Border Crossing

Two parts.

Last day in MN: Boundary Waters, canoeing. Didn’t get going until about 5, but it was a beautiful sunny evening and the water was quite warm. We crossed three lakes, the third of which marked the boundary between the US and Canada. You are not supposed to land on the opposite shore because that is an illegal trespass into a foreign country. The sun was setting as we made our return trip.

After camping on Michigan’s UP about an hour West of Sault-Ste-Marie (border crossing), we were planning on taking one more night to get to Maine. We get to Sault-Ste-Marie and pay our $3 toll to cross the bridge. Immediately upon doing so we were waved aside by the Homeland Security guys and waited while our passports were rigorously checked and our car not so rigorously searched. Twenty minutes. They didn’t say much, but the seemed to think our travel itinerary (or lack thereof) was suspicious enough to keep asking questions and detaining us. I got the sense this had a lot to do with the multitudinous Arabic stamps in my passport. Then they let us go and when we actually got to the Canadian checkpoint they just joked a little bit and let us through. We drove and drove and drove and by the time we got to Ottawa decided we would go straight through without stopping.

After making this decision, we got to the Derby, VT crossing (I-91) at about 1 am. Again, our passports were taken for in-depth investigations and our car was torn apart. I could tell because they rearranged everything and pockets were opened and things were shuffled. They asked more questions than necessary about our lives: What do we do for work? Where are we coming from? Why? What did we eat for lunch? Why were we in Canada? Israel? Jordan? Europe? God forbid you actually use your passport to travel with. Why are we entering the US? Where do we live – right now? I was dying to give him the “Where I’m From” shpiel but thought better of it. I didn’t actually want to be there all night.

Eventually (half an hour of interrogation later) it was determined that we were not, in fact, smuggling anything – not even alcohol (legal) or citrus fruits (apparently a major concern) – into the country. This was after being hassled and patronized more than I have at any other border, even to Iraq, where they were just happy to have people to chat with.

The most absurd part was the fact that we were detained trying to leave the US initially, when Canadian border guards as a rule never give you a hard time and are congenial and humorous. What do they care what we’re bringing out of the country? Secondly, I am absolutely positive that they gave us such a hard time because of my stamps. FYI Homeland Security: I am not a terrorist, and having foreign – Middle Eastern – stamps in my passport should not be automatic grounds for search and detention. The Canadians seemed to think that studying abroad was a good enough reason and did not see the need to question every aspect of my life.

CBP Officer (Looking at computer screen and my passport, new a year and a half ago): When’s the last time you were in Israel?

Me (incredulously – is he serious?): I guess about three years ago?

CBP: That’s right.

Smug bastard. Shove your power trip up your ass.


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