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Border Crossing Stories

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posted on Jul, 3 2009 @ 03:54 AM
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Hey All,

I started this thread to let people share their experiences with the U.S Border Security guards.

My story:

Back in 2004 I was travelling around Canada with my girlfriend at the time (who is a Canadian). At my insistence we decided to travel into the US via the Nighthawk Border Crossing, which is in British Colombia. During my previous brief stay in Hawaii, I had been fascinated actually being in a US state for the first time in my life, especially after having been exposed to US culture for my entire life via TV, music and moves. We had planned to travel into Washington and spend the day driving around basically being tourists. This is based on my recollection of events.

We were the only car at the crossing (mid afternoon on a Monday). After replying 'travel' to the reason why I entering U.S territory, two guards motioned us into the secondary inspection area, which was a large shed. As I pulled in to where they told us to go, I had a bad feeling about the situation. One of the guards was standing in front of the car as it slowed to a halt. Immediately, he put his hand on his holster and demanded rather loudly for me to turn off the engine and for myself and my girlfriend to put our hands on the dashboard. We had followed directions to this point. We had acted politely.

The second guard was next to the passenger side of our car and also adapted a very aggressive body language (hand on holster, other hand pointing at us) We had complied immediately. Our hands were on the dashboard. This was the first time in my life (and by then I had spent a good 6 years travelling throughout the world) that I had every felt threatened by any official. My girlfriend was also surprised and said something along the lines of “What the hell...?” Before she could finish her sentence, the guard next to her drew his pistol and pointed it squarely at her face through the window. “I said keep your hands on the dash!” he yelled. At this point I knew that something was very, very wrong. Keep in mind that my girlfriend was a petite blonde Canadian. She was certainly no physical threat to anyone the size of the guard (who was an obese person).

Guard two walked next to my window (which was down) and asked for the keys. I complied. He then opened the car door and told me to get out of the car. I asked what was going to happen. He replied that they were going to search the vehicle for drugs or weapons. I told them to go ahead.

We were both taken to a 'secure area' (a cell) and told to wait. Where else were we going to go? He then left to join his mate and proceeded to search the car. We could not see anything, but could hear our belongings being thrown from the car.

Then came the interview. Obese guard took mine. He looked at my passport (New Zealand) and I could make out some lack of understanding on his part. This is my recollection of the interview:

Guard: Are you a Canadian citizen?
Me: No, New Zealander.
Guard: Where?
Me: New Zealand
Guard: Is that in Canada?
Me: (quite perplexed) No, other side of the world. Next to Australia.
Guard: So you're from Australia?
Me: No. My country is closest to Australia. I am a New Zealand citizen. Part of the Commonwealth.
Guard: The what?
Me: The Commonwealth. The collection of countries that were formerly governed by the UK.
Guard: So you're English?
Me: No. I am a New Zealand citizen. South Pacific nation. Small country.

He sighed and put down my passport.

Me: So what's happening now?
Guard: We're going to confirm the details on your passport and then take it from there.
Me: What about my girlfriend?
Guard: She's a Canadian so she's go no trouble with us.
Me: But I have?
Guard: We'll see.

They took me back to the holding cell and told me to wait again. By this stage my girlfriend was a nervous wreak. I told her she was in no trouble, and they're going after me for some reason. We waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, seven hours later we were both told to come into the office again. They had confirmed my identity (which was clean). They had found no drugs or weapons in the car. The had taken copies of my passport, return ticket and bank statements. They also had taken fingerprints and mugshots of me.

I was told that although I had passed the tests, they still could not confirm that I was travelling into America with good intentions. Basically they couldn't understand that I wanted to see the U.S

I was given two options:

I could accept a ten-year travel ban to the U.S on the grounds that my intentions could not be verified.
Or
I could be held for a further three days while they investigated my story further.

I couldn't believe the story they were telling me, but one look at my girlfriend (who looked like she was about to have a nervous breakdown) and I knew what I had to do.

I signed the paper and accepted a ten year ban to the U.S.

I thought it was over, but upon returning to our car, we saw what had happened during the 'search'. Our car seats were cut apart (I think by a stanley knife) and our belongs were absolutely trashed. We were told to re-pack our car and return to the Canadian side of the border.

Upon arriving, the Canadians apologised for what we had gone thru (they had been notified in advance that we were being returned), gave me a Canadian badge and said there was nothing they could do.

I left that border crossing with a completely different attitude then when I had entered. I do not hate the American people at all, but the guards at that border crossing can rot in hell.

I was not a naive traveller. Although there were things I should had done differently, the options presented to us at that border crossing were underwhelmed by possibly lethal force.

Although, there is a bright side to this experience. Since then I have become far more involved in civil rights and other topics that are featured here on ATS.

I feel sad to say that the only time in my life that I have had a gun pulled on me was by an American.

Any other stories out there?

