Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


‘This is just like in the movies.’
October 12, 2013 8:32 AM   Subscribe

"We are under the impression you have more ties with more countries we are not on friendly terms with than your own. We decided to bring you back to the Canadian border."
Dutch writer and animator Niels Gerson Lohman: Why I Will Never Return to the USA (nederlandse versie)
posted by anemone of the state (92 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
In a similar vein, just saw this yesterday with the winner of a quote, "America Knows Everything"

As someone who's spent a lot of the past 5+ years living & speaking with citizens of other countries, I can't begin to describe how often I am ashamed to be from the USA.
posted by crayz at 8:40 AM on October 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yeah, one more example of why I don't want to get anywhere near the US for the foreseeable future. Not so much that I'm worried somebody would have it in for me or that it would be high risk, but if something did go wrong you're fucked and it's slightly too easy to disappear completely into the American justice system.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:51 AM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


You have to be a special kind of asshole to travel to a foreign country and make a joke about a national tragedy, like Katrina, to the border control officials. I wonder if he left out his quips about 9/11.
posted by motorcycles are jets at 8:57 AM on October 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


You have to be a special kind of asshole to treat visitors to your country like that.
posted by anemone of the state at 9:00 AM on October 12, 2013 [78 favorites]


Eh, I think he just got unlucky with the border agents, and I think he probably had more of an attitude than he lets on. There are two sides to every story. But I will say that in my limited experience at the Canadian border (at Niagara Falls), the agents on the U.S. side were the most depressed, bored border agents I've run into. My friend and I walked across the bridge to Canada for a few minutes to get a nice view of the falls, and coming back we passed again through security.

He looked at our passports and VERY solemnly asked "What were you doing in Canada?" to which we bemusedly replied "Umm.. just looking at the waterfall for a few minutes.." He stamped our passports, and with a face like a pallbearer looked up at us and said, "Goodbye." with a fiercely peculiar finality! My friend leaned in and said, "What?" Haha, and it was almost as if he realized how silly his comment was and he sheepishly said "Goodbye..?" again and feigned an embarrassed smile.

As we walked past I said to my friend "What a welcome!"

Pssh, dicks at the border, yo.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:01 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd be surprised if the border guards cared about Katrina. I think they were more likely annoyed that he'd given a smart-ass answer instead of brown-nosing. Now, it's very true that only a fool goes out of his way to insult a border guard of country he wants to get in to, but nonetheless, the guard's job is remain professional about it.
posted by tyllwin at 9:03 AM on October 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


I guess I'd better not write what I think about this, in case somebody reads it someday who's deciding whether or not to let me back into the country.

I love this country. Land of the free. Greatest country in the world.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:07 AM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just an isolated incident.
posted by Dimpy at 9:09 AM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


You have to be a special kind of asshole to travel to a foreign country and make a joke about a national tragedy, like Katrina, to the border control officials.

What if you don't leave the US of A and make a joke about Katrina on Internet forums?

That just make you a regular asshole?

Would you be a special kind of asshole trying to cross the border with encrypted media because you wanted to be secure with your private papers? I ask because I sometimes travel within 100 miles of a border with encrypted media and for some bizarre reason think I have "rights". Just wondering how right ol' Chairman Mao and his "power comes from the barrel of a gun" statement now is.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:12 AM on October 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


You have to be a special kind of asshole to travel to a foreign country and make a joke about a national tragedy

Tiny-dicked Hitlers getting some payback don't need any excuse to make your life a misery.

Haven't visited the US since my last encounter with border agents in 2002. I doubt I ever will again even though they actually let me into the country.

