U.S. Customs and Patriarchal Protection
April 6, 2013 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Sexism at the border: A personal account. "For me, carrying my own condoms (in purses, wallets, camera bags; everywhere) is a routine act towards safer sex. For someone else with the power to not only deny passage but judge, moralize and intimidate, it has become enough evidence to put a woman through hell. My story has brought a number of women out of the woodwork stating that they have had similar experiences." [h/t Alex Grossman]
posted by jaduncan (203 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Are you looking to be sexually assaulted?"

I blinked at him. I couldn't breathe.

"Was that meant to be funny?"

"No, it wasn't."

"Ah, no. I'm definitely not."

"Well, it sure seems like you are."

"... How so?"

He wouldn't elaborate.


What. The. Fuck.
posted by rtha at 11:10 AM on April 6, 2013 [65 favorites]


This is not surprising considering the bigotry and racism that I've personally experienced from border guards/agents. Just another version of the same kind of hate and ignorance. Disappointing but not surprising. I live close to the Peace Bridge (Canada/U.S.) and there are times when I've needed something from the states, but I actively avoid crossing it as much as possible because I dislike being treated like a criminal.

I realize not EVERY one is like this but I've experienced enough of it on a regular basis that it has soured me from making those trips.
posted by Fizz at 11:11 AM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


A female friend was just at a visa interview here in Mexico, and was asked about her sexual orientation. She was so surprised she actually answered (she's bisexual).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:14 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like to think I'd go absolutely apeshit if anyone questioned why I had condoms. I have been harassed by border guards before, in a country where I barely spoke the language and when I was young, and now that I'm older and more confident, I would RELISH the ability to stand up for myself.
posted by Stewriffic at 11:15 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm always reminded of the time I tried (in a complete daze) to leave the deserted international terminal at the Munich airport without stopping to show my passport. I was stopped by a duo of beefy young blond Bavarian border guards (with shaved heads) who, after examining my passport briefly and asking some perfunctory question said in english, with heavy german accents: "You are lucky this is not the U.S."
posted by ennui.bz at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2013 [58 favorites]


Later, after a very short internet search, I found that...mixing sexual and non-sexual activities constitutes a relationship and therefore makes any money exchanged a very legal gift under the law.

I would not advise anyone to take legal advice from this article.

He had found information online that in the last couple of years I had been modelling and acting. This, he concluded, was special code for sex work

It is. I can't speak for how this agent "concluded" that, but my own knowledge is based on professional experience as well as writing in depth about sex trafficking in law school.

Some of what this writer describes is abhorrent. She should not have been treated that way. At the same time, I do want border officials to be alert to human trafficking, so it's not quite so simple as saying that none of what she describes should have raised any flags at all. Trafficking is a grave problem.
posted by cribcage at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


Stay classy INS. I know they are supposed to guard the US border but they are also the first impression many visitors to the USA get and I know of several people who will not go back after their experience at US immigration.
posted by arcticseal at 11:20 AM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I see what you're getting at, but if the guards were concerned about trafficking and wanted to actually do anything about it, they would not have approached these conversations with antagonism. (http://www.justice.gov/usao/ian/htrt/social_screen_questions%20(2).pdf)
posted by Skwirl at 11:21 AM on April 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


If she got extra attention because they were concerned that she was being trafficked, why didn't the man accompanying her get equally interrogated?
posted by ceiba at 11:22 AM on April 6, 2013 [52 favorites]


I once flew into the UK with a really quite senior lawyer from ex-Soviet Georgia. We approached the passport checkpoint together, and I was therefore able to witness the sheer levels of fireworks that resulted from the opening question "are you here to be a prostitute?"
posted by jaduncan at 11:26 AM on April 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


This is infuriating. My parents always say I'm overreacting when I overprepare for border crossings and am an anxious wreck about it both before and after, but the more I read about it the more re paranoia seems warranted.
posted by Phire at 11:26 AM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


In my experience, you can't assume that an officer's demeanor or competence in asking questions necessarily correlates with the sincerity or virtue of his/her goal in asking those questions. Proper training in interview and interrogation is more esoteric than it should be.
posted by cribcage at 11:28 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know of several people who will not go back after their experience at US immigration.

I'm a US citizen. When I decided to leave the US for good a couple of years ago, my parting experience was of TSA workers feeling my breasts and then yelling at a little old French man because he didn't understand their instructions to take his wallet out of his pocket. They yelled at him as he stood there bewildered and feeble, and I was too afraid to intervene. Yay USA.
posted by ceiba at 11:29 AM on April 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


So you are traveling to/through a wacky country where adultery is a crime in 23 of their 50 states and admit to conspiracy to commit said crime? It's not the condoms that are your problem.

Try crossing the same border with rolling papers but no tobacco and then admit to planning to smoke a lot of weed at your destination and the result would be much the same.

If CBP knew she had been modeling in the states or suspected she was seeking modelling work in the states and she didn't have a work permit that would explain the extra attention.

Stewriffic: " I would RELISH the ability to stand up for myself"

Ya, well. good luck with that.
posted by Mitheral at 11:29 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Even if it was outright sex work (which it wasnt) that doesn't mean it should automatically be questioned as trafficking, right?

The borders crossing are not the place to sort out the global morality play. That and I am sure as hell that victimizing the woman in a human trafficking situation is as about as effective as blaming the rape victim for "asking for it".

There is no justification for this treatment under any guise or ruse.
posted by roboton666 at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2013 [37 favorites]


I'm also reminded of the time (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away) that I travelled by bus from NYC, with a friend, to Montreal to help him put up an electronic art show at a gallery there. I was 18, I didn't even have a driver's license much less a passport. My friend was travelling with several military surplus hard cases packed with custom electronics. We were stopped for about 10 minutes at the border and after some polite questions and a call to the gallery were sent on our way to Montreal.

At least I wasn't a woman carrying condoms or I'm sure there would have been trouble...
posted by ennui.bz at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a side note, it really seems to me that the time has come for adultery laws in the USA to go the way of sodomy laws. The idea that it is a criminal matter in so many states strikes me as completely retrograde. And as with sodomy laws, their extremely selective enforcement seems like a way at best to prosecute people for something else you don't really have evidence for, and at worst simply to punish people whose relationships the rest of society doesn't happen to approve of.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


The borders crossing are not the place to sort out the global morality play.

Quoted for truth (and also because I am very excited that William Safire has finally joined MeFi).
posted by en forme de poire at 11:41 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I once flew into the UK with a really quite senior lawyer from ex-Soviet Georgia. We approached the passport checkpoint together, and I was therefore able to witness the sheer levels of fireworks that resulted from the opening question "are you here to be a prostitute?"

I've just realised I never mentioned the gender of the lawyer, but also recognised how telling it was that I don't need to do so for everyone to make the correct assumption that she was a woman.
posted by jaduncan at 11:42 AM on April 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


So you are traveling to/through a wacky country where adultery is a crime in 23 of their 50 states and admit to conspiracy to commit said crime?

What in the actual fuck? Would it have been justified to detain and verbally abuse and then mark two dudes who were traveling together because they might have been conspiring to commit sodomy because they planned on sharing a bed in a hotel? A white person and a black person because miscegenation?

And in the entire story, that's the only thing you took away? She is accused of inviting rape by a government agent, is now barred from the country, but hurr hurr adultery?

Ludicrous.
posted by Phire at 11:45 AM on April 6, 2013 [58 favorites]


The idea of "protecting" borders is ridiculous, in any case.
posted by maxwelton at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a US citizen, but I live in Canada, and I cross the border quite a bit with Canadian citizens.

The typical US border guard's assumption seems to be that anybody who's not a US citizen is planning to stay illegally (because, sure, the average sane person would really want to move from Canada to the US nowadays). And everybody who might be slightly unusual is a criminal, but non-US citizens are bigger criminals. And God help you if you look like you might like drugs.

They also seem to believe they have the magic power to realize that "something is up"... and to immediately arrive at the Truth. Their method seems to be to extrapolate from their experience as mostly pretty conservative 20-somethings, mixed in their half-understanding of whatever fearmongering has been thrown into their training lately, and take their first wild-assed guess as reality. Among other things, yes, people of opposite sex traveling together had damned well better be married or at least shacked up good and long-term, or it's probably trafficking. Or kidnapping. Or at least stinkeye-worthy (they're pretty good about not leering, I'll give them that.... but not about not letting their judgement show).

It's idiotic to give these people the discretion they have. They're not prepared for it. But since their prejudices are largely those of the American political class, and since US politics doesn't give a flying fuck about the opinions, or indeed the lives, of non-US-citizens, I don't expect any change soon.
posted by Hizonner at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2013 [28 favorites]


mixed in their half-understanding of whatever fearmongering has been thrown into their training lately

I'll take "recent subject of a fear story on Fox" for $100, Alex.
posted by jaduncan at 11:50 AM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Huh. I have never been accused of being a prostitute during any immigration/customs crossings.

I think the worst thing that happened to me was on my recent trip to Australia, when I was going towards immigration or possibly customs and the woman was insisting I needed some other sort of slip with me, that I hadn't been given at the last checkpoint. I was like, "what slip??" Finally the woman was like "wait, what passport?" and when I said US she waved me through. I think she thought I was Chinese, because some Chinese people were also there in line (obvs, this being Australia) and I am the sort of brown person that everyone assumes is whatever ethnicity they want me to be. Just weird, because there I was speaking to her with my American accent, so kind of an extreme assumption.

I also had the experience of trying to explain something to some American white tourists in India while wearing Indian clothes, but they kept waving their hands at me and saying "we don't understand, we don't understand" because they somehow blocked out the accent and English language I was speaking, presumably because of the clothes.
posted by sweetkid at 11:51 AM on April 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


Sex work does not equal trafficking, and people who willingly conflate the two are part of why California passed the appallingly counter-productive and over-reaching Prop 35 last year. No one should be trafficked, of course, and people who are trafficked should be helped, not criminalized. But sex work is not automatically trafficking.

And of course, the writer of this article is not engaging in sex work. So the whole thing is even more absurd.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


The only thing that I wish this article included was the full names of the customs agents who mistreated her.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 11:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


As a side note, it really seems to me that the time has come for adultery laws in the USA to go the way of sodomy laws.

You mean they should be revived by a crack-pot attorney general as part of his reach for higher office?
posted by benito.strauss at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've experienced the same thing with Canadian immigration and customs. I was a consultant, in Canada frequently for meetings with a client, and often brought team members with me. One trip had three of us: Two males and a female. The men had to wait over an hour at the Toronto airport upon arrival while the Canadians questioned the woman alone in a back room, trying to figure out if she was a prostitute, just because she was travelling with two men.

I'm sorry she went through this, but assuming it's just an American thing is foolish.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


The typical US border guard's assumption seems to be that anybody who's not a US citizen is planning to stay illegally (because, sure, the average sane person would really want to move from Canada to the US nowadays).

All of the immigration law in the US from top to bottom assumes that everyone crossing the border has immigration intent until proven otherwise and directs the CBP to assume the same. The problem isn't with the typical border guard's assumptions but with the entire system's attitude from top to bottom.
posted by Talez at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The borders crossing are not the place to sort out the global morality play.

I totally agree but one of the reasons the CBP use the prostitution angle is it is actually part of US law that denies entry to aliens for "prostitution or commercialized vice" whether at the moment or within 10 years of the date of entry. What is interesting is the if the the person had been a prostitute in a country where it is legal, it doesn't make a difference. Morals are written into the laws.

I think is was Washington DC was the place where if the cops found a woman with a few condoms that was enough to bring her in for prostitution charges, even if she was just taking advantage of sale at Walgreens.

I cross the border with Mexico very often. I'm a white male and at crossing like Tijuana/San Diego I've found the agents professional and not asking unnecessary or intrusive questions. However I've found in smaller border crossing in like Tecate and all of the Texas border towns I'm asked intrusive questions and they make comments I was consuming drugs or going to brothels. They ask me if I have anything to declare and will then search my bags and or frisk me and have me empty my pockets. They seem so disappointed to find out I was actually telling the truth. But compared to how non-whites get treated I get off easily. In the small town border crossing it seems some of the agents have an outright hostility toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans that are crossing the border legally.

The CBP agents get on this power trip where they make the decision to deny or delay entry to people. So they'll harass people and ask them invasive and legally unnecessary questions because they can. They may single out attractive women for secondary inspection to be able to rummage through the underwear because they can.