Cheers

Shane




posted on Jul, 3 2009 @ 04:53 AM
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Originally posted by shamus78

I was told that although I had passed the tests, they still could not confirm that I was travelling into America with good intentions. Basically they couldn't understand that I wanted to see the U.S


I have an uncle in USA and another uncle in New Zealand.

USA uncle wants to settle in Canada. New Zealand uncle, is settling in New Zealand, the place is perfect!

So what do you want to see in USA??? Ok, I'm just trying to be funny there, but those two uncles of mine are true.

Maybe if you had US VISA, you shouldn't have fallen into much trouble. I was an alien once in Southern USA, an Asian, swerved lanes, in and out of a wrong lane and cut a patrol car, and as if nothing happened, they didn't even bothered to pull me over!!
Those where the opposites, some cool cops and some aren't.



posted on Jul, 3 2009 @ 09:12 AM
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As a veteran border crosser - have lived my entire life on the Canadian/US border, I sympathize with your feelings here.
One thing I have learned is that sometimes the worse time to cross is when it is not busy, because then they have all the time in the world to ask you a million silly questions, just more or less to fill their time.
I remember when crossing the border was barely any bother at all; especially as a kid I remember taking a car full of girls over the border just for a ride without any of us having ID - that was then!
One of my worst experiences was going over driving a loaded semi shortly after 9-11. Most officers will speak politely to truckers as its usually a very busy crossing and no-one has time for silliness, but this time was different. They had guys in fatigues with rifles. The dude actually yelled at me to get out of the truck like you see them do in movies to terrorists. I had been accross a million times since childhood, and now I was a terrorist suspect.

Another time, back in the late 70's, they threatened to "throw me in the tower", which is a euphemism for "Jail" if I ever tried to cross again, just because I was suspected of being gay. It took awhile I will tell you, before I tested that theory, and thankfully no, they didn't send me to the tower.
Your experience is a prime example of too much power in the hands of a couple of idiots. I would venture that their actions could probably have been questioned to a higher authority, but at the time and in the circumstances you are way too powerless and vulnerable.



posted on Jul, 3 2009 @ 09:45 AM
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Originally posted by ahnggk
Maybe if you had US VISA, you shouldn't have fallen into much trouble.


Maybe you should do a little bit more research before you say anything out loud in the open public:

Check this link from the American Embassy in New Zealand.
newzealand.usembassy.gov...



Most New Zealand citizens, as well as citizens of 33 other countries, can travel to the U.S. temporarily for business or pleasure without a visa, under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

You may use VWP if you meet the following criteria:

*
Plan to travel to the U.S. for 90 days or less;
* Starting January 12, 2009*, have an approved electronic travel authorization;
* Are traveling for tourism or business (pdf document; 85kb);
* Carry a machine-readable passport which, in most cases, must be valid for at least six months after your expected departure from the U.S.;
* Have a return ticket or onward ticket to most non U.S. destinations;

You will need a visa, and may not use VWP, if you any of these criteria apply to you:

* Want to remain in the United States for longer than 90 days;
* Have a criminal record;
* Intend to travel by private/charter aircraft or sea carriers;
* Want to work or study in the United States, including working as a foreign journalist. This includes attending secondary or tertiary school, and paid or unpaid employment (including au-pairs, interns, working journalists, and government representatives on official business.) For more on the appropriate visa classifications for these activities, please see travel.state.gov;
* Have been deported or refused admission to the U.S. before, or failed to comply with a previous VWP admission or visa. This includes overstaying a previous admission by even one day.


Obviously the OP was applicable for the VWP, just like me was with my Dutch passport.

I had been hold up in LAX for more than 3 hours on my first visit, the customs police were quite polite though and even had a quite funny chat with a pretty ignorant officer asking questions about Cheeseland (aka The Netherlands or Holland).



posted on Jul, 3 2009 @ 09:40 PM
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Yes, my paperwork was all in order. I was completely non-aggressive (although I'm sure they could tell I wanted to rip their heads off as soon as they drew their pistols).

If I was by myself then there was alot I would have done differently. But because I had someone else to think about, I decided to forego my rights and consent to what they wanted. Also back then I didn't really know many of my rights!

It's just strange that I've travelled thru many 'dangerous' country's in Africa and Europe, and this was the first time I had ever felt really threatened by anyone on a position of power. It was also the first time I have ever felt like an official was playing games just because they were bored.

I did also find out later on that that border crossing was well known as a drug smuggling route into the U.S. If so, why only have two border guards visible?

[edit on 4/7/09 by shamus78]



posted on Sep, 30 2010 @ 09:09 AM
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So what do you want to see in USA??? Ok, I'm just trying to be funny there, but those two uncles of mine are true.


To be perfectly honest, being in the US felt like I was in a TV show. Flags everywhere and all those US people around


I wanted to see more of that culture. The US fascinates me, as any closed society does.

Cheers
Shane



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