Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick and Canada experienced an aggressive search operation by U.S. Customs officials as they crossed to work as blueberry rakers in Maine last week.
Some of the Mi’kmaq interviewed by the Bangor Daily News said they were held as long as three hours. Many complained of an aggressive attitude by the Customs agents. The blueberry rakers who were stopped felt they were searched and stopped because of racial discrimination. Some reported that their personal belongings were confiscated, and at least two vehicles were damaged by the U.S. Customs search dogs.
Vincent Simon, a crew boss for Northeastern Blueberry Co., and a Mi’kmaq from Thunder Bay, Ontario, said that of his crew of 120 workers, 100 were stopped. Many other crews reported similar numbers. In total, about 800 Mi’kmaq cross the border to work as blueberry workers every year during blueberry season. According to Simon, several hundred Mi’kmaq vehicles were stopped by US Customs.
Ted Woo, public affairs officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Boston, confirmed Tuesday that there was “a temporary enforcement action in effect but it is now over” at the Calais, Maine and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, crossing. Woo said it is Customs and Border Protection’s policy not to discuss individual operations and declined to tell the Bangor Daily News how many vehicles were stopped.