The worst part of this is you will see at most border offices a plaque that reads something to the effect of the code of conduct for the agent where they will treat citizens and visitors with respect and in a courteous manner. It is often next to the Obama and Biden portraits.
posted by birdherder at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


All of the immigration law in the US from top to bottom assumes that everyone crossing the border has immigration intent until proven otherwise and directs the CBP to assume the same.
OK, fair enough. And I'm willing to extend my "idiotic to give these people discretion" to most policymakers. “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

Nonetheless, the discretion border guards have asks more of them than they can possibly deliver, and maybe what's surprising is that they're not even worse. It's certainly not surprising that it happens in other countries, too. Neither of those excuses creating the situation.
posted by Hizonner at 12:22 PM on April 6, 2013


I think is was Washington DC was the place where if the cops found a woman with a few condoms that was enough to bring her in for prostitution charges, even if she was just taking advantage of sale at Walgreens.

Not was, and not just DC. San Francisco, too. Almost certainly most or many other cities in the U.S. Currently.

Upside is you don't even need a passport in order to be hassled by law enforcement for carrying condoms! Being a person of color helps, of course, and being trans* is super-useful, too!
posted by rtha at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


I applied to work in CBP years ago, and passed the written test, video interview, and physical. But for some reason, the background check stalled for over a year. By that time I'd already found a new job and decided not to pursue it further. Part of my decision was based on the fact that the CBP was ranked the lowest agency for job satisfaction by the annual OPM survey of federal agencies. I found last year's survey and it doesn't list the CBP as it's own, but I notice that DHS is 3rd to last on the list.
posted by FJT at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2013


The last time I tried to cross into the States, I was detained and -after it was established that I am a transgender woman- interrogated about what surgeries I'd had, and a border agent presented me with a bottle of Wite-Out and asked if he needed to change the forms I'd filled out to remove any references to my female gender.

The questions and behaviour I experienced have no basis in law or protocol, and were purely a function of the agents' prejudices and, in my opinion, cruelty. After I was denied entry to the US, there was no way to seek any kind of justice for what happened; the entire system is set-up on the premise of re-inforcing the decisions made by border agents.

I was humiliated that day, and my opinion of the US took a huge dive. I have nothing but sympathy for Clay Nikiforuk.
posted by aedison at 12:33 PM on April 6, 2013 [64 favorites]


What kinds of questions are legal to ask at the US border? I (white American male, traveling with my white American girlfriend) have been asked lots of invasive questions upon reentering from Canada at Sarnia-Port Huron and across the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, although nothing like this. Stuff like, "what's the nature of your relationship", "do you live together", "are you planning on getting married soon", specific, designed-to-trip-you-up questions about the nature of your visit to Canada ("who won the hockey game", "did you take any drugs there").

I'd love to tell a border guard to mind her own business next time I feel a line has been crossed, but what's the line?
posted by downing street memo at 12:36 PM on April 6, 2013


The last time I tried to cross into the States, I was detained and -after it was established that I am a transgender woman- interrogated about what surgeries I'd had, and a border agent presented me with a bottle of Wite-Out and asked if he needed to change the forms I'd filled out to remove any references to my female gender.

Holy crap, I'm sorry.
posted by downing street memo at 12:37 PM on April 6, 2013 [26 favorites]


If you think a woman is being trafficked and you want to help her, do you

A. Fondle the clothes in her suitcase and make comments on same?
B. Angrily accuse her of moral depravity?
C. Keep her detained without food, water, or explanation for hours?

No. If you are worried that someone is a victim, you question them in a way that makes them feel safe and that they can trust you. You offer them resources (do you need a place to stay/a lawyer/to call someone, etc.).

Therefore, the whole Protecting You From Trafficking, Ma'am! angle is utter bullshit. Nothing these guards did was aimed at helping a victimized woman; all of it was creepy leering slut-shaming and power-tripping.

If she had actually been a trafficking victim, she would just have been more traumatized and isolated than she was already; what in the demeanor of these "protectors" would lead her to assume she would be safer with them than whoever she was with?
posted by emjaybee at 12:42 PM on April 6, 2013 [112 favorites]


I've mentioned this before, but you can complain about their behaviour anonymously. Noting the agent's name helps, but the time and a description should suffice. The problem is that anonymous complaints don't get responses, so should we really believe they investigate? But some straight white men who are US citizens by birth might feel safe enough to put their name on a complaint and demand a response. (Note to straight white American men: you can complain about the treatment of others.)
posted by hoyland at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


This is sad. Sad and terrifying.

On the other hand, I've never been subjected to more intense questioning than the times I've tried to get into Canada. It's like I'm coming for ALL the maple syrup.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I used to work for an immigration lawyer, doing mostly corporate work (intracompany transfers, H-1Bs, and green cards) and even with that background, I am never surprised to hear that border immigration agents are abusing their power and discretion. If the stories I've heard are how they treat people who code mostly as middle class and might have some recourse, like access to a lawyer, I don't like to think about how they treat people they think they can really get away with abusing.
posted by immlass at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


> What kinds of questions are legal to ask at the US border?

Anything they like. As far as I know there are no legal limits as to the questions they can ask. I'm not sure what questions you are required to answer, but I believe the answer is that you can refuse to answer any or all questions, but they can refuse to allow you entry to the country.

The power balance is almost entirely on their side. You really have almost no recourse.

aedison: That's absolutely appalling. Have a hug from a stranger.

Overall, the whole thing is appalling on every level.

Before anything, if the sex trade were legal and regulated, this would dramatically reduce the issue of sex trafficking - so if you're worried about the victims, this is the real way to go.

Second, even if you think it should be illegal, if you're worried at all about the victims, harassing a wide demographic in order to shake out those same victims to punish them is pretty well the worst way to go about this.

And when it comes to asking even one extra question of people or looking even slightly funny because they're queer - gay, trans, poly, fet, whatever - I want to scream, "What the fuck does this have to do with protecting our borders? Heck, you must know that the Evil Muslim Terrorists(tm) hate queers just as much as you do!"

While the TSA are hassling a queer, they are not catching a terrorist. They are wasting resources that could be used to protect us - because they are bigoted little knuckling-dragging would-be Hitlers who get a rush out of terrorizing law-abiding citizens.

I'll sit down now....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:56 PM on April 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


On the other hand, I've never been subjected to more intense questioning than the times I've tried to get into Canada. It's like I'm coming for ALL the maple syrup.

It's taken me longer to get into Canada than any other country, but I've never been asked an offensive question by a Canadian immigration official, though I'm sure they do it. US immigration officials, though? They've made veiled comments about my sex life. Mind you, they're obliged to let me in. I'd rather spend ages with the guy being confused about what a math conference is.
posted by hoyland at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what questions you are required to answer, but I believe the answer is that you can refuse to answer any or all questions, but they can refuse to allow you entry to the country.

I believe they can't refuse entry to US citizens, so the answer probably depends on your passport.
posted by hoyland at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2013


More or less what hoyland said. The first time I entered Canada, I was detained for probably an hour, my car was unloaded and searched, etc, etc... but I never felt the judgement and "respeck ma authoriteh" feeling that I get from US guards. Canada asks you a very standard set of questions. The US seems to let the guards go wild chasing their "intuition", which means basically "prejudices".
posted by Hizonner at 1:00 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and let me share my tips for getting through airport security.

My key strategy is to try to be boring, and if needs be, pathetic.

Accordingly, I wear a boring but "decent" jacket and shirt whenever I go through customs. I shave. My passport says, "Engineer". I'm always as cheerful as I can be. I always call everyone Sir or Ma'am. I never step past the yellow line until I'm called to do so. I take a tiny bit of extra time to answer every question, to think about it, and I don't volunteer any information at all - in a nice way. I'm a bit slow, and cheerful, and if I don't understand a question, I smile and say, "I'm sorry." I apologize a lot. And I make sure that I'm not bringing anything I shouldn't, I have my 100ml bottles in my ziplock bags. I even make sure that the book I'm reading looks dull (computer books are perfect).

I want them to think, "Middle manager, boring, solid guy." It works flawlessly every time. Being white and male is very helpful of course, but overall this is the way to go, no matter who you are.

Once about fifteen years ago I couldn't find my Green Card. I got taken into the back room and yelled at, so I burst into tears and he calmed down and let me through. Works well if you can do it as a male...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:05 PM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


> I believe they can't refuse entry to US citizens, so the answer probably depends on your passport.

I'm sorry, yes, I was thinking of the cases we were talking about here with non-citizens but you're absolutely right, they can't refuse entry to US citizens.

They can, however, refuse to allow US citizens to fly, which can be problematic for the increasingly many foreign airports that have TSA stations in them (like Toronto).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:06 PM on April 6, 2013


victimizing the woman in a human trafficking situation is as about as effective as blaming the rape victim

"Victimizing" is sort of an abstract term, so it's hard to discuss. Let me suggest "browbeating"—not because it's more or less accurate but merely because it's narrower, for the purpose of discussing what the author describes.

There are a number of problems with browbeating a person in this circumstance. First, it's a poor interrogation tactic. But not everybody knows this. (Especially since it often works, albeit at producing false results.) Second, interrogation tactics are designed to elicit confessions. This is distinct from interviewing tactics, which are designed to elicit information and indications of truthfulness/deception. Again, not everybody knows this. Every law-enforcement officer should be trained in these things, but they aren't.

It is easy and temptingly logical to say, "If you are trying to accomplish X, then you do Y. These officers did not do Y, therefore they were not trying to accomplish X." That isn't actually how real life works, though. The behaviors described here are very much like what I see well-meaning, poorly trained officers exhibit on a not-irregular basis.
posted by cribcage at 1:17 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being white and male is very helpful of course, but overall this is the way to go, no matter who you are.

I'maware of the advantages of being a straight white guy in the United States to varying degrees in different places and at different time. It's when going through Customs to re-enter the U.S that the privilege feels most evident, like a clown with an air horn setting off safety flares.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:19 PM on April 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


I'm sorry, yes, I was thinking of the cases we were talking about here with non-citizens but you're absolutely right, they can't refuse entry to US citizens.

It sounded like the person asking was a US citizen. I admittedly was raised to fear immigration officials, but I find it hard to believe anyone else would have the nerve to cross them.
posted by hoyland at 1:23 PM on April 6, 2013


benito, re: your earlier link, head --> desk. Guess I shouldn't be surprised.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:24 PM on April 6, 2013


I always think of traveling through jordan with a Chinese sword duct taped to a duffel back because it wouldn't fit inside. The guy checking bags kept calling over other uniformed dudes with automatic weapons to stand around and scratch their heads about it. Eventually one just shrugged and waved us through.

And then of the British passport stamper guy later on the same trip who seemed bent on cracking my nonexistent case.
posted by cmoj at 1:34 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


you're absolutely right, they can't refuse entry to US citizens.

What? I was once refused entry because I filled out my Customs form in pencil.

I'm going to file that OP under the category "unverifiable pseudonymous story attached to a fundraising appeal."
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


That isn't actually how real life works, though. The behaviors described here are very much like what I see well-meaning, poorly trained officers exhibit on a not-irregular basis.

It is also totally possible, though, that even someone who "meant well" was ultimately acting more out of their own (not necessarily conscious) prejudices than in the interest of the law. And even if that does point to a failure of training, that's still a really major problem and one that is not excused by the existence of sex trafficking.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:10 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


What? I was once refused entry because I filled out my Customs form in pencil.

Were you refused entry or made to fill in a new form? Those are two different things.
posted by hoyland at 2:18 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


adultery is a crime in 23 of their 50 states

Which of these states employs the border guards?
posted by Slothrup at 2:24 PM on April 6, 2013


I'm also reminded of the time (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away) that I travelled by bus from NYC, with a friend, to Montreal to help him put up an electronic art show at a gallery there. I was 18, I didn't even have a driver's license much less a passport.

Ah, the good ol' days, when Canadians could go into the US without a passport.
posted by asnider at 2:35 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


All of the immigration law in the US from top to bottom assumes that everyone crossing the border has immigration intent until proven otherwise and directs the CBP to assume the same. The problem isn't with the typical border guard's assumptions but with the entire system's attitude from top to bottom.


The United States does not have complete exit control. You don't have to show your passport to leave the country, nor do you need to register with local authorities when traveling. Airlines will collect passport info, but if you leave by land or sea your passport might not even get scanned. This means that we have no systematic way to prevent visa overstaying (which is how a substantial number of undocumented migrants came in, not by fence-jumping).

