American border police overzealous

by Andy Polaine on November 26, 2005

I’ve just been reading Hossein Derakhshan’s (aka Hoder) account of being stopped at the border in Toronto about to go back to New York. It’s pretty depressing reading of an overzealous immigration officer Googling his name and decided to bar him on what sounds like pretty illegitimate grounds.

I had an equally depressing (though not so distressing) experience going through U.S. Customs on my way to Canada recently. I had to fly via Hawaii from Australia and this forced me to go through U.S. Customs. They appear to have no conception of the idea of passengers in transit, so you have to go through the entire rigmarole of having my fingerprints scanned and my picture taken. All for a country I didn’t even want to visit at that time.

It was pretty appalling on the way back too, the Customs guy couldn’t have been more bored out of his mind, slouched at his desk and waving his hand at me saying, “so, where ‘ya been, whatcha doing, where ‘ya goin'” before forgetting to give me my stamp so I got stopped and turned back later down the track. I can understand my fellow delegates that I met in Banff who were from the U.S. feeling like they needed to escape.

Popular opinion around the world is that Americans are stupid. This may be true of some sections of American society, but it has also attracted some of the brightest minds in the world over the past. But it is easy to imagine an enormous brain-drain as the political climate continues its decline.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Viriatus January 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I’m Canadian, but I’ve had some terrible experiences at the U.S. border. Most of the time I can’t figure out why they’re so upset and simply try my best to answer all their questions as precisely and succinctly as possible.

Episode 1: at Pearson Toronto Airport. I was about 25 at the time, going to a conference. I mixed up the exact name of the conference and the border guard raised his voice: “are you playin’ games with me? Do you realize the training and disclipline it took to be in my position?”

Episode 2: at Buffalo-Niagara border: 4 of us are on our way to a shopping trip. One of the passengers is a Filapina Canadian with a Spanish last name. Because of that, we’re asked to pull over and fill out a green paper every time. Even though she was born in Canada. So we’re about to park in one of the many spots near the building, one guard rushes over and bangs on our window “over there, what are you deaf!!!??!” So I ask, “you mean, there?”. At this point his face goes read, “don’t test me, what are you stupid or something?! There!”. Again, neither one of us can figure out where he’s pointing exactly.

Luckily we get it right, atleast we think we did. But at this point he walks over to another guard, laughing and pointing at us mumbling something.

We’re all university educated, 2/4 of us have PhD’s, 1 of us has a Masters. So we’re not stupid. They were simply testing us.

What a sad, sad country.

2 Andy Polaine January 8, 2010 at 5:11 pm

That’s a pretty sorry tale. I had another similarly lousy experience when I went to New York last year. The guards seem to be trained in a style of arrogant barking orders as if actually considering what someone might have to say in response is a sign of losing control. I can’t imagine they have much in the way of training and discipline apart from Idiot Bootcamp perhaps.

Previous post:

Next post: