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Opinion: Frustration continues along border near Roseau

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is frustrated with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It appears he has a legitimate gripe.

Friday, the Democrat from Minnesota issued a statement that harshly chastised the agency, which seemingly has muffled its ears as northern Minnesota residents have complained about reduced hours at two U.S.-Canada border crossings.

"It is ridiculous that CBP failed to listen to local leaders and businesses," Peterson said. "... Their arrogance toward people living in rural areas will not be tolerated."

It's the latest in this long, frustrating saga along the northern border.

Last year, CBP announced reduced nighttime hours at two ports of entry: One near Lancaster, Minn., and the other near Roseau, Minn. Although the ports are open during the day, and although there is a 24-hour port 20 miles away at Warroad, Minn., the reduced hours will inconvenience people who work and do business in places like Roseau.

Complaints arose from the residents who use those ports, as well as from the Herald, which has editorialized in favor of keeping the expanded hours.

Late last year, we noted Roseau, population 2,600, has an airport and vibrant business community, with many of those businesses relying on night-time traffic to and from Canada. It is in a tourist-rich region. It also has a hospital, which should raise more concern, since closing the border early limits access to the facility.

And we noted that the access point at Warroad is out of the way for someone traveling from the Northwest Angle to Roseau.

That was in November. The issue has been coming to a boil since then, culminated by Peterson's terse statement Friday. It began by saying the congressman is "astounded with U.S. Customs and Border Protection's continued dismissive attitude toward Minnesota residents living near the northern border."

We commend Peterson for his work on this issue and urge him to continue. He has attended meetings, submitted statements about the reduction of hours, appealed to the CBP and pushed the issue in Washington.

Locally, residents, politicians and the business community have urged for a return to the traditional nighttime hours. Yet CBP will maintain the new hours anyway.

And here's why Peterson and others are frustrated: Despite all of the meetings, town hall events, media coverage, editorials and so forth, the CBP—according to Peterson's statement Friday—says it heard no complaints.

"To add insult to injury, they have the audacity to claim that they have received no complaints on the reduced hours," said Roseau Mayor Jeff Pelowski, as quoted in the Peterson press release. "What a joke."

Peterson's statement says the CBP claims it "received no complaints—written, electronic or telephone—since the reduced hours went into effect."

Even if that is meant in the most literal sense—that no complaints were filed through those specific channels and during a specific time frame—there obviously is great concern about this issue along the border. One just needs to cup a hand to an ear, lean toward the north and listen.

Peterson, Pelowski and others have reason to be frustrated.