the weather gets nicer, and it's sort of more of the tourist season, Vermont and Quebec. But it it it's impossible to be there. And not sense kind of overall this overriding tension and not see it in the context of. The the US tightening its immigration laws and tightening its immigration policies in general, especially towards obviously people from Iran that very much sort of permeates the atmosphere when you're there, and and when you kind of talked to people about this issue to me, this entire story is just like a picture of a moment in time that you'll never be able to to recreate because we're like this nexus of changing immigration, and yet there's still these places that are like remnants of the relationship that we used to have I I mean, you know, for me, it was this was the story was important because I think like when the history of this era is written like, you know, you'll have the speeches you'll have the policies you'll have the executive orders. But how is the travel ban changing people's lives like that to me is an important question. And also, it's something that's really faded from the headlines and people don't really talk about much anymore because there's just so much other stuff happening. But it was the first thing that Trump did as president, and it was like a week after he. Took office that this happened. And it it's important, and it's like reverberated in thousands and thousands of people's lives. And and I just really wanted to sort of tell that story. And I don't think there's really anyone even in the story who's who even directly criticizes, the Trump administration, or or has any sort of partisan words or anything like that. But I do think you sort of get a very tangible sense of of the lengths that people will go to see each other and sort of what obstacles have now been put in their way. I remember walking around that library and picking out kids books to read or VHS movies to rent or whatever. And and not giving thought to anything about the US Canada border other than it's neat that there's a line on the floor, you know, and as a kid you would jump from back and forth on I'm in America. I'm in Canada. And there was no. But there was no thought back then of this being a heavily regulated border. I really think you know, that that's something that I kind of had some inkling of when I reported the story, and even when I published it, but hadn't thought a lot about there's this historian on Twitter. This guy Jacob remiss, and he was saying, you know, how these sort of spaces these kind of spaces that you can't really categorize that easily. How they mean different things different people when the US sort of starts to close down. It's very contested tradition of openness, and and the and the Canadians. I I don't really know enough about it. But my son says that the border is not as big of an issue to them as it is to the United States, especially after nine eleven I think that was a real turning point from when I talked to people seem like that was when you you could go from just from what you experience in your childhood that just sort of crossing and kind of saying hi to the border agent, but not really having to go through a formal process to what it is now which is. Like every single person has to show their passport and has to subject themselves to question, the questioning and possible searches or whatever it might be. And and these these like little areas are very rare, and maybe fading. I mean one one criticism I got a lot of both during the story. And when it came out was well now that, you know, you're publishing this it's going to end, and you know, there's not much I can say to that. I can't predict the future, and it's really not my position. So sort of try to ensure that something continues or doesn't continue. But, but there was very much that that anxiety among people that like if anyone finds out about this like our lives could change, and we we we won't be able to have this anymore. So it all just kind of felt very precarious and varies sort of fragile scientific maximum of you can't observe something. Like that without changing totally. Thank you so much for taking the time today. I really appreciate it. Oh, it's my pleasure. Thank you so much. Gonna tour body immigration reporter for Reuters. That was the big story brought to you by Scotia. I trade you can visit Scotia I trade dot com to start direct investing today, and you can visit the big story podcast dot CA for more from us. You can visit frequency podcast network dot com for more from our brother and sister shows if you're looking for something to listen to over the holidays, give them a shot. And of course, we're on social media at big story podcast on Twitter on Facebook on Instagram. And we are as always everywhere you get your podcasts. And please give us a rating give us a review, but us know what you think, I'm Jordan. He threatens thanks for listening. We'll talk to you after the holidays have a happy one.

Coming up next