Friday, March 28, 2008

Before You Make That Trip Across the Border...

We heard from a friend of ours, trex, and he had this to say in the wake of The Department of Homeland Security's decision to postpone the requirement for people to have a passport when returning from Canada:
I just read the news roundup piece on DHS pushing back the deadline for needing passports to travel between North American countries and found it amusing and ironic. As far back as a year ago we've had American border guards yell at us (yes, yell) and antagonize us for not having passports when returning from Canada. Apparently showing our birth certificates, MI drivers licenses, vehicle registration cards and voter registration cards are insufficient to distinguish us from terrorists.

Not to mention the fact that passports are not yet required for land border crossings.

Michigan has four Canadian border crossings: The Ambassador Bridge (busiest in the U.S.), the Detroit tunnel, the Blue Water bridge in Port Huron and the International Bridge in the UP. I've used three of the four at least once in the past year and a half and found the experiences to range from disquieting to hellish - hellish being stopped in the middle of the International Bridge for 45 minutes during high winds with logging trucks rumbling across because Customs is physically searching every single vehicle entering the U.S.

And the nasty guard didn't help either.

A trip across the border typically starts with a pleasant exchange with a Canadian Customs agent smiling and asking your citizenship, few questions, then bidding you a good day. There is usually a none to ten minute wait outside of rush hours. A typical return trip means at least twenty minutes and often forty waiting on a bridge, only to encounter a stony faced agent who questions you repeatedly and brusquely, may ask for a passport that's not yet required, may search your vehicle, and acts exasperated at finally having to let you through.

And that's if you're a U.S. citizen! And in this case I was clearly a resident of the state I was entering.

If you live in the Detroit area you know of stories where U.S. Customs has really messed with people, keeping them for hours and grilling them, ransacking their vehicle. I know of someone who had all the seats unbolted and removed from their car so it could be searched. When they were done Customs told them it was their responsibility to re-install them.

As a kid going to Canada and back was fun. The guards were pleasant and there was a feeling of reaffirming the special nature of America by leaving it and coming back. Now there is a sense of dread when returning, a feeling of being guilty until proven innocent where one wrong look will land you in trouble. Just one more good thing about being American the Bush administration has fucked up.

No comments: