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Danger From The North

With its liberal policies on free speech and immigration, Canada is a haven for political refugees from all over the world. That's also made it a beachhead for enemies of the United States, some of them bent on violence. CBS News' Thalia Assuras reports on the threat from north of the border.

Over the last ten years, a quarter million people have asked for refuge in Canada. Among them was Ahmed Rassem, arrested in Washington state last week for allegedly trying to smuggle explosives into the U.S. from Canada. Rassem entered Canada carrying a fake passport and other fraudulent documents. He sought political asylum, claiming that he had been tortured be Algerian authorities.

"He is a wake-up call," warns Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Ca.

Canada's laws have people like the congressman worried. He acknowledges the U.S. needs to make its own improvements, but he and other lawmakers are lobbying their neighbors to adopt American-style refugee laws.

"Canada's laws provide anyone entry into the country. In most cases, they are free to roam the country, and because of that, they pose a real threat."

That threat was evident in the case of Gazi Abu Mezer, who was convicted of plotting to blow up a New York subway. He tried to enter the U.S. from Canada three times before he was arrested at his Brooklyn apartment.

But the Canadian government sees no reason to change its policies.

"We're working hard with the United States to ensure that we're able to provide maximum safety and security for our respective people," says Anne McLillan, Canada's Justice Minister.

Canadian refugee advocates say American laws are mean-spirited and would hurt legitimate asylum seekers. One of them, Rivka Augenfeld, says "I would say 99.99 percent are honest people who are fleeing their country."

By all accounts, both the United States and Canada need to improve their enforcement of refugee rules. But some in Congress are pointing the finger of blame north, and the historically friendly relationship between the two countries could become severely strained.