Life's too short and the world is too big.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:14 AM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


How like my fellow Americans to make excuses for the brutish behavior of our border guards. I don't know which to be more discouraged by, the degeneration of my country into a police state, or the belligerently defensive attitude of its thick citizens. "It Can't Happen Here" is happening around us.
posted by anguspodgorny at 9:20 AM on October 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


Allthough fascinated by all things american, I won't be visiting soon due to things like this. The way some folks just accept the current situation at the border as normal might be even scarier than the borderpolice itself.
posted by Kosmob0t at 9:23 AM on October 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I can think of better reasons to never come to America. The gun laws, for one.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:33 AM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


You can handpick stories like this of authoritarian power abuses in every country in the world if you want to. That doesn't excuse them, but it's a lie to pretend this is somehow uniquely American.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:34 AM on October 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


The second story linked by Dimpy a few posts up is a must-hear. I listened to it a couple weeks ago and was in a constant state of are-you-fucking-kidding-me while it played and for a while after.
posted by a birds at 9:37 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't ever been treated with anything other than professionalism the many times I've passed through passport control in Schiphol. Yes I have been questioned about my business and the stamps in my passport. But the questions were asked with good humor, seemed rational (e.g., why did you cross the land frontier between Israel and Egypt?), and the agent was never too stupid or ignorant to understand the answer (asked in my native language and not theirs, no less). They even once congratulated me on my Dutch, which is as sure a sign of their politeness as can exist. These jerks should be ashamed. We in the US should not tolerate thugs being our country's face to the outside world.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:40 AM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


but it's a lie to pretend this is somehow uniquely American.

I don't know how one would gain statistical proof of this, but there's certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence that the US has a paranoid and unhinged suspicion of foreigners that is unmatched by any Western democracy.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:40 AM on October 12, 2013 [40 favorites]


We don't know enough about this case. His own home security agencies might have disowned him for all we know. Regardless, based on his own admissions, he went to terrorist-friendly Yemen, and made a reference about levees breaking, which might be added into the border patrol's point system as an expectation of a disaster or an anti-American sentiment. He also renounced religion, which should count as a positive, but I would bet they still count it as a negative from the cold war.
posted by Brian B. at 9:42 AM on October 12, 2013


We don't know enough about this case.

All the examples you give are at best explenations, not excuses for why he was treated this way, of the usual victim blaming kind, all of which assume that these border guards have the right to behave the way they do.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:47 AM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


if you meticulously tally every possible mistake someone made while being subject to an abuse of power, the government will come to your house and give you a special trophy
posted by a birds at 9:49 AM on October 12, 2013 [27 favorites]


the US has a paranoid and unhinged suspicion of foreigners that is unmatched by any Western democracy.

Even if this is true, we're not just talking about western democracies. The guy's not saying he'll never go to Sri Lanka or Yemen again. Nobody in this thread is saying, "I'd never go to the US, because it's as scary as the Middle East."

Maybe the US is the worst if you compare it to the EU and Canada, but nobody's saying, "I'll never go to Africa or the Middle East because of the gun laws."

Coming to the US on an EU passport is hardly the scariest travel you can do. If you're serious about your "I'd never go there!" remarks, there are a lot of other places you should feel the same way about.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:50 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have to say I was frisked in a horribly excessive way in Schiphol, just three weeks ago, while flying to London. They were polite but Jebus.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:50 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't have to make jokes about levees or have stamps from "Islamic" countries in your passport to be harassed by US border guards. In fact, you don't even have to be a foreigner or cross a border -- I was detained and physically assaulted by border guards for the suspicious activity of driving a van across West Texas on I-10. If I wasn't already in the US, I wouldn't want to come here, either.
posted by bradf at 9:51 AM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know how one would gain statistical proof of this, but there's certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence that the US has a paranoid and unhinged suspicion of foreigners that is unmatched by any Western democracy.

Totally anecdotal here. Asian-American. I totally agree that the US has byzantine and paranoid views of visitors (and a complex-enough immigration system to match), but I have to note that the (multiple) times I've had openly racist remarks directed to me because of my Asian appearance have been in Western Europe, and not in backwater rural parts of western Europe, either.