So yes, every section including State Department consular officers have to totally assume (if you aren't in a visa waiver program country) that you're going to come stay unless you have proven otherwise, because we don't really know if you've left.

It doesn't have to be such an inhumane process, I agree, but you can't really get rid of this element of suspicion of immigration intent without imposing full exit controls and residence registration to catch overstayers. Was this treatment deplorable? Yes. Provided the process can be made more humane, I'd say it's better off taking this risk than imposing fully formal exit controls on the United States. I'd rather not let them have that much control over whether US citizens can leave on their own.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 2:37 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I am in no way discounting the horror stories of ICE agent rudeness, but the suspicion is a feature of the US system because there's no exit control. Can't be eliminated completely.)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 2:39 PM on April 6, 2013


lupus_yonderboy: My passport says, "Engineer".

A Google search confirms that, indeed, some other states list the holder's profession on their passports. This is news to me: Though I travel a fair amount, I have never had the opportunity to look at anyone else's passport but my own (US).

This seems a bit weird and inconvenient (what happens if you change careers, etc.?), and perhaps an (unintentionally?) easy way to mark someone as "undesirable" to some other nations' border services if they have a certain "profession" listed (journalist, academic, clergy, "none/unemployed," and so on). Not that that in any way excuses awful behavior on the part of the US or any other state's border control.
posted by dhens at 2:49 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So yes, every section including State Department consular officers have to totally assume (if you aren't in a visa waiver program country) that you're going to come stay unless you have proven otherwise, because we don't really know if you've left.
... for some value of "proven". The value they've chosen seems to be "looks normal enough not to arouse the suspicion of somebody who has no real information to go on, and who is therefore more or less forced to work from random prejudices and unvalidatable heuristics". No proof at all, really. Maybe that's why they don't bother to have any meaningful review on the first-line guard's suspicion... how could you possibly decide whether that person's wild-assed guess was right or wrong?

Exactly how strong a suspicion you require, and what basis you require for suspicion, is a choice. Since you can never, ever, prove or disprove that somebody plans to stay, you have to play the odds. If you're going to play the odds, you'd better be good at calculating the odds. And these guys don't seem to be very good at it, and they are pegged way over on the ultra-suspicious side.

Look at it this way: say 95 percent of entrants who do not declare an intention to stay actually have no intention to stay. I'm guessing it's actually more than that. That means that, before you have any individualized information, the proper prior probability on "intention to stay" is 5 percent. If you set a strong "guilty until proven innocent" rule, that's basically biasing the prior in the estimate to 95 percent the other way. That strategy is 100 percent guaranteed to give a wrong output probability.

And in fact they can't possibly really do that, because it would basically close the border. So in reality they must be doing something ill-defined... which is itself indefensible.

By the way, you don't have to do anything at all about it. You can just get over the idea that it's a big disaster if somebody stays in the country. Immigration paranoia is another choice.

Anyway, how would exit control help? You'd need to know not only whether they'd left, but where they actually were. So you're talking residence registration, really.
posted by Hizonner at 2:56 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd love to tell a border guard to mind her own business next time I feel a line has been crossed, but what's the line?
Where I live, in southern New Mexico, you can't travel in any direction except into Texas without stopping at a border patrol checkpoint. These checkpoints are starting to see some pushback, as these videos show.
Not sure what you can get away with at an actual border, though.
posted by Killick at 2:57 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I used to think that if you give anyone any measure of power they will instantly start to abuse it, now I believe people who want to abuse power are drawn to jobs that will enable them.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:02 PM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


foreign airports that have TSA stations in them (like Toronto)

There's no TSA staff at YYZ; it is staffed by CATSA.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:03 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ad Hominem: Why choose?
posted by Hizonner at 3:03 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ad Hominem: Why choose?

Good point, I'm sure there were a couple people who became Border guards or TSA agents with the best of intentions, to facilitate international relations or something, and a few weeks in were bullying people like old hands.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:06 PM on April 6, 2013


My passport says, "Engineer".

What country does this?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:08 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really shouldn't be reading this thread when I'm travelling to another country in two days.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:11 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered what you'd do if you didn't have $900 for a hotel and a new flight.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:19 PM on April 6, 2013


I found these statistics from CBP annual report helpful in putting a perspective on the volume of activity "on a typical day". Given the sheer volume of persons entering the US everyday I find it surprising and reassuring the valid complaints are as few as they are.

Admits 963,121 passengers and pedestrians

Admits 66,615 truck, rail, and sea containers

Conducts 999 apprehensions at and between
U.S. ports of entry

Arrests 54 wanted criminals at U.S. ports
of entry

Refuses 931 inadmissible aliens at U.S. ports
of entry

Discovers 476 pests at U.S. ports of entry
- nearly 50% of which are harmful to
agricultural and natural resources

Discovers 4,437 materials for quarantine
- plant, meat, animal byproduct, and soil

Seizes 11,660 pounds of drugs

Seizes $274,065 in undeclared or
illicit currency

Seizes $3.5 million dollars’ worth of products
with Intellectual Property Rights violations

Identifies 66 fraudulent documents

Identifies 115 individuals with suspected
national security concerns

Employs 60,668 CBP employees, including:
»
21,790 CBP officers
»
2,366 CBP Agriculture specialists
»
21,394 Border Patrol agents
»
1,215 Air and Marine personnel, including:
-
77 Aviation Enforcement officers
-
792 Air Interdiction agents (pilots)
-
346 Marine Interdiction agents
»
367 horse patrols
»
1,580 canine teams

Flies 15 hours of drug interdiction missions in
P3 airplanes

Flies 14 hours of unmanned aircraft systems
over the United
States

Conducts operations at:
»
329 ports of entry within 20 field offices
»
139 Border Patrol stations within 20 sectors,
with 31 permanent checkpoints
Note: Based on FY 12 data.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:22 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy talks about having a Green Card and has talked in the past about being a Canadian living in the US, which leads me to infer that he likely used to be on TN-1 status. TN-1 holders (and, I would imagine, anyone who's in the US on a work visa) are indeed closely scrutinized about it, and yes, our passport will say what we do for a living. There will likely also be flags in the system about it, if you've had the misfortune to deal with newish border agents who aren't too familiar with what privileges are associated with different types of work visas.

And what happens if you switch careers? You get a different work visa or you get kicked out of the country, that's what.

/not bitter at all
posted by Phire at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2013


Killick: "Where I live, in southern New Mexico, you can't travel in any direction except into Texas without stopping at a border patrol checkpoint"

Is the assumption that no undocumented immigrant would want to go to Texas?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:25 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


our passport will say what we do for a living

Perhaps, but it's not on the info page with your photograph. Maybe the U.S. puts it there?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:27 PM on April 6, 2013


Where in that list does it say how many valid complaints there are (or how many invalid ones)? And who is determining what's valid? And what about the very large number of cases where nobody bothers to complain because the improper actions aren't officially "complainable"?
posted by Hizonner at 3:33 PM on April 6, 2013


Mine is on the I-94 (arrivals and departures record), which is necessary for all non-immigrant non-citizens entering the US, and which is stapled to a passport page such that sticks out rather prominently. I don't think it's relevant to Green Card holders, but even then until you get a new passport it's still rather attention-calling.
posted by Phire at 3:33 PM on April 6, 2013


I always think of traveling through jordan with a Chinese sword duct taped to a duffel back because it wouldn't fit inside.

My boys (then 6 and 8) came back from Disneyland with lightsabers that we carried through security because they wouldn't fit in our luggage and I didn't want them crushed by the plane loaders.

The part that sucks: I actually had first, second, third and fourth thoughts about whether the border guards would confiscate plastic lightsabers from two little boys.

Also: I travel with knitting — sharp pointy needles because I always do socks on planes. Never had any problems with security, but one of my fellow plane passengers marvelled that I was allowed to carry them onto a plane.

There's a moral somewhere in there about the kind of paranoia we live with now.
posted by wenat at 3:34 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


This article is written by Clay Nikiforuk, a pseudonym that is extraordinarily google-able and obviously tied to a woman who has a set of YouTube videos in which she is asking for crowdfunding for her book about sexual assault. In the comments of the crowdsourcing video plea, she adds a link to this "End the Use of Condoms as Evidence" website, which quotes articles from almost a year ago.

Something about this feels like a big setup for more of her book funding, and that's terrible if true.
posted by Houstonian at 3:39 PM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Are you looking to be sexually assaulted?"

"Are you looking for a foot implant?"
posted by Twang at 3:45 PM on April 6, 2013


Hizonner--I looked for complaints valid/invalid--I checked CPB's stats, ACLU and a number of other legal forums and advocacy groups--I could not find a number--only anecdotal or specific legal filings (class and individual). Regardless, even if it is 10,000 a day or 3,650,000 a year that is only .01 of all crossing. The incidents are irksome, inconvenient, or perhaps even seriously troubling but do not represent a problem of epidemic proportions.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:46 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the assumption that no undocumented immigrant would want to go to Texas?
Well, that logic would cause you to wonder why there's a checkpoint on the way to Arizona.
It looks like I was wrong about Texas. You can get to El Paso, but beyond that, more border checkpoints in that direction as well.
posted by Killick at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2013


It could indeed be a setup.

On the other hand, somebody with her history is also more likely to make noise in a real case, whereas most people probably would fume, maybe post something cryptic on Facebook, and let it go. AND, if there is in fact any hassling going on, she fits the profile of somebody who'd attract it.

If it's a setup, she's created the story with a deft hand, but it would be hard to make it all check out if it weren't true. Since it's hit the press and will now be an embarassment to the CBP, I think we can hope for some fact checking.
posted by Hizonner at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Houstonian: "Something about this feels like a big setup for more of her book funding, and that's terrible if true."

More charitably she is aware and informed of the condom profiling so identifies it right away.

Less charitably she's got a hammer and everything is looking like a nail.
posted by Mitheral at 3:51 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


rmhsinc: It depends on your threshold of "incident", doesn't it? When I travel with my family (a polyamorous combination they have trouble figuring out) I probably get a 30 to 50 percent rate of attitudes I'd consider inappropriate and "irksome". I've never filed a complaint and would expect it to get laughed at if I did.

When I travel alone and look like a typical business traveler with a US passport, of course, I never, ever have a problem.
posted by Hizonner at 3:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of good reasons for this woman to be using a pseudonym, both in terms of the potential for retribution and to protect the privacy of the man she was traveling with (who is apparently married but appears to be in a non-monogamous relationship) as well as that man's wife.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: They can, however, refuse to allow US citizens to fly, which can be problematic for the increasingly many foreign airports that have TSA stations in them (like Toronto).

one more dead town's last parade: There's no TSA staff at YYZ; it is staffed by CATSA.


To clarify things a little, in major Canadian airports there are two stations you pass through to go to the US. The first is a customs and immigration station, manned by (as far as I know) Americans employed by US ICE. These are the passport-reading, visa-granting folks who we're talking about on this thread, and they are the same people with the same rules who would work the international terminal at LAX or the Ambassador Bridge or whatever. They can turn people away just as well in a Canadian airport as anywhere else.

Once you're past those guys, you're in a weird pseudo-American enclave that I understand to be similar to an embassy or whatever. These major Canadian airports have "transborder" terminals, specifically for flights to the US. Before you get into the terminal proper, you pass through security. These are not TSA agents, they are CATSA agents (the Canadian analogue), and they're the bag-scanning, ziploc-bag-checking folks. While they are not TSA agents, they seem to operate by TSA rules (the standard greeting of "Hello! Bonjour!" notwithstanding). So when you go through CATSA to a transborder terminal, they make you take your shoes off as is standard TSA procedure. When you go through CATSA to a domestic flight they don't, because this is still a civilized country and seriously, come on.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:00 PM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


some straight white men who are US citizens by birth might feel safe enough to put their name on a complaint and demand a response.

I've done this and I'm female and wasn't a US citizen at the time. Ask them for their full name and badge number and send a letter of complaint detailing what happened. CC the ACLU, your local state and federal representatives (and consulate if you're foreign), the representatives of the state in which the incident occurred and be factual and concise. There was zero blowback on my end and they did investigate. If everyone did this the situation would improve I think. These people do not operate in a vacuum, much as they would like to think they do. I talked to an aide at a state reps office that literally had a box full of complaints, it was something their office tracked and worked on.
posted by fshgrl at 4:16 PM on April 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'maware of the advantages of being a straight white guy in the United States to varying degrees in different places and at different time. It's when going through Customs to re-enter the U.S that the privilege feels most evident, like a clown with an air horn setting off safety flares.

Try doing this with a red passport. I've been pulled aside for extra screening, waved the red passport, and successfully pulled a "you don't actually need to search any of my bags." Heady stuff.

Also, the experience of travelling through the Schengen Area on NATO orders was positively magical. "Could you pull over? We need to inspect your vehicle." "Actually [hands over papers] you should just let us through." "Uh, .... ok! Go ahead!"

This is not meant to minimize any of the story in the OP. Travelling this way should not be reserved for the connected.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:23 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a UK passport.

Truth to tell, I haven't checked to see if they still have the "Employment" slot - I filled it out a very long time ago but is it on the newest passport I have? Don't know.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:27 PM on April 6, 2013


I will never, never fly into or through the US again, after being stopped at Hawaii (heading to Canada from Australia) by a homeland security ape because my eticket "isn't a ticket". I explained it had been ticket enough to get me on a plane at Sydney, but no; I needed to get someone from my airline to verify it was a real ticket. I was told to pass through the checkpoint, and sit and wait. Not to move. Another guard, with a gun, came up and spoke loudly, asking who had told me to sit there? I didn't answer fast enough, so he put his hand on his gun, and shouted again, "Who told you to sit there?" Eventually I stammered out the story and he left.

One of my children was sick when I left home, so I was crying and trying to reach home to see how he was. I was in my 30s at the time, am overweight and wear cardigans: fat, crying ladies in cardigans are VERY threatening to your national security, US.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 4:41 PM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


that sucks Kaleidoscope. But I think as thread indicates this sort of thing happens all over. I had friends strip searched in South America when they were like 20 year old trembling students.
posted by sweetkid at 4:45 PM on April 6, 2013


My red passport may be the best thing about my government job, the man of twists and turns. I was stunned to be waved through without additional questioning after my latest European trip, where I was in contact with livestock and visited several farms. All of the relevant boxes on my customs form were checked. I guess the "AGRI" sticker on the front is good for something. :-)
posted by wintermind at 4:56 PM on April 6, 2013


Nothing about this story passes the common sense test.
posted by gsh at 5:01 PM on April 6, 2013


I'm a US citizen, but I live in Canada, and I cross the border quite a bit with Canadian citizens.

The typical US border guard's assumption seems to be that anybody who's not a US citizen is planning to stay illegally (because, sure, the average sane person would really want to move from Canada to the US nowadays). And everybody who might be slightly unusual is a criminal, but non-US citizens are bigger criminals. And God help you if you look like you might like drugs.


My experience--living in Montreal as neither a US nor Canadian citizen for a number of years and crossing the border regularly--was the opposite. Traveling into the US was always zero drama, traveling back into Canada was always pretty ghastly. If there was a person of color on the bus there was about a 50/50 chance they wouldn't make it back on board, and there was about a 99% chance that they would be treated with loud and histrionic contempt by the Canadian Customs and Immigration goons--forced to open up all their luggage in front of everyone else, repeatedly asked where they were hiding their drugs, asked for endless details about who they were staying with and where and how they knew that person--questions that none of the rest of us had to endure etc. etc.

There was also one day every year when we all of us international students had to meet up on campus to have our student visas renewed; I don't think I ever got through one of those without seeing someone being reduced to tears by red-in-the-face, screaming-fit-to-burst Immigration assholes; and I never saw them address any visible minority in anything less than a shout. You never saw such a bunch of little Hitlers in your life. And really just about every single one of these cases was a simple rubber-stamp job. Mind you, this was Quebec and I've heard that their Immigration people were markedly worse than other Canadian immigration services.

Though, actually, I had a funny experience arriving in Vancouver on my way to Montreal at the very beginning of my time there. I arrived at immigration with my wife, who was accompanying me to Montreal, and the woman at immigration was deeply suspicious of this. She seemed sure that my wife must somehow be being forced to do this against her will and strongly implied that if she would give some sign to that effect they would help place her on a plane back home. It's so long ago now I can't remember her exact words but I do remember she said something to effect that "this is a free country and you don't just have to do what your husband tells you to do!" It was a very odd exchange that left us both deeply baffled. If we'd been coming from some country with an archetypically "patriarchal" culture we'd have just assumed it was racist projection, but being white people coming from another Western country it just seemed kinda bizarre.

TL,DR: being a non-citizen is kinda shitty and powerless and bureaucrats let loose on powerless people often behave like assholes. Immigration and border control is a kind of ongoing Stanford prison experiment.
posted by yoink at 5:01 PM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


These checkpoints are starting to see some pushback, as these videos show.

Loved that last video.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2013


I have a UK passport.

Truth to tell, I haven't checked to see if they still have the "Employment" slot - I filled it out a very long time ago but is it on the newest passport I have? Don't know.


It's not on either of my passports (an old one from the 90s and a more recent one)
posted by dng at 5:03 PM on April 6, 2013


I will never, never fly into or through the US again, after being stopped at Hawaii (heading to Canada from Australia) by a homeland security ape because my eticket "isn't a ticket". I explained it had been ticket enough to get me on a plane at Sydney, but no; I needed to get someone from my airline to verify it was a real ticket.

I had something similar (without the gunplay, happily) happen in Spain. I was traveling with another person who doesn't live in the US and they were traveling back with me to the US and then on to their home country. Unfortunately, they didn't have a physical copy of their e-ticket with them for the portion of the trip from the US to home. So they wouldn't allow us onto the plane from Spain to the US ("they" being the Spanish airline officials). We eventually, after an anxious series of phonecalls, managed to get the airline to fax the information through.

What was infuriating about it, though, was that a printout of the email from the airline was all it would have taken for us to be waved through with no fuss. Something, in other words, that any one of us could mock up on a computer in about 5 minutes.
posted by yoink at 5:17 PM on April 6, 2013


All of the immigration law in the US from top to bottom assumes that everyone crossing the border has immigration intent until proven otherwise and directs the CBP to assume the same.

This is even true after you've voluntarily surrendered your Green Card. I went to a consulate in Canada to surrender mine after I'd decided that I was going to apply for residency in Canada. The official warned me against this and then informed me that every time I crossed the border back to the US that the guards would think I was planning on immigrating there illegally...which, obviously, made no sense.

However, I have to say that since I surrendered the Green Card I haven't been once to the room of shame at US immigration in Vancouver airport once. Before then I got sent there every. single. time.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2013


When I and my girlfriend-now-wife flew into New York in 2003 I was processed through immigration swiftly, but she was detained at the desk for ten minutes, while the immigration clerk hit on her.
posted by Hogshead at 5:48 PM on April 6, 2013


At the same time, I do want border officials to be alert to human trafficking, so it's not quite so simple as saying that none of what she describes should have raised any flags at all. Trafficking is a grave problem.

Then the person you want to interrogate is the potential trafficker, not the potential victim.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


He had found information online that in the last couple of years I had been modelling and acting. This, he concluded, was special code for sex work.

So what do you guys think? Is MissTravel.com "special code for sex work"? From their about page: "MissTravel.com is the only online dating website for travelers, and more specifically, we match Generous travelers who hate to travel alone with Attractive travelers who would love the opportunity to travel the world for free."
posted by Houstonian at 5:54 PM on April 6, 2013


I'm a natural-born American and have had zero problems with any border crossing anywhere I've traveled--until it's time for me to come home. I've spent hours locked in rooms at U.S. customs offices wondering why my fellow Americans spend so much time and energy trying to keep me out.
posted by leftcoastbob at 5:55 PM on April 6, 2013


yoink: That's interesting. When was this?

I don't want to give the impression that the US border guards are any surlier than the Canadian ones. In fact, the Canadians seem to be more direct and less chatty, sometimes downright brusque. Regardless, nobody on either side has ever raised his or her voice to me.

What I've found is that the Canadians seem to tend to keep their questions more on topic, and seem to be following a relatively fixed script: "Where are you going?", "Who will you visit/where will you stay?", that sort of thing. The US guards always seem to be on more of a fishing expedition.

I guess I could imagine a non-country-specific explanation for that. When we're going into the US as a family, they're trying to figure out why we have three adults, all at the same Canadian address, with mixed US and Canadian citizenship, taking a Canadian citizen child out of Canada. Or sometimes it's two adults, one of whom isn't the child's legal parent. Whereas coming back our wife and daughter are returning to their own country of citizenship, so maybe the Canadians don't freak out so much about that.

Whatever the cause, the US ones end up asking what I consider impertinent questions, and if they do draw any inferences about our family structure, then they'll often give us a pretty disdainful look.

But the other thing I always see when traveling with a Canadian, and think is specific to the US, is that the US wants to hear a lot more about why they should believe that person isn't going to somehow settle down and take a job. The only time I ever had trouble about that with Canada, it turns out that I did need a work permit for what I was doing (and didn't know it)... and they issued me one on the spot.
posted by Hizonner at 5:58 PM on April 6, 2013


that's still a really major problem and one that is not excused by the existence of sex trafficking.

That's true. There are two separate conversations: (1) whether certain statements, behaviors, or indicators by travelers should raise red flags; and (2) how officers should react when one or more flags are raised.

the person you want to interrogate is the potential trafficker, not the potential victim.

This is not necessarily true.
posted by cribcage at 5:59 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't wait to see what happens when someone makes clothes from slimmed down deta-sheet. Naked air-travel in the US, that should be fun.
posted by vivelame at 6:00 PM on April 6, 2013


So, cribcage, if I'm a border guard, and I deny somebody entry on suspicion of being trafficked, and I'm right, what happens to her then? I'm seriously not sure I can guess. I'm not guessing it's always good for her, though.
posted by Hizonner at 6:02 PM on April 6, 2013


My apologies for assuming, lupus.
posted by Phire at 6:14 PM on April 6, 2013


The typical US border guard's assumption seems to be that anybody who's not a US citizen is planning to stay illegally (because, sure, the average sane person would really want to move from Canada to the US nowadays).

Your political opinions of which is a cooler place to live aside, the typical border guard of most any country is going to assume that a non-citizen is planning to stay illegally. Try this fun experiment: show up at a foreign country's border with a one-way ticket.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:14 PM on April 6, 2013


Goddamn what an infuriating article.
posted by homunculus at 6:32 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This article is written by Clay Nikiforuk, a pseudonym that is extraordinarily google-able and obviously tied to a woman who has a set of YouTube videos in which she is asking for crowdfunding for her book about sexual assault.

UBC creative writing grad to self-publish a book on sexual assault
posted by homunculus at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think as thread indicates this sort of thing happens all over

I'm pretty sure the petty tyrant border agents worldwide are people who couldn't get a job with a real law enforcement agency. 90% of the agents I've dealt with have been very nice but the others...

And yes, my God are the Canadian border agents in Quebec complete and utter dicks.
posted by fshgrl at 6:36 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


homonculus, what value is there in doxing people here?
posted by Hizonner at 6:38 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your political opinions of which is a cooler place to live aside, the typical border guard of most any country is going to assume that a non-citizen is planning to stay illegally. Try this fun experiment: show up at a foreign country's border with a one-way ticket.

I've done this in China, Tibet, Thailand, Jordan, Italy, and the UK. The last four with a 4-foot sword lashed to my luggage. I was never singled out (I've actually never been singled out at all), but it could be any combination of my whiteness, maleness, and Americanity.
posted by cmoj at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hizonner, I didn't think it was doxing. The rabble.ca article links to her GoFundMe page where Clay N links to the article I posted. It doesn't seem to me that she's trying to keep her name secret. I'll flag it and let the mods judge.
posted by homunculus at 6:49 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


the person you want to interrogate is the potential trafficker, not the potential victim.

This is not necessarily true.
posted by cribcage


Of course it's true. One interrogates suspects and interviews victims. Interrogating victims is a victimization in itself.
posted by leftcoastbob at 6:51 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fair enough. I didn't realize it would be that obvious. Sorry.
posted by Hizonner at 6:51 PM on April 6, 2013


You know, looking at both sides of a story is not doxing someone. Here's a woman who posts her photo and profile on a site that matches women who like to travel with men who pay for their travel She's a model or maybe a "model" or probably both. She hands her passport to an agent and he sees this for the past few months of last year (she published this):

Oct 5 KELOWNA
Oct 11 VANCOUVER
Oct 15 NEW YORK
Oct 23 MONTREAL
Oct 28 VANCOUVER
Nov 1 SEATTLE
Nov 3 PORTLAND
Nov 6 SAN FRANSISCO
Nov 11 VANCOUVER
Nov 23 KELOWNA
Nov 27 CALGARY
Nov 30 EDMONTON
Dec 4 VANCOUVER
Dec 8 BRUSSELS
Dec 12 BERLIN

And she's mostly packed lingerie and condoms. (She mentions her extensive wardrobe available for customers on her website.) How many logical conclusions are there?

Ah but wait, at the bottom of the article that is posted here (surely that's not doxing, right?) it says this: "Clay Nikiforuk is a recent Creative Writing graduate from UBC and lives in Montreal. She is currently writing her first book exploring and critiquing the sociology of sexual assault. When not reading, writing or getting into vehement debates with strangers, she is dancing, taking pictures, and an avid potluck-attendee. To help fund her book you can go to http://www.gofundme.com/jenniesbook."

I think there's a lot -- a whole lot -- that makes her story less than credible. She's offended that a person asked if she's a "working girl" and yet she's posted her profile and travel schedule on multiple websites.

I'm sorry she feels hurt. I actually think that prostitution should be legal. But it's not, and when border patrol asks you if you are a prostitute and you are, you really shouldn't get too indignant.

That her photo is right on the article, with a pseudonym that ties all of her profiles together, tells me that probably this article is advertisement for something.

The person who wrote the article didn't look very deep before publishing this article.
posted by Houstonian at 6:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


Your political opinions of which is a cooler place to live aside, the typical border guard of most any country is going to assume that a non-citizen is planning to stay illegally. Try this fun experiment: show up at a foreign country's border with a one-way ticket.

I've done this plenty of times, even excluding the Schengen Area's non-border borders. The US is one of a very few countries that seems to give a shit what I intend to do in it. I don't think I've ever entered a country who has asked me to prove I had onward travel plans.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 6:55 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have never been singled out for anything except the occasional wanding going through security, even though I've traveled to England, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Croatia, France, Anguilla, Austria, New Zealand, and a pile of other places. Usually with fencing sabres in my checked luggage and carrying on a fencing mask, wires, gloves, and everything else that doesn't have a blade, so I have my stuff when I get there.

I'm crossing my fingers hoping the same will be true when I go to Bulgaria next fall. But at some point you'd think they would look at me and wonder. Is it the older white woman with gray in her hair and granny glasses thing? Is there a neon sign above my head that says, "Oh, she's okay." Because honestly, I used to be a lot less respectable than I am now. And I'm from the generation where a whole bunch of people I knew immigrated illegally to Canada to get away from the draft.

So why should any woman, whether she is a sex worker or not, be singled out for suspicion while traveling, unless they are worried she's being transported against her will? Is there something that makes her a threat to security? A likely immigrant? It's really none of their business.
posted by Peach at 6:59 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hizoner, no problem, better safe than sorry. And btw, as far as I'm concerned the fact that she's self-publishing a book is completely irrelevant towards how she was treated by customs.
posted by homunculus at 7:01 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it turns out she actually is a working girl? So the border agent was actually correct? I did not see that coming.
posted by Justinian at 7:10 PM on April 6, 2013


As long as we're poking people with sticks:

These checkpoints are starting to see some pushback, as these videos show.

Since the same guy was in several of those videos, I was curious who he is. One of videos included a link to After the Tribulation: The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Fraud Exposed.

Turns out his name is Steven Anderson.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:12 PM on April 6, 2013


tells me that probably this article is advertisement for something.

Ah, so this woman getting hassled is just an outlier, huh?

Doubtless that is also true for

Joakim Ziegler's friend,
and jaduncan's friend,
and ceiba,
and aedison,
and Kaleidoscope,
and Hogshead's friend.

I'm sure it's not a pattern. Nosirree.
posted by tyllwin at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


That border guards hassle some people without justification does not mean that everyone who is hassled is hassled unjustifiably. Like Houstonian, I think lots of things which are currently illegal should be legal. But that doesn't mean they currently are legal.
posted by Justinian at 7:22 PM on April 6, 2013


Try this fun experiment: show up at a foreign country's border with a one-way ticket.

Last time I did this was in a van full of middle-aged-ish women (all American citizens as far as I know, not all white) from Washington State into southern BC. The Canadian border guards wanted to how long we were staying and what we were going to do. We are going to look for snowy owls! The guard looked out at the spitting, sleeting snow, looked at us, shook his head, and waved us through. So, no problem.

When I worked at Lonely Planet, I knew tons and tons and more tons of people who traveled this way as a matter of course. Many of them still do.
posted by rtha at 7:24 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


One interrogates suspects and interviews victims.

This, also, isn't correct. It's true that interviewing and interrogation are two different things, as I said above. However, the important difference is not whom you're talking to, but rather what your goal is.

This isn't a casual semantic distinction. The two words are terms of art, and refer to distinct methods. (You can learn more here if you're interested. There are several books on the subject but Reid and Inbau were the experts.) And while it may not be pleasant to think about someone who most of us would agree is mostly a victim being interrogated to elicit a confession about something, that is often how law enforcement manages to convict the other person who most of us would agree is guilty.
posted by cribcage at 7:44 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Houstonian, you got me interested, so I went and found "multiple websites".

I did not find any site that "matches women who like to travel with men who pay for their travel". Maybe your Google powers are greater than mine. I won't deny that it exists.

I did find her personal site, and I found her on tons of modeling sites. That's where I found the "tour schedule" you posted. Which she posted as a list of places she expected to be available for modeling work. I did not see anything that I recognized as code for prostitution, although I will admit that I'm not really current on such things. I did find her saying that she wanted her travel paid for modeling. I've had my travel paid for computer consulting, too.

I found that "list of clothing for customers". Described as a modeling wardrobe, with zero implication of anything else. The woman does lingerie modeling. Is it somehow surprising that she'd have a lot of lingerie to model in?

So the only evidence I personally have seen is that she trades professionally on her looks, and perhaps on some aspects of her sexuality, AS A MODEL. Which isn't exactly surprising per her account, since she told the border guard that she was a model. And that's all completely legal.

But that's not the point. Here's the point:

Even if she's the freaking Happy Hooker, and even if there's irrefutable proof of that on the Net, I see no reason to believe that any of that information was available to the border guards. As far as I can see, they had that she was a model (which she told them), that she was traveling with a married man (which she told them), and that she was carrying condoms and sexy underwear.

They might have suspected her of prostitution. It's certainly true that, on the information they had, she was probably statistically more likely than the average traveler to be a prostitute. It's also conceivable that she does things that she wouldn't think of as prostitution, but that they would... and that the law might have quite a bit of trouble teasing out.

It's also possible that she doesn't... especially from their point of view. Suppose she did not do such things. Suppose she's a completely non-contact photo model, who was traveling unpaid with a friend with whom she planned to have sex... or even didn't plan to have sex.

If she were completely "legitimate" in that way, then what possible action could she take to avoid being denied entry to the US? It's a red herring to say that her complaint was being asked if she was a prostitute. That may be part of her complaint, but the more important part was that she was DETAINED AND PREVENTED FROM TRAVELING, based on some random functionary's conjectures. That may be legally and procedurally OK, but it is not "OK" in any really important sense.

Your investigation challenges the facts of her account not at all, gives no more information than we already had about the guards' actions, and should therefore not affect our opinion of those actions. What does it bring to the discussion, then?
posted by Hizonner at 7:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Hizonner, you didn't have to look very hard. I mention the site that matches travelers with payers right here.
posted by Houstonian at 7:57 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


UBC creative writing grad to self-publish a book on sexual assault

UBC student accused of sex work after trying to cross U.S. border with condoms

She let them use the same photo for both articles; in fact, it appears that she submitted the photo taken for the Ubyssey article to Metro, a mass-circulation newspaper. Why, if anonymity is important to you, do you have a national paper chain publish your photo?
posted by Dasein at 7:58 PM on April 6, 2013


Sorry, missed that. And I agree that it's quite suggestive. And actually it jibes with something she herself said that implied her companion was paying her travel, but that she didn't consider that prostitution and didn't think it legally was.

But that still has no bearing at all on the border guards' actions.
posted by Hizonner at 8:00 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I once flew to Canada for a conference. On the connecting flight from Chicago to Toronto, they started handing out customs forms and I suddenly realized I didn't have my passport with me. At the time this happened you didn't need a passport to cross by vehicle at Blaine, but you did when crossing into Canada by plane. I got to Canadian immigration, and I pled stupidity. The Canadian customs guy said, "You do realized that Canada is another country?"

I suppressed a laugh and apologized once again, and he let me in.
posted by Xoc at 8:06 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll note for the record that when the US government ran itself into debt paying for these "guards" it was sold to the public that their function was to defend the nation against entry by terrorists. How lucky for their employment prospects that we can't actually vote on "going into debt to keep Canadian escorts out of the country."
posted by tyllwin at 8:08 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


But that still has no bearing at all on the border guards' actions.

I wish we welcomed Canadian escorts with open arms! I love Canadian escorts. Err... wait... you know what I mean. But when a border guard is being accused of accusing someone of being a sex worker it seems absolutely relevant if that person is a, uh, sex worker.

but that she didn't consider that prostitution and didn't think it legally was.

Well that settles it then.
posted by Justinian at 8:34 PM on April 6, 2013


I did not find any site that "matches women who like to travel with men who pay for their travel"

I would point out that I was taking Hizoner's word for what was on the websites and have no interest in looking into it myself, so if his reports were inaccurate then it changes things.
posted by Justinian at 8:36 PM on April 6, 2013


But when a border guard is being accused of accusing someone of being a sex worker it seems absolutely relevant if that person is a, uh, sex worker.
Actually, no, that is a logical fallacy. The evidence available to the guard is relevant. Evidence not available to the guard is not relevant, and neither is the actual fact except insofar as it relates to the evidence.

The guards knew that she had condoms and lingerie, that she worked as a model and actress, and that she traveled a lot. We're not told how that got that or in what order, although we are told that they retained at least some of the information across multiple border crossings.

Based on that, they elicited from her the further information that she was traveling with a married man not her husband (and, possibly not relevant and/or not believed, that his wife knew about it).

Their actions should be judged ONLY on that. It wouldn't matter if she were an axe murderer.
posted by Hizonner at 8:44 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, they may also have known that she traveled a lot with different companions. Probably did, actually. She doesn't mention that and may not be aware of it.
posted by Hizonner at 8:45 PM on April 6, 2013


The evidence available to the guard is relevant.

She notes that an officer "found information online that...was special code for sex work." She might intend that last bit sarcastically, but it's not a made-up thing; codewords do indeed exist. Based on what else has been posted in this thread, it's plausible this is what happened.
posted by cribcage at 8:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, what she said was that "He had found information online that in the last couple of years I had been modelling and acting. This, he concluded, was special code for sex work,"

I'd forgotten the "online" part, but so far as I know, "modeling and acting" isn't reliable code for sex work. At best, I suspect it's what somebody puts on a form when they can't tell the truth. And I looked at her modeling site, and at her profiles on other modeling-related sites, and that stuff really, really didn't look like code for sex work. It looked like she wanted to do modeling.

Now, if they found the misstravel.com site, that would be different. That site is all about "generous men", and even I recognize that code. Maybe they did find it and they didn't tell her specifically, or she didn't catch that they'd found it, or she left it out. Conceivably she didn't even understand the "generous" code herself, although it's pretty hard to see somebody as that naive.

I can, however, easily imagine a world in which she went places with men, had sex with them, let them pay for the trips, but didn't take cash and didn't see it as prostitution.

Anyway, if they did online searches, their evidence would start to look stronger. Not a problem for me, since I think they should have to approach a "criminal conviction" standard to exclude anybody. But to a not-me person who accepted the existing law as appropriate, I have to agree that that could indeed justify their actions.
posted by Hizonner at 9:02 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The border agents know the truth: if we allow loose women from Canuckistan to roam freely in the United States, they will seek out good American men and steal their life essences. This cannot be allowed. We must deny them our essence.
posted by homunculus at 9:07 PM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hmm. Actually, now that I look at it more closely, there are still questions even if you accept "the regime". It's not obvious what evidence they had to cause them to go do the online search in the first place. Maybe they had enough, maybe not.
posted by Hizonner at 9:07 PM on April 6, 2013


so far as I know, "modeling and acting" isn't reliable code for sex work. ...I looked at her modeling site, and at her profiles on other modeling-related sites, and that stuff really, really didn't look like code for sex work.

