Too bad to check: US won’t allow Canadian relief for OK to cross border?

posted at 4:01 pm on June 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The people of Oklahoma can use every resource available after two weeks of tornadoes and destruction. Our friends to the north have rallied to their cause, gathering badly-needed supplies of food, water, and other necessities.  However, Canada can’t get their trucks across the border, thanks to US regulations — and the absence of a federal declaration of disaster [see update], according to CBC News (via Instapundit):

A Canadian shipment of relief goods bound for storm-ravaged Oklahoma has been stopped at the Canada-U.S. border in Windsor, Ont.

American officials will not allow the 20,000 kilograms of food, blankets and diapers into the country until every item on board is itemized in alphabetical order and has the country of origin of every product noted.

Dennis Sauve, the volunteer co-ordinator for Windsor Lifeline Outreach and the food bank co-ordinator at the Windsor Christian Fellowship, the two organizations that gathered the goods, said it’s a “physical impossibility” to do the paperwork required in time to get the perishable food to Oklahoma before it spoils.

Because U.S. President Barack Obama hasn’t declared Moore, Okla., tornado a disaster area, the 52-foot trailer of goods is considered a commercial shipment rather than humanitarian aid.

The Windsor Star has more:

It started with a quibble about rice.

Customs agents told the charity it would have to unload a skid of Basmati rice because it might contain an invasive species of beetle, Sauve said, so volunteers made arrangements to remove it.

“It looked like that was going to be the final step,” Sauve said. “And then, bam – they’re not going to let anything through.”

At about 6 p.m. Thursday, Sauve said volunteers learned the truck wouldn’t get any special treatment as humanitarian aid at all because the president hasn’t declared the tornado damage a federal disaster.

Instead, customs agents would consider it a commercial shipment, which means every food item on the truck needs a certificate from the Food and Drug Administration to make it through the border.

“Which, basically, is almost an impossibility,” Sauve said. About one-fifth of the food on the truck comes from companies that ship to the U.S. and has the necessary certification, but he said it would be extremely difficult to get approvals for the rest.

I’m a little surprised that President Obama hasn’t declared Oklahoma a federal disaster area yet. [See update — he has.]  That requires a request from the governor and a FEMA survey — usually quick and pro forma in cases like this.  The FEMA website notes that approval for such a declaration can come within “a few hours,” and this would seem like a rather easy situation to analyze once the process has begun. Since it’s not clear whether the request has been made for federal disaster relief, it’s unclear who to blame for the delay.

What’s crystal clear is the absurdity of the standoff that has 40,000 pounds of badly-needed aid stalled at at the US-Canada border.  Under the circumstances, disaster declaration or not, Oklahoma needs the help.  Furthermore, it should go without saying that the Canadian food system is modern enough to be low-risk to Americans even under normal circumstances.  Not only is this absurd, it’s insulting to Canadians, who rallied to help us, not boost food exports.

Someone at the White House had better get on the horn ASAP to the border station and — to quote C. W. McCall and the 1970s novelty song “Convoy” — let them truckers roll. 10-4?

Update: Barack Obama did declare at least some parts of Oklahoma a federal disaster area:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Oklahoma to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and tornadoes beginning May 18, 2013, and continuing.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie counties.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie counties.

FEMA works within the Department of Homeland Security, which also has authority over Immigrations and Custom Enforcement.  So what’s the problem?

Update: Kevin Binversie reminds me that it’s Customs and Border Protection, not ICE, that makes these decisions.  CBP is also under DHS.

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First as an Oklahoman that lives only 7 miles from Carney, Oklahoma which was hit the day before Moore was hit THANK YOU FOR ALL THE SUPPORT FROM ACROSS OUR GREAT COUNTRY! And we are grateful to our Canadian neighbors for their outpouring of love as well.

Having said that, there has been so much donated that buildings are bulging with supplies! Everywhere you go you see pallets and pallets of bottled water. Relief agencies are having to turn away many trucks loaded with supplies because of the outpouring of fellow Americans. One pastor told me that if he saw another package of diapers he would scream!

As an example, at one church in Carney there are seven huge tubs of work gloves! I figure there are about 300-400 pairs of gloves in those tubs. (This was 11 days after the first tornadoes and most of the clean-up is done!) One incredible team from Indiana brought a huge trailer last Wednesday of supplies donated by their community. It took several days of calling every affected area to see if they could except the supplies. They finally left them in a church gym in our community.