I'm not saying that western Europe or other Western democracies have anything near America's suspicion of foreigners (and I suspect my lack of racism in America has been luck in large part) but I sometimes get frustrated when people talk about the US as if it's so, so much worse on immigration/race issues than the rest of the West.
posted by andrewesque at 9:53 AM on October 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


I hate returning to the United States, because my expectation-based on my experience- is that the border patrol person will be brusque at best and make me feel like a criminal at worst. I contrast this with returning to New Zealand where I was inevitably greeted with some cheery variation of "welcome home" even though I was just a permanent resident and not a citizen.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:55 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have to be a special kind of asshole to travel to a foreign country and make a joke about a national tragedy, like Katrina, to the border control officials.

Yeah, I don't think that's a good idea either, which is why I find it strange when I hear about North Americans traveling to Japan and and saying "the bombs saved lives!!"
posted by honor the agreement at 9:56 AM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can handpick stories like this of authoritarian power abuses in every country in the world if you want to. That doesn't excuse them, but it's a lie to pretend this is somehow uniquely American.
I'd have less trouble with that statement if he'd merely been delayed for a few hours. Just this summer a friend of mine missed a plane from Heathrow to Ireland because she didn't have a piece of paper from a university saying she'd be a student. (When asked why she was there, she could have said "tourist" and walked right by customs, but she answered truthfully, and was punished for it.) But she caught a later flight.

But they didn't just question him and delay him. They sent him back to Canada! Are we so freaking paranoid that anyone who travels to non-white or Islamic-majority countries won't even be allowed to visit? That's nuts.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:57 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm French Canadian and have had some very special encounters crossing the US / Canada border and they have all occurred when traveling by bus or by train. You get extra special border guard treatment on trains and buses. Mostly because of law enforcement's uncanny ability to detect who is relatively helpless and target them in particular and probably because train and bus border guards are the absolute lowest status on the border patrol totem pole. Flying or driving I have barely even had to answer even a single question.
posted by srboisvert at 10:05 AM on October 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


That doesn't excuse them, but it's a lie to pretend this is somehow uniquely American.

Not uniquely American, but decidedly un-American.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:17 AM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I doubt this is a story unique to the American border patrol. I imagine travellers around the world have been unfortunately detained by various border patrol agencies, for various causes unrelated to those travellers themselves.

To take this from the other side of the story, a traveller from Amsterdam arrives in Canada. He has visited several countries hostile to the US – as the agent (and author, in fact) mention, he has visited more countries hostile to the US, than not hostile to the US.

Regarding the comments about American paranoia and fear, it cannot be discounted that America is a very real target for terrorism. One of the reasons that New York and London are consistently targets for terror attacks is that they are two of the most 'free' cities in the history of the world. Each contains over ten million people from all around the world, coming together to create living societies. These are not promised to be utopias, but they are bastions of personal freedom and opportunity – that is undeniable.

And so they are targets for terrorism – the same magnetic force that attracts people to them, also makes them magnets for a different kind of attention. The kind of attention that can bring great visibility and infamy to terrorist groups. The balance for these places is always going to how to both enable freedom and opportunity, whilst also keeping these places safe.

To say it again for effect, America is a very real target for terrorism. Of that, there can be no discussion. Exacerbating that fact are the realities that the country is very big, and there is no restriction of movement once inside the country. Rather than restrict movement inside the country, the choice the security services have made is to control the borders – limiting who gets into the country.

And what other decision is to be made? One of the amazing facts about America is that it is easily traversable, and there is no restriction of movement. There is comparatively light regulation when in the country, in relation to many other countries. If one is going to allow for tremendous freedom within a country that is a constant target for terrorist attacks, it would follow that the only opportunity to maintain security within, is to control the borders themselves.

That the security services are often heavy-handed probably less reflects the paranoia of America, and more the reality that they are the gateway to a country of 350M people with no restriction on movement. That's quite an intense job, and the price of failure can potentially be very high.

As an American, occasionally I find the security services to be quite heavy-handed when I return, but the more I've thought about it, the more I have come to the conclusion that they are not being heavy-handed for the sake of exerting authority or ego, but rather they are being heavy-handed because they have to be. In order to ensure the security of the country.