It can be, depending on the context. I don't mean any offense by this, but if "so far as I know" is meant to convey "I'm not an expert on this subject," then it might be worth listening to people who are.
posted by cribcage at 9:09 PM on April 6, 2013


(For clarity's sake, I should add that I haven't looked for this woman's websites and I have absolutely no intention to. My comments are addressing solely what is possible and/or plausible based on what appears in her article and what has been posted in this thread—accepting the latter solely for purposes of this conversation, and recognizing as Justinian pointed out that it may or may not be true. I have no personal or professional knowledge of whether this person is actually a model, a sex worker, or just a creative writer who made the entire story up.)
posted by cribcage at 9:15 PM on April 6, 2013


Um, if "people who are experts" aren't willing to look at the sites, then the rest of us are kind of left to our own devices, aren't we?

Anyway, I'm afraid I now have to depart this discussion. Good night, all.
posted by Hizonner at 9:22 PM on April 6, 2013


We'd rather just let you take the fall for this one.
posted by Justinian at 10:33 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is at least the second time, following the "Who Are You Going to Believe, Me or Your Lying Eyes" FPP a few years ago from a woman claiming her son was taken from her by agents at a TSA checkpoint (the TSA later released video of the event, showing the woman's account differed pretty greatly from reality), where a story has been posted to Metafilter about alleged mistreatment by an official government agency towards an innocent traveler, followed by the predictable "This is an outrage!" response in most of the comments, only for it later to come to light that the anecdote provided in the first-person description of the event by the alleged victim was not entirely accurate. Good sleuthing, Houstonian.
posted by The Gooch at 12:16 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


when border patrol asks you if you are a prostitute and you are, you really shouldn't get too indignant.

I really think the is on misstravel > therefor is a prostitute jump is a bit much. I could see how it maybe makes it a bit more likely but that's about it.

I have several friends who have made profiles or expressed interest in that site. One of them I could seriously see getting this kind of harassment because she's active on cam sites, has sold her underwear, etc.

None of them would be "working girls" in the sense that they're worried about unless someone was willing to pay them the amount of money it would take for me to bend over. Which is a lot.

I'm not really a fan of the "lets just assume she really is and is trying to be coy or misrepresent herself" pile-on here. And I'm definitely in the boat of the "suspicion" here having to approach "had a criminal conviction" territory for them to be dicks like this.

Seriously, what the hell.
posted by emptythought at 3:21 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I also think quite a lot here is something to get indignant about whether or not she is a sex worker. Like, seriously. The sexual assault comments? get out.
posted by emptythought at 3:22 AM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The "special code" thing is just bullshit. There are no "special codes" that are widely accepted by all of society as meaning the someone is a sex worker, besides the actual words like sex worker or prostitute. And once you allow that kind of reasoning it no longer matters what a person writes about themselves or has written or whatever. Because anything can be twisted to mean whatever you want by just invoking "special code". My profile here says I'm a scientist and that could mean sex worker just as much as any other valid occupation (and model or actress are absolutely valid occupations that don't break any kinds of laws) by that line of reasoning.

If you have to have some kind of special knowledge to understand the code and if the terms under discussion have totally legal and acceptable other meanings (and yes, even generous men could just like giving things away), then there is no reason to assume anything other than face value for those terms and descriptions. So lets stop twisting this women's words and calling her things that we have no proof for, and instead assume that she actually is whatever she says she is.
posted by shelleycat at 4:11 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love the USA, been there 5 times. Me, Dutch, white, single stay at home mom, no criminal record. But because of the border controle I will not go back there. It always takes one hour of abuse and the last time they did the same with my 3 yr old. I am not a criminal and do not wish to be treated as such. Even Israel has kinder officers!
posted by kudzu at 5:09 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hizonner: "Actually, no, that is a logical fallacy. The evidence available to the guard is relevant. Evidence not available to the guard is not relevant, and neither is the actual fact except insofar as it relates to the evidence.

The guards knew that she had condoms and lingerie, that she worked as a model and actress, and that she traveled a lot. We're not told how that got that or in what order, although we are told that they retained at least some of the information across multiple border crossings.

Based on that, they elicited from her the further information that she was traveling with a married man not her husband (and, possibly not relevant and/or not believed, that his wife knew about it).

Their actions should be judged ONLY on that. It wouldn't matter if she were an axe murderer.
"

This line of reasoning is forcing the assumption that border control has only the evidence presented to them by the party seeking entrance and the contents of their bag. They of course have vast public and private databases available to them that may contain all sorts of evidence (some of it just conjecture too probably) that is lacking from this narrative because she doesn't know.

Let's assume, just for a moment, for the sake of argument that she is trading travel for sex. At least in Canada trading sex for any kind of remuneration is prostitution (and legal but that's besides the point). If one of her fellow travelers ratted her out even to local police ("So Mr. Smith I noticed 3 of the last 4 women you crossed here with were known prostitutes, how about Ms N? You know if we catch you lying your plea deal is invalidated.") that data would be available to CBP and they aren't going to necessarily tell her. Heck that narrative can hold true even if she isn't trading travel for sex but the fellow traveler feels guilty about it.

Or CBP are a bunch of judgmental, prudish, power trippers who enjoy seeing women cry. Either is possible at this point from the evidence presented.
posted by Mitheral at 6:29 AM on April 7, 2013


But if we suppose they genuinely believed she had traded sex for travel or some other renumeration, it could well explain why they opened her bag, but not their appalling treatment of her after that. Asking someone if they're looking to be sexually assaulted should be grounds for being sacked posthaste.
posted by hoyland at 6:35 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was seriously just now thisclose to doing a whole dig through the comment histories of a couple of people in this thread, putting them under the same kind of "ah, but they said [foo] and [baz] on this instance, so should we believe them when they say [schmeh] in here?" the way they're doing to the writer of this article.

But I didn't, because that's a dickish thing to do, because it doesn't matter.

Jesus, people, human beings are all inherantly flawed, and all still deserve dignity nevertheless. They deserve to have their testimony believed and not second-guessed. yes, people lie about things, but you call them on the lies by discovering proof that they lied in that instance, you don't call them on the lies by dredging up other mis-steps they made - and for the fuck of shit, you don't suggest that their life choices meant they deserved the mistreatment they received.

Seriously, in just about every thread about women facing assault, sexism, and other abuses, we have a lot of baffled-sounding guys marveling that "wow, if this kind of thing really does happen, why haven't I heard more about it?" Well, if the people who do dare to speak up get second-guessed and scruitinized like this when we do, is it any surprise that we've given up on telling you?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:37 AM on April 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


It seems worth point out that she's not indignant about them searching their bags. It's entirely possible to search someone's bags without rude comment or comment at all.

Having been through that border crossing in Vermont she mentions at the start of the piece (it sounds like she was going to the Burlington airport--there's one logical route), it in no way surprises me that they'd hassle someone for sport, not least because I've seen them do it. (There seems to be a nasty combination of malice and incompetence. Why have an agent who speaks French meet the bus from Montreal when you could berate elderly people for 'pretending' not to speak English instead?)
posted by hoyland at 6:46 AM on April 7, 2013


I really think the is on misstravel > therefor is a prostitute jump is a bit much.

I think prostitution should be legal and people should be treated with dignity at the border and so on and so forth. That said, everything about MissTravel makes it look like an escort service, in the same way that everything about Wal-Mart makes it look like a big box store.

Either way, it's obvious that rude, abusive, sexist, bizarre behavior is still very much real at US border crossings, irrespective of whatever doubts people might have about this particular account.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:52 AM on April 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


The "special code" thing is just bullshit. ... If you have to have some kind of special knowledge to understand the code and if the terms under discussion have totally legal and acceptable other meanings...

I understand that this makes sense to you. I'll bet it also makes sense to the author of the article, who writes that "mixing sexual and non-sexual activities" automatically constitutes a legal relationship. It makes sense to drug dealers, who use their own codewords. And I know it makes sense to the sex workers who say similar things like, "But I advertise as an 'escort' and that word is legal," or "I never discuss sex acts on the phone and I tell them money is only exchanged for time."

In circumstances where I've had these conversations with sex workers, I have politely persuaded them they are mistaken. (Just like when they assert they're being careful by asking every prospective client if he's a police officer.) You are not my client and I don't think I'm licensed in your jurisdiction, so you're welcome to continue believing that codewords are "bullshit." However, I will continue to be glad that border officers are familiar with them—especially because there are codewords to indicate when a sex worker is underage.
posted by cribcage at 7:19 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


From my experience (primarily Californian), "model and actress" means you're working in customer service. Which is in turn not a codework for sex work, but a code word for wait staff.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:38 AM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also "screenwriter".
posted by Justinian at 8:46 AM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why would a border guard need codewords to know specifically when a traveling sex worker is underage, given that they have access to the traveler's ID, and possibly a database of their entire life?
posted by rtha at 8:54 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The codewords wouldn't be hiding the girl is underage, they would be hiding she is a sex worker. That's my assumption anyway.
posted by Justinian at 11:05 AM on April 7, 2013


Am I too late to say, "it goes to the credibility of the witness, Your Honor"? ;-)
posted by Xenophon Fenderson at 11:10 AM on April 7, 2013


Why would a Montreal border agent have the authority to attempt to prevent the crime of adultery "in America" (for...which state is the border guard an expert again?) for a traveller enroute to Aruba? Huh?
posted by desuetude at 12:53 PM on April 7, 2013


Why would a Montreal border agent have the authority to attempt to prevent the crime of adultery "in America" (for...which state is the border guard an expert again?) for a traveller enroute to Aruba? Huh?

Montreal is what is called a 'pre-clearance station', where American immigration officials are in Montreal and you clear American immigration and customs in Montreal. The idea was that there are fewer large Canadian cities, so you could fly between Canada and smaller US airports without having to have customs and immigration facilities in whatever small US airport. At this point, there probably aren't that many US airports with no immigration facilities and flights from Canada... except LaGuardia.

So she had to go through US immigration in Montreal because her connecting flight was in Miami (IIRC). Same deal on the way back--there's pre-clearance in Aruba.
posted by hoyland at 1:07 PM on April 7, 2013


Homeboy Trouble explained earlier how the pre-clearance thing works when you're travelling.
posted by hoyland at 1:10 PM on April 7, 2013


thisclose to doing a whole dig through the comment histories of a couple of people in this thread, putting them under the same kind of "ah, but they said [foo] and [baz] on this instance, so should we believe them when they say [schmeh] in here?" the way they're doing to the writer of this article.

But I didn't, because that's a dickish thing to do, because it doesn't matter.


Then why do you mention it, or threaten it, or whatever it is you are trying to do? You and I disagree about whether the author of the linked article is being honest or if she has an agenda, and it seems it is really important for you to be right. So, this is aimed at me, at least, right? As a person you disagree with? I encourage you to do this -- dig through my comment history. Post the discrepancies. I think this breaks the Metafilter rules, but I'm not sure. Don't go with threats -- take the risk and do the deed. If it makes you feel better, if it makes you feel right, knock yourself out.
posted by Houstonian at 2:25 PM on April 7, 2013


It does seem a little strange to object to trying to determine if the story as presented in the FPP is the actual story. It happens all the time.
posted by Justinian at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I don't think I've ever entered a country who has asked me to prove I had onward travel plans."

When I went to Tahiti you had to show customs your return ticket dated within three months of your arrival or be turned away. (This was in the late 90s so it may have changed, but I assume it's why everyone who has ever been to Tahiti isn't still there.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2013


It does seem a little strange to object to trying to determine if the story as presented in the FPP is the actual story. It happens all the time.

At the risk of seeming pedantic, that's not exactly what's happening here. The factual accuracy of the account cannot really be proven true or false with the available evidence and the available tools. If the various agencies have video, they can release that, and that may help to establish the truth or otherwise of the account. Or, obviously, if "Clay Nikiforuk" retracts her account, that would be another fairly solid datum. Likewise if a solid proof is provided on the nature of her business.