Again this Okie is extremely grateful for your love, concerns and prayers for our battered state.

fbcmusicman on June 1, 2013 at 8:37 PM

Best solution is to convince Obama that Oklahoma is full of muslims and Chinese. He’ll break the bank at breakneck speed.

fossten on June 1, 2013 at 8:49 PM

“Screw you, red states” — sesquidummian

Schadenfreude on June 1, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Nah, NY/CT (Hurricane Sandy) got the middle finger too.

diogenes on June 1, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Wait a second: Wasn’t Homeland Security established to coordinate the activities of the other departments? And weren’t the people who predicted that the new uber-department wouldn’t do anything except slather another layer of bureaucracy on top of an already top-heavy system and cause even more inefficiency denigrated as partisan nay-sayers and radical haters of government?

Socratease on June 1, 2013 at 10:50 PM

Just get some Mexicans to carry the rice across the border.

OxyCon on June 2, 2013 at 12:01 AM

Thanks Canada from Oklahoma. I live in the neighborhood just north of plaza towers (this is where the school children were killed) and helped out at my church from the day after the tornado up til we closed Thursday. We had shipments from everywhere, it was amazing. We did have a fire/hazmat crew from Mexico come up and help with debris removal. We also had a truck come in from Canada to a sight open in an old mall called Crossroads. Yes we had lots of donations and it was really amazing and a blessing. Just wanted to say Thank you and God Bless.

4reds on June 2, 2013 at 1:27 AM

The last I looked Oklahoma was a very red state. That’s enough reason for Obama to not declare a disaster. Again the despicable monster does something despicably monstrous.


herself on June 2, 2013 at 5:35 AM

The last I looked Oklahoma was a very red state. That’s enough reason for Obama to not declare a disaster. Again the despicable monster does something despicably monstrous.


herself on June 2, 2013 at 5:35 AM

Except he did declare it a disaster area. Ed should be ashamed of this post.

libfreeordie on June 2, 2013 at 7:44 AM

“Screw you, red states” — sesquidummian

Schadenfreude on June 1, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Nah, NY/CT (Hurricane Sandy) got the middle finger too.

diogenes on June 1, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Do you and Obama get your news from the same source? $60 billion in tax dollars are being squandered in NY and CT, and he declared them disaster areas before the rain had stopped. The fact that the place is still a disaster speaks to corruption at the local level, but please don’t say he gave them the middle finger. Please, give me one of those too, at $60 billion a pop!

2ndMAW68 on June 2, 2013 at 9:04 AM

Except he did declare it a disaster area. Ed should be ashamed of this post.

libfreeordie on June 2, 2013 at 7:44 AM

And yet the truck still sits. And the post is still accurate.

Your excuse?

Tomblvd on June 2, 2013 at 9:06 AM

A double win for Obama; the middle finger to red state OK and Conservative Canadian Prime Minister, Steven Harper.

LizardLips on June 2, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Shades of Katrina.

LizardLips on June 2, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Look, are the trucks and emergency stuff in OK? No? What the F is Zero doing to get it there?

How many of us would be driving the damn trucks themselves if they had to? There are times when you can’t delegate to a brain dead bureaucracy and instead you gotta go out and LEAD.

dogsoldier on June 2, 2013 at 9:31 AM

There are priorities involved here, what’s more important Oklahoma ravaged by tornados or an afternoon of golf. It’s the president’s job to make these tough decisions.

savage24 on June 2, 2013 at 9:47 AM

Robert Mugabe turned away food aid while his people were starving, because it was GMO corn. Corn meal, actually, it was ground corn that could not be planted.

We have become Zimbabwe.

Granted, we did not need the help. But when a family member dies, and a thoughtful neighbor brings by a casserole, even if the kitchen counter is already covered with food brought by other neighbors, telling them to go away is the wrong thing to do.

Our government has become devoid of class.

iurockhead on June 2, 2013 at 9:58 AM

My prayer go out to all Oklahomans. I have family in Fairview, Cleo Springs, Okie City and Tulsa.

This delaying of humanitarian aid is absolute BULL$H!T. Unfortunately we have a childish little man as POTUS who doesn’t give a crap about anyone but his mindless myrmidon liberal voters.

hamradio on June 2, 2013 at 5:11 PM

The FDA had to check if the food had at least the minimum required amounts of rat hair, feces and cockroach eggs in it to meet US standards for food purity.

scrubjay on June 2, 2013 at 9:11 PM

Your president and his administration are a bunch of a-holes.

potvin on June 2, 2013 at 10:05 PM

Obama won’t lift a finger to help those potential conservative voters in Oklahoma. If anything, he will have OSHA down there handing out fines to these poor ravished people for improper tornado safety.

The press will let him get away with it too. They will figure out a way to blame it on Bush.

Axion on June 3, 2013 at 5:01 AM

of = if

Schadenfreude on June 1, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Thus, o = i

Axeman on June 3, 2013 at 3:54 PM