Now, if we are to talk about the reasons that America is a terror target, that is a very different discussion. It is a multi-layered and ambiguous conversation, and whilst I have viewpoints, I will not make simplistic arguments as to US foreign policy or the projection of US power abroad. Those definitely have a hand in making the US a terror target, but that is an awfully nuanced area that is really beyond my ability to comment.

It seems as if the author thought this was a bit of a joke, up until he realised that actually, he was not in fact going to be admitted to the country. The bit about the levees breaking again is an example of that. That was a very sad circumstance for a lot of people, and whilst there were multiple failures in the response, I don't think anyone acted in malice. It was a tremendous failure, people died, and it just generally sucked. To make a joke about it to the an American border agent is the first indication of a type of ego that I imagine can cause one trouble in certain situations.

If one is crossing the border into Spain, wearing a thick vest, would it be wise to say one is doing so in case there is another train station bombing? If one had a first aid kit going to Swiss, would it be wise to say that's in case of another train derail? Those are strange comments to make – comments that do not reflect the reality of the situation.

If you are crossing the US border, you are crossing from one country into another. You are not entitled to cross the border. There is no universal law that says one country has to let the citizen of another country in. When you are entering into someone else's country, you are a guest of that country, and should behave as such. Yes, you may be bringing tourist dollars in. Yes, you may have deeply personal reasons to be there. Yes, it would be better for everyone if they would let you in. But to feel entitled to be admitted, to the point of making jokes to a border agent, is passive aggressive.

If you went to someone's house as a guest, and when they open the door, you insult them – do you think they will still invite you in? Why should they? It's their house. They can close the door, and you can go home. Which is what happened here.

I feel sorry for this man, that he was not able to achieve the closure with his father's death that he was looking for. But he has to own the fact that:

1) The United States is a target for terrorism.
2) He has traveled to several countries hostile to the United States.
3) He entered in a way that terrorists are known to enter – by transiting to Canada first.
4) He acted passive aggressively and hostile to the border guards.

What decision were they to make? This was certainly a false positive in terms of rejecting a tourist who it was probably safe to let in, however, everyone else on the train seemed to make it through border security without too much of a problem. The outlier was him, so perhaps it's best to look at his actions in terms of why he was rejected from entering the US, as opposed to making blanket statements about the state of US border security.

Apparently 64 million people visit the United States each year. 64 million people are accepted to visit the US. This one was not. I am going to error on the side that it is something specific to him, either his actions or his background, that resulted in his rejection.

It's worth noting that one of the reasons Chicago lost it's Olympic bid was said to be that the Olympic officials were concerned about the ability of foreign nationals to get entry clearance to the US, and then their treatment once they arrived in the US. That is unfortunate, for sure, but if the question is national security over hosting the Olympics, as attractive as the event is, national security seems to win out.

Now, when I arrive in Britain, I am amazed by the both the thoroughness and fluidity of the British immigration service. They have both excellent border security, as well as (usually) very genteel treatment upon arrival. As I've thought about this over the years, I think it's because of UK taxes. Like many social services in the UK, they are funded by a high tax regime. In terms of border control, that means probably more money invested per unit of border to protect. More staff per unit of border. Better pay for staff per unit of border. More genteel treatment at the border itself.

That could be entirely wrong, but that is my intuition. In America, there is A LOT of border to manage. A LOT of border. There is the constant goal in America to keep taxes as low as possible, and therefore, social services operate on a minimalist basis. The goal of the border patrol is not to be hospitable to foreigners, but to protect the border – and they are funded to the level to do exactly that. If one wanted better treatment at the border, the resources for that have to come from somewhere. And due to the size of the borders, we are not talking about an insignificant amount of money.

Thus, personally, I greatly respect people who man borders in America, because they have a really tough job. They have to make tough calls. Since 64 million people managed to make it, and this guy didn't, I am going to attribute it to an unfortunate circumstance.

And finally, not only did he make a joke about Hurricane Katrina, but he also admits to bribing an official in the Philippines to get his visa extended. So, here I see a man who expects the world to bend to him – who feels entitled to traipse around the world, doing as he likes. That's great, but it's always important to know where power lies in one's interactions, and in this case, he found out that the United States border patrol had all the power in this situation, and in fact, he had none.

Perhaps we will see a follow-up essay on personal responsibility entitled how one poorly-timed joke can ruin your holiday.
posted by nickrussell at 10:23 AM on October 12, 2013 [20 favorites]


All the examples you give are at best explenations, not excuses for why he was treated this way, of the usual victim blaming kind, all of which assume that these border guards have the right to behave the way they do.

I regret he was not allowed to visit, but from an agent's viewpoint, mistakes are made when a criminal gets through, not when an innocent is rejected. The benefit of doubt is earned for strangers at the border, who should present themselves as friendly and not suspicious. The agents have no such burden and are there to scare targeted people nervous so they will say and do revealing things. If people are shocked by this, they are naive about the changes that will occur if another terrorist strike happens, as this will be but a quaint footnote about the time when it was relatively easy to cross.
posted by Brian B. at 10:27 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have almost grown to be on a first name basis with some of the CBP agents at the Vancouver airport. I have a few general impressions.

I have a friend who is a Canadian border guard and spent many years in small rural border crossings where all you had for company were your American colleagues. I asked him why the US guards were so weird and abrasive and standoffish. His take was that many - or all - of them are given their first assignments on the Mexican border where they are trained in the art of being presumed guilty before proving innocence. He said since 9/11 many border guards have simply clammed up with fear at the prospect that "it might be me that lets the next one in."

The US border is the place where the US government can take completely arbitrary measures against you. As long as you haven't entered the country, you can be denied for any reason. They don't have to give a rationale for their decision...because you haven't been admitted yet. If you are denied entry they will offer you a chance to swear an affidavit about your activities - which I have done when I withdrew a visa application once - but if no paper has passed between you, you have no rights.

It is sometimes amusing to watch Canadians feign righteous indignation at this state of affairs. "I have a right to enter!!" they pout. No you don't Don't argue. No one cares. The RCMP will be happy to take you back home. This attitude ensures that every single time you try in the future you will have an hour long visit to secondary screening. Five more years awaits of missed flights, stupid questions and time wasting. When you get a new passport number, you will get your life back.

In secondary screening I have found border guards to be very inconsistent in their questions. They are nice to someone and then they turn grouchy on you. They lecture you about the state of your resume and then they express sympathy for you when you miss your flight. My friend told me that this is all to create a little pressure so that if you are hiding anything you will tip your hand.

The best pieces of advice I have for you if you are crossing into the US are these: You are owed nothing, so don't get indignant. Know that the CBP is mostly worried about you living illegally in the US. They will be very interested to know when you are leaving. Tell the truth when you are asked questions. Answer only what is asked. Do not elaborate or get chit chatty. Don't try to work there without the proper documentation. Don't make jokes. And for God's sake snark belongs on Metafilter, not in the real world of cynical border interrogations.

The USA has human beings guarding its border but they are given a cynical mandate. Some of them relish that, others just do their job, bored and tired. Some like messing with other humans, and some are ashamed that this is what they have to do to get health benefits and pay their mortgages.

Be polite, don't lie and don't expect them to give you anything. It is a demeaning experience, dehumanizing and ridiculous. It would not be what I would chose. But it is what it is. It would surprise me that border guards would treat people outrightly racistly in the public eye, but don't expect that your story is unique. if you can sell it to a magazine, good for you.
posted by salishsea at 10:31 AM on October 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


I regret he was not allowed to visit, but from an agent's viewpoint, mistakes are made when a criminal gets through, not when an innocent is rejected.
Wrong. Both are mistakes. (Type 1 and type 2 errors.)

Additionally, I don't know the exact rules the border guards are supposed to uphold, but I'm guessing they are those related to border crossing. Papers correct, customs, no illegal drugs, etc. They are not a police force. If someone seems odd, they should notify the FBI, but I don't see why one guy should be able to reject someone merely because of his passport stamps.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:34 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


People who didn't, as I did, grow up on the Canadian side of the U.S./Canada border, are often surprised by my accounts of pre-9/11 border crossings. The interviews on the American side usually went like this:

"Where are you from?"
"Canada."
"Where you going?"
"To get gas."
"Go ahead."
*waves hand lazily*
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't know the exact rules the border guards are supposed to uphold, but I'm guessing they are those related to border crossing. Papers correct, customs, no illegal drugs, etc. They are not a police force.

Come on now, you're just being provocative for the sake of being provocative.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Border_Patrol
The United States Border Patrol (USBP) is an American federal law enforcement agency. Its mission is to detect and prevent illegal aliens, terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, and prevent illegal trafficking of people and contraband.

It is an agency within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

With over 21,000 agents, the U.S. Border Patrol is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States.
posted by nickrussell at 10:45 AM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Regarding the comments about American paranoia and fear, it cannot be discounted that America is a very real target for terrorism. One of the reasons that New York and London are consistently targets for terror attacks is that they are two of the most 'free' cities in the history of the world. Each contains over ten million people from all around the world, coming together to create living societies. These are not promised to be utopias, but they are bastions of personal freedom and opportunity – that is undeniable.

I would like proof that the USA is a special target for terrorism. The reasons you give boil down to "because they hate our freedom", which is one of the most ignorant possible explanations for terrorism imaginable. Do we truly experience more frequent acts of terrorism than one sees in other countries? Do we truly experience more attempts at illegal entry for the sake of attacking our "freedom" than other countries? Many other countries, Western and not, have experienced terrorist attacks. 9/11 was a particularly terrible one, but we have let it redefine our approach to civil rights and the rest of the world in the way no other country has with their own terrorism experiences. For example, last I checked the Madrid 2004 bombings have not created a "NEVAR FORGET" movement by which every possible action against a non-white, non-American person can be justified.

I think America is consumed with a belief in its own exceptionalism, consumed with ego, and its approach to non-Americans at the border simply ties into it. We're so special, so special, that everyone must be trying to invade us and leech off of our free society. Or destroy it. One of the two.

I'd like you to review your comment for a moment and read it from the perspective of someone not living in America, just going about their business, who would like to visit family living in Podunk, Ohio and is hearing some border guard lecture them about how special and free America is and how that makes us delicate flowers who cannot bear to have Germans and Dutch and Indians step onto our borders.
posted by schroedinger at 10:47 AM on October 12, 2013 [63 favorites]


What if you don't leave the US of A and make a joke about Katrina on Internet forums?

That just make you a regular asshole?


Yes.
posted by samofidelis at 10:49 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't even want to RTFA because I know it's going to be a horror story and I hate reading those. I used to work for an immigration lawyer who dealt with corporate cases and the border patrol/immigration officials who controlled entry treated so many of them so horribly (and often not entirely in accordance with the law, sometimes rather opposite) that I can imagine what the article must be like--and I moved on from that job before 9/11. One more story of "this asshole should be fired" is only going to raise my blood pressure.

Having said that, my personal worst experience with immigration/border control was leaving the UK as a teenager. My paperwork had been messed up (my parents' stay had been extended by the Home Office but mine had not, and nobody caught the oversight) so I was technically an illegal alien myself for a while. I had a border control guy yelling in my face for 10 minutes until my parents came back from the gate to rescue me. I was about 15 and my age was clearly marked on the passport the official was screaming at me about. Dickishness at the border isn't a US-only phenomenon.
posted by immlass at 11:03 AM on October 12, 2013


This is similar to the treatment I got in the Summer of 2001 crossing from Switzerland into Italy, The border guards there really wanted me to be transporting drugs and were violently insistent that I must have been and extremely pissed when it turned out that I wasn't.

Dicks are dicks all over the world and "border guard" is a popular occupation for them.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:04 AM on October 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


how special and free America is and how that makes us delicate flowers who cannot bear to have Germans and Dutch and Indians step onto our borders.

Nope. My argument has nothing to do with the fact that "they hate our freedom". It's that the economies of cities like London and New York are huge, bigger than many countries. That is a result of the freedoms found in those cities. Freedom to meet different people, connect with new ideas, start businesses. Not that these things cannot be done in other places, but that the network effect of having so many people in one place results in tremendous economic activity.