What has happened here, on the other hand, is the construction of a series of hypotheses. The first is that she is, in fact, a prostitute, because she has a profile page on misstravel.com (or at least, is said to - I haven't seen it personally) and describes herself as a model and actress, which is held to be a code term for "prostitute".

The next is that she is seeking to promote her fundraising drive to fund a book - a hypothesis based on the fact that if you google "Clay Nikiforuk" you can find video connected to an appeal for funding, and of course that there is a link to that appeal for funding at the bottom of the page.

There is then a piece of inductive reasoning based on these deduced premises - broadly, from those specific hypotheses (treated here as conclusions) to the broader proposition that someone who is obfuscating her status as a prostitute and is seeking to promote her web appeal should not be relied upon as a source of information. Although that is dependent on accepting those hypotheses, which I think are arguable but not inarguable, IYSWIM.

I think that the pursuit of truth in this context, however, is complicated by the broader context in which these inquiries are taking place. It's an unfortunate fact, but a recorded one, that a human flesh search looking for weak spots or possible hypocrisies is a thing that happens to women who speak out about... well, anything, really. That's not really in doubt: I can think a handful of examples right off the bat from the last couple of years. Different people have different opinions on which of these investigations were merited, and the strength of the evidence uncovered*, and it isn't exclusively a thing that happens to women, but it does seem to happen to women a lot. And that context is going to inform the kind of investigation taking place here, no matter how merited.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:58 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I completely understand the broader context. But this isn't everywhere else, this is metafilter. And historically speaking people here will look critically at any presentation of facts like in this FPP.

That said, I don't see why one would assume this is about selling a book. There are easier and less embarrassing ways to go about that. The other objection strikes me as much stronger; the agent likely had good reason to suspect she was engaged in sex work. Whether or not she actually was isn't certain, but there was a pattern of stuff that raised red flags. Legitimately, as far as I can tell.
posted by Justinian at 4:09 PM on April 7, 2013


The book thing was confusing to me. Looking at:

That her photo is right on the article, with a pseudonym that ties all of her profiles together, tells me that probably this article is advertisement for something.

I immediately found myself thinking "you know, lots of articles have photos of the writer on them - byline photos, for starters. And lots of writers have names that, when you google them, take you to their website and other Internet presences. And, thinking about it, many of those writers are trying to sell something".

In fact, I was kind of reminded of the case of Dr. Peter Watts, who was detained at the Canadian-American border and reported his mistreatments by American border police. The story here (warning: Boingboing link) has a picture of Peter Watts, and if you google Peter Watts you find his website, and also sites selling his books directly, such as Amazon. There's even a direct link in the article to the appeal to cover his legal costs.

So, yeah. It's tricky, because this is basically Schrodinger's sex worker. If one concludes that she is definitely a sex worker, and was definitely being recompensed by the man travelling with her - her ticket (which is AFAICT a conjecture based on her allegedly having a profile on misstravel.com) and directly in cash (which is a conjecture based on her stated hypothetical that if he were to have done so, it would have been a legal gift rather than an illegal act) or both, it reads one way. If not, it reads another way.

I'd suggest that in either case, if the reaction of the agents is being accurately reported, they are responding to any red flags in a pretty unusual way. If they are not being accurately reported, then the question of how she earns her money is not really relevant.

It's where one gets towards saying "I think that this is how she earns her money, and therefore I think her account of what was said to her is untrue" that things get dicey, because that's an actual, according-to-Hoyle argumentum ad hominem.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:38 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The other objection strikes me as much stronger; the agent likely had good reason to suspect she was engaged in sex work. Whether or not she actually was isn't certain, but there was a pattern of stuff that raised red flags. Legitimately, as far as I can tell.

What were the red flags precisely, though? The only "evidence" that the officers gave for suspecting her were that she was carrying condoms and that her traveling companion was married, that I can see. That's awfully thin evidence.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:39 PM on April 7, 2013


CBP (or regular cops for that matter) are under no obligation to present all their evidence to people seeking entry.
posted by Mitheral at 5:17 PM on April 7, 2013


Based on my interactions with border folks, I'd recommend using a small airplane to cross borders instead of a VW bus. Also, get a haircut, hippie.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 5:21 PM on April 7, 2013


I think that this is how she earns her money, and therefore I think her account of what was said to her is untrue

How about "there is enough missing information and strange framing of the situation in her account to make me feel unsure how trustworthy it is"? I don't think anyone is saying "no one can trust sex workers to tell the truth"--I think they're saying "this person doesn't seem to be giving a fully candid account of aspects of her background and situation that are clearly relevant to a full understanding of this story; consequently it is hard to feel entirely confident about any of the details of the story."
posted by yoink at 5:29 PM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


The other objection strikes me as much stronger; the agent likely had good reason to suspect she was engaged in sex work. Whether or not she actually was isn't certain, but there was a pattern of stuff that raised red flags. Legitimately, as far as I can tell.

The problem is that a well-founded suspicion that she was engaging in sex work doesn't excuse the agents' behaviour. We seem to have lost sight of that in the bid to prove she's clearly a prostitute.
posted by hoyland at 6:08 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Crossing into Vermont on 89, in my experience, is sometimes more involved than driving over to Magog and crossing on 91. While I have never experienced anything as bad as this, I can identify with the righteous indignation. In my experience, it is less hastle to fly Colombia to Maimi, or cross into Brownsville with no pluasible reason to have been dusting about northern Mexico for an hour. In years of travel, only crossing at 89 did I ever find myself in a backroom being interrogated. Anyway, it might add some time driving over to Magog if you are coming from Montreal, but the lines are shorter, and the border patrol does not deal with the same quality of theatre - depending on where you live you might get home faster using 91.
posted by relish at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2013


What i think this proves is there is very little evidence to suggest there is widespread sexism at the border, this case in itself is a confusing and confounding instance of alleged sexism, that personal morality and law enforcement practices are best treated as separate and distinct practices and a rush to judge her or the CBP/Federal Government is probably more reflective of personal biases/expectations than data.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:47 PM on April 7, 2013


The problem is that a well-founded suspicion that she was engaging in sex work doesn't excuse the agents' behaviour.

A "well-founded suspicion" that she was engaging in sex work is sufficient to cast doubt on the overall honesty and frankness of her account--which, in turn, makes us unsure how much to credit her account of the actions of the various agents she dealt with.
posted by yoink at 6:47 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we want to talk about terrible experiences at US border crossings, we have enough evidence to go around, even just from posters in this very thread. I don't know what to think of the FPP itself anymore, so I'm just going to put that particular testimony out of my mind.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:47 PM on April 7, 2013


> Montreal is what is called a 'pre-clearance station', where American immigration officials are in Montreal and you clear American immigration and customs in Montreal.

Ah, okay, thanks. I ask because I got treated very weirdly on my last vacation to Montreal with increasingly personal questions about my SO's and my relationship, why we're not living together (at the time, we were looking for a house), questioning how we going to buy a house together if we weren't married, when were planning to marry, (we're not), with a finale of how I would "run into trouble" and it would be seem suspicious for my SO and I to have different last names. ?!?!

He wasn't acting like he was truly going to detain me, and this was all at the regular border-crossing-kiosks. I'm not a student, my SO and I both had full-time jobs in the US and are American citizens, and this was for an ordinary six-day vacation that we planned ourselves. No idea what he was fishing for, the whole thing was very, very weird.
posted by desuetude at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2013


A "well-founded suspicion" that she was engaging in sex work is sufficient to cast doubt on the overall honesty and frankness of her account--which, in turn, makes us unsure how much to credit her account of the actions of the various agents she dealt with.

Umm... she seems fairly upfront about the purpose of her travel on all the trips described. It's also not like she's the only person reporting ill treatment by US immigration officials. If she were the only person doing so, perhaps we might want to proceed with great caution, but there is at least one anecdote in this thread that is more fucked up (to my mind anyway) than the story in the article. Or are the Mefites lying too?
posted by hoyland at 7:32 PM on April 7, 2013


Incidentaily, are there links to the Misstravel.com profile houstonian found, or Nikiforuk's itinerary, or the other things mentioned above? There don't seem to be links out to misstravel.com or another website, that I can find, from the Gofundme page or the Youtube channel...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:32 PM on April 7, 2013


I'd rather not see those links posted here.
posted by cribcage at 7:38 PM on April 7, 2013


I'd rather not see those links posted here.

I don't think running order squabble fest's point was that he thinks posting them is a great idea...
posted by hoyland at 7:41 PM on April 7, 2013


Then I'm unclear on the point.
posted by cribcage at 7:45 PM on April 7, 2013


I think the point is that the people interpreting the links as damning evidence of something (that the author is lying?) are presenting it as something Nikiforuk has made eminently public, but it's apparently unclear if that's the case.

(I did google Clay Nikiforuk just now. Only references to this article turn up. I haven't clicked through to her fundraising page or anything.)
posted by hoyland at 8:03 PM on April 7, 2013


Well, given that we've already linked "Clay Nikiforuk" to her real name above I'm not sure there's a consistent line on the desirability of that kind of disclosure.

However, it seems at present that the suspicion that she is a sex worker, that she is lying about not being a sex worker* and that we therefore should not trust any other part of her account is based on circumstantial evidence drawn from the web, to wit:

1) That she has a profile on Misstravel.com
2) That she mentions her extensive wardrobe available for customers on her website
3) That she's posted her profile and travel schedule on multiple websites.

However. My google-fu** is not able to substantiate any of these statements: Misstravel does not appear to be searchable by non-members, and her gofundme account and youtube account (which has three videos, none of which involve lingerie) seem only to link to each other. So, I don't really know what is meant by "her website", or indeed "multiple websites" - I mean, I used to put my itinerary on Dopplr, but I wasn't trying to communicate availability for sex work by doing so...

There are some other pieces of evidence which I can find but don't wholly understand, such as:

In the comments of the crowdsourcing video plea, she adds a link to this "End the Use of Condoms as Evidence" website, which quotes articles from almost a year ago.

This is true, but I initially took it as a proof that she has been beating a drum for the dangers of condoms being used as evidence for a long time, and is using this episode, however accurately reported, to add to that. Except, when I looked, I found that the link was posted four days ago, i.e. after the post about the borders. It's a link to a site which does indeed seem to date from Summer 2012, but I can't see any suggestion that she was involved in the creation of that site.

Or: And she's mostly packed lingerie and condoms.

Which seems to be a gloss on two different journeys - Vermont (lingerie and about eight condoms, according to Metro News) and Montreal/Aruba (an unspecified number of condoms, no specific mention of lingerie).

But these are relatively minor issues. Mainly, it has struck me that the two people who have viewed and commented on her modelling work have come out of it with very different impressions of the message being put across by her web presence. With that in mind, I'm uncertain about the confidence with which one can say based on that evidence that her relationships - with her modelling clients or her travelling companion to the Antilles - fit a legally incontestable definition of "sex work", rather than being simply activities of which we (or the border guards) might not approve, or which might in the case of the modelling work be outwith the conditions of her visa.

I feel like "we can be sure of this, but not this" is a phrase the "this" of which may be affected by what people are bringing to the situation rather than the available data, I guess.

*I think, to be exact, she doesn't state at any point that she is or is not a sex worker, only that concluding that she is based on her possession of condoms or underwear was overreach.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:52 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about "there is enough missing information and strange framing of the situation in her account to make me feel unsure how trustworthy it is"?

my main issue with this line of thinking is, ok, what does that matter in relation to a few of the things that were allegedly said? Like the sexual assault comment?

Regardless of if she's telling the whole truth here, some stuff went on that wouldn't be acceptable even if she extremely blatant about being a prostitute and had a little black book in her bag or some cartoon drama situation like that.

There is wrongdoing on their part that is just completely unacceptable regardless of what her back story is.

It's an unfortunate fact, but a recorded one, that a human flesh search looking for weak spots or possible hypocrisies is a thing that happens to women who speak out about... well, anything, really.

This is the main thing that's bothering me, and that i see going on here despite the fact that there's several comments going "well we can legitimate bring up those points that some terrible community like reddit instantly would because we're having a mature discussion even though we're pissing and shitting all over her in exactly the same way".

I see what almost amounts to an attempt at character assassination going on here, and some attempt to uncover some "tsa took my baby!" type lie. Basically that since she didn't openly state she's a sex worker(which she may or may not even be) in her blog, that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater and that the plausible fucked up things the border guards did should just be ignored as a work of fiction.

I'm not really comfortable with that, especially in this context. I don't really care how many times similar stories have been proven false, i'm willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt because people in shitty low wage security jobs with lots of power often act like assholes because they know people have no recourse, and a lot of times those people don't even have the voice to speak up.

I didn't see this level of questioning on the other recent border security ruckus with the famous author, who also happened to be a man. Just saying. It was there, but there wasn't this level of vitriol nor this desperate want to prove it was all a farce.
posted by emptythought at 9:20 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did she mention her book and make it easy to find because she's hoping that this article will net her some more interest in funding for it? Sure, probably, and this is absolutely commonplace from the lowest to the highest echelon of writers, entertainers, politicians, entrepreneurs, etc.

Did she exaggerate or even provoke her border-crossing experience just to give her fodder to promote her book? Uhh, unlikely, as similar experiences are well-corroborated.

Was she profiled for interrogation specifically because of condoms? Impossible to say.

Was the suspicion of her being a prostitute legitimate? It seems like the rationale was highly circumstantial and arbitrary at best. An awful lot of women travel with men who are not their husbands without being taken aside for interrogation.

Was her treatment justified in terms of the stated reason of suspicion of prostitution and/or trafficking? Noooo. Because if preventing trafficking is the issue, then she should have been protected as a victim. If preventing adultery or consensual prostitution is the issue, he's as much (if not more) of the criminal than she is.
posted by desuetude at 11:05 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


questioning how we going to buy a house together if we weren't married, when were planning to marry, (we're not), with a finale of how I would "run into trouble" and it would be seem suspicious for my SO and I to have different last names. ?!?!

I find it also absurd that anyone who has any exposure to Quebec would ask any of those questions given that not marrying or taking on a spouse's name is the social norm here.

The only theory I can have is that they are instructed to ask any stupid question they like as part of generally trying to read travellers and some of them ask particularly stupid, paternal questions because they are the sort of busybody who would ask that sort of thing. Like some sort of stereotypical busy-body church lady except with a badge.
posted by Phalene at 4:54 AM on April 8, 2013


While I have never had any problems with crossing the border as an American in Quebec on either side--except for one gentleman who just felt he had to make a point by searching my car because a woman going to Newport, Vermont for groceries just has to be hiding something--and I cross back and forth a lot, I have quite a few Canadian friends who have had extremely negative experiences with American border guards, even a friend who was banned from the US for five years because the border guard decided that my friend's work visa was a fraud and amounted to him "taking away American jobs." So he lost his very lucrative job as an IT consultant in New Hampshire because one guy decided to be an utter dick.

I will never doubt that border guards of any stripe and in any country can get on power trips, but dammit, some courtesy for human decency and not asking shitty questions should not be optional.
posted by Kitteh at 8:19 AM on April 8, 2013


Funny story. Years ago, two of my work colleagues, both women, accompanied a group of Danish car dealers on a trip to Canada to visit the strip clubs. Both women were dressed in suits and waited on the buses for the dealers to have their fun and then come back through the Windsor/Detroit border. When they got to the border--keep in mind, these two American, professionally dressed women were on a bus with a bunch of drunk middle aged white guys, none of whom were speaking ANY English at this point in the evening--guess who was detained? Yep, my two colleagues. Apparently, the border guards were convinced that they were strippers, in "costume," coming back with the dealers for some extra curricular hanky panky.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:38 AM on April 8, 2013


It's also not like she's the only person reporting ill treatment by US immigration officials. If she were the only person doing so, perhaps we might want to proceed with great caution, but there is at least one anecdote in this thread that is more fucked up (to my mind anyway) than the story in the article. Or are the Mefites lying too?

Surely you can see the problem of saying "I'll believe this story to be true because it is the sort of thing I believe generally to be true," no?

And surely, too, you can see the difference between comments in a Mefi thread and an article linked to in a FPP?

I don't say that anyone is lying--I say simply that I find enough about the article to ring oddly and enough doubt raised by the research others have done to feel that it's not a great go-to example of "this sort of thing." If I wanted to convince a sceptical friend that immigration officials can be arbitrary little tyrants (which I firmly believe) I would not link them to this story. I would find one (which would, of course, be trivially easy) from a source who does a better job of convincing us that the account they are giving is candid and, insofar as it is possible in such a case, unbiased. In other words, as an FPP designed to shed light on the issue at hand, it is sorely lacking. If all it does is lrovide us with an occasion to say "yes, I already know that this sort of thing goes on" then, self-evidently, it is not providing any new light on the issue.
posted by yoink at 1:30 PM on April 8, 2013


Yeah, I don't think anyone has denied that customs agents at the US border often suck. Just the account in the FPP. Because that's what the FPP is about! It's not some sort of referendum on the validity of general critiques of customs agents.
posted by Justinian at 5:51 PM on April 8, 2013


Was the suspicion of her being a prostitute legitimate? It seems like the rationale was highly circumstantial and arbitrary at best.

Doesn't that depend on whether the agent had knowledge of her misstravel.com profile?
posted by Justinian at 5:56 PM on April 8, 2013


> I find it also absurd that anyone who has any exposure to Quebec would ask any of those questions given that not marrying or taking on a spouse's name is the social norm here.

This was particularly confusing to me as well. I dunno, maybe he was practicing for when an actual suspicious person came through his line.
posted by desuetude at 8:53 PM on April 8, 2013


Doesn't that depend on whether the agent had knowledge of her misstravel.com profile?

The agent certainly had knowledge of the stamps in her passport, which reflected a high frequency of international travel according her published travel history. The agent also had access to her luggage brimming with lingerie and condoms. His suspicions were not unreasonable. In fact, he was right.

It seems like the rationale was highly circumstantial and arbitrary at best.

I wish people would be smarter about "circumstantial". "Circumstantial" does not mean "crap". DNA collected by a rape kit is circumstantial evidence.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:36 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The agent certainly had knowledge of the stamps in her passport, which reflected a high frequency of international travel according her published travel history. The agent also had access to her luggage brimming with lingerie and condoms. His suspicions were not unreasonable.

Brimming? How do you know how many condoms she was carrying or what other clothing was in her suitcase?

Exactly how much pretty underwear is a woman permitted to bring on vacation with her without running afoul of border-crossing laws? What's the formula? Is it one item of lingerie per condom, unless she has been to more than three countries this year, at which point she's only allowed one set of lingerie per condom? What she doesn't have condoms, THEN how much pretty underwear is allowed?

I'm no good at mathematical notation, so maybe someone else can write this out so that it can be calculated.

I just want to warn the women I know who are musicians who tour or take travel gigs, academics who attend conferences, physicians and nurses who go on humanitarian trips, and teachers at English-language schools overseas. Between work and leisure travel, they do a whole lot more international than this writer (was it Brussels or Berlin that put her over the edge?) and I know that some of them like pretty lingerie. I'm not sure what method of birth control each of them use; it never occurred to me to ask.
posted by desuetude at 7:16 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


People are sometimes arrested with ski masks. But generally speaking, those people have committed robberies and their arrests don't give me pause about buying my own ski mask.
posted by cribcage at 8:37 PM on April 9, 2013


I'm no good at mathematical notation, so maybe someone else can write this out so that it can be calculated.

The several paragraphs about mathematical formulas are cute, but are not responsive. Just because there is no bright-line test does not mean that nothing can be ascertained. What formula should I use to find out if someone is "tall"?

The biggest thing that likely roused the border agent's suspicion, which garnered no mention at all in the article that I can recall, were the passport stamps. The schedule excerpts on her website reflected crossing borders more than once a month, including two entries into the US in as many weeks. Border agents are suspicious of frequent multiple entries by non-citizens. I have been asked questions by Japanese immigration agents why I travel to Japan so much. This is not a violation of my rights. The reason is that I have no right to enter a foreign country. You enter a foreign country at their will and pleasure. And again, the mean border agent in this case was 100% correct in his conclusions.

So, to answer your question, there is no formula because there can be no formula. You have no right to enter a foreign country. If you start a discussion with a foreign country's border agent insisting on your right to enter, your day is going to get worse.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:58 AM on April 10, 2013


> What formula should I use to find out if someone is "tall"?

A yardstick? And unless "tall" is a crime, I'm not sure how it's a relevant analogy.

> Border agents are suspicious of frequent multiple entries by non-citizens. I have been asked questions by Japanese immigration agents why I travel to Japan so much. This is not a violation of my rights.

It would have been perfectly reasonable to ask her why she travels between Canada and the US so frequently. (Not that it's uncommon, seeing as how the countries are right next to each other, but I digress.) When you were asked why you travel to Japan so frequently, did the agents also accuse you outright of committing any crimes? Question you for hours and cause you to miss your flight? Fingerprint you?

If you start a discussion with a foreign country's border agent insisting on your right to enter, your day is going to get worse.

She didn't "start a discussion," multiple border agents did.
posted by desuetude at 8:07 PM on April 11, 2013


A yardstick? And unless "tall" is a crime, I'm not sure how it's a relevant analogy.

A yardstick does not have graduations for "short" and "tall". At least, no yardstick that I have ever seen.

It would have been perfectly reasonable to ask her why she travels between Canada and the US so frequently. (Not that it's uncommon, seeing as how the countries are right next to each other, but I digress.) When you were asked why you travel to Japan so frequently, did the agents also accuse you outright of committing any crimes? Question you for hours and cause you to miss your flight? Fingerprint you?

I have my fingerprint scanned upon entry into Japan and the United States, actually.

I was not asked about committing crimes. This is probably because I did not evidence any intent to commit crimes in Japan. In this case, the border agent was 100% in his conclusions that "Clay" was involved in exchanging sex for money.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:14 AM on April 12, 2013


In this case, the border agent was 100% in his conclusions that "Clay" was involved in exchanging sex for money.

Except that she wasn't.
posted by hoyland at 5:43 PM on April 12, 2013


I think a fair interpretation of misstravel.com is "sex for money".
posted by Justinian at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2013


Not really. It's clearly not 'sex for money' in a literal sense. It's sex for some kind of renumeration, though the site would dispute that. But renumeration in the form of travel isn't really analogous to getting money or some sort of object. You can't pay your rent with a plane ticket, nor can you sell it. Maybe they chose that form of renumeration specifically because it's not money. Maybe not. But it's still not money.

Tanizaki asserted that the agent was "100% in his conclusions that "Clay" was involved in exchanging sex for money." The last part is totally incorrect. I also understood him to be asserting that the reason she deserved to be hassled at the border was because CBP were correct in their belief that she would commit a crime in the US (and that this crime was exchanging sex for money). But, on top of the last bit about sex for money being incorrect, we don't have sufficient information to conclude a crime was being committed. I don't know at what point exchanging sex for something that is not money becomes a crime (never? only if you can sell the thing received in exchange? always?), but let's assume travelling on a plane ticket acquired in exchange for sex is illegal. We don't know that's what she was doing when she crossed the border. It's supposition based on the idea that a woman with a profile on Misstravel is obviously a promiscuous prostitute (and therefore should be treated in a way that ought to be a firing offense). We know she wasn't married to the man she was travelling with, that this man was married to someone else, that his wife was aware they were travelling together, that they intended to 'share a bed' (euphemistically or not) and that the man had paid for the tickets. Notably, we don't know how she knows this man. So I'm a little curious how we know the agent was "100% in his conclusions".
posted by hoyland at 2:25 PM on April 13, 2013


> We know she wasn't married to the man she was travelling with, that this man was married to someone else, that his wife was aware they were travelling together, that they intended to 'share a bed' (euphemistically or not) and that the man had paid for the tickets. Notably, we don't know how she knows this man. So I'm a little curious how we know the agent was "100% in his conclusions".

Agreed. Which brings us full circle back to the entire point of the article: sexism at the border. Carrying condoms is considered suspicious behavior for a woman, but not a man. Not only that, it is beyond suspicious -- condoms were considered sufficient evidence to accuse Ms. Nikiforuk of being a prostitute.
The next thing I knew he was searching my bags, pulling out condoms and waving them in my face. "I could have you charged with being a working girl! The proof is right here!"
> I was not asked about committing crimes. This is probably because I did not evidence any intent to commit crimes in Japan.

Apparently, you don't need evidence. She didn't have any condoms with her the third time. Prior suspicion was good enough to detain, threaten, and bar future border crossings.
posted by desuetude at 3:18 PM on April 15, 2013


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