I am not meaning Freedom, as in constitutional freedom and rights, but rather freedom in the sense of the sheer opportunity that results from having millions of people in one place.

If you require additional help with that differentiation:

the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.

And the fact that both cities have been traditional targets for terrorism because they are so high profile on the world stage, primarily due to the number of people present, and level of economic output.

Further, I think you are underestimating 9/11. It was one of the most deadly terrorist attacks to date, and I think you should have an appreciation for the gravity of that.

I know your argument well, and you can have that argument. But please realise that is your argument, and do not attribute it to what I have said.
posted by nickrussell at 11:10 AM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


What I find most depressing is the agent saying "you're not under arrest but we'd like to search you". It's just so disingenuous. What are you if not free to go? Maybe it's not legally arrest but it's emotionally the same.

But as a US citizen, I think it's telling that I find going to Canada less stressful at the border than returning. Perhaps I just don't hear about capricious decision making at the Canadian border, but I find re-entering the US scary and worry how I word everything even while I think I'm being honest.
posted by R343L at 11:10 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think America is consumed with a belief in its own exceptionalism, consumed with ego, and its approach to non-Americans at the border simply ties into it.

Nobody here has established that the border crossings in the US are generally any different than comparable places. Perhaps you could prove that first, or it demonstrates the opposite of exceptional.
posted by Brian B. at 11:20 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm with ya buddy. I can see the US from my window, and I love it (for the natural beauty), but I avoid going there, if I can. It's just too dehumanizing in a way that I haven't experienced going to other countries.

On the other hand, it's helpful for white people to experience what it's like to have your privilege taken away, even to a lesser degree than people of colour who have an even worse experience getting through the gate. Imagine what it's like to face that every day, at every gate.
posted by klanawa at 11:21 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've only travelled once to the US for a holiday but I certainly remember the very unpleasant experience we had at Dallas airport

Never had any other unpleasant experiences in airports in Western Europe, India, North Africa etc
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 11:29 AM on October 12, 2013


As some of you may know, I visit the US frequently, and lived there for nearly seven years. In my countless encounters with US immigration officials I have had good and bad experiences. But I have to say that compared with all the other nations' immigration officials I have experienced, they are, on balance, the worst. Somewhat astonishingly, that includes the USSR guys in 1986. They had an intimidating routine that involved staring hard at you for two minutes, but there was a lot of show about it, as we discovered when one female member of our party winked at the guy during this charade and he failed to stifle a giggle.

In fairness I should add that these days, the UK's immigration people aren't far behind the US. Bastardly swine, they are.
posted by Decani at 11:29 AM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


What I find interesting that My Hard Time At The US Border seems to have become a meme. Is it a post-9/11 thing or an Everyone Has A Voice On The Internet thing? Probably a bit of both, I suppose.

On the plus side, consider that there is the amount of outrage at the alleged events. I mean, would anyone do other than yawn if the stories were from, say, Russia, or Somalia, or other places where getting in relies more on a Franklin than on a passport?
posted by IndigoJones at 11:37 AM on October 12, 2013


What I find interesting that My Hard Time At The US Border seems to have become a meme.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:37 PM


Consider that there may be an extremely obvious reason for that.
posted by Decani at 11:46 AM on October 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Now, when I arrive in Britain, I am amazed by the both the thoroughness and fluidity of the British immigration service. They have both excellent border security, as well as (usually) very genteel treatment upon arrival.

Possibly not the best week to make that claim.

"The Home Office's flagship "e-borders" programme, which has taken 10 years to develop and has so far cost more than £500m, has yet to deliver significant benefits to controlling immigration and has had only a limited impact on tracking terrorists, an official watchdog has concluded."

"...the national border targeting centre based in Salford, the database hub that stores and checks the details of 15 million to 20 million passengers a month, is under such pressure that 649,331 alerts about potential drug and tobacco smugglers generated by the system were deleted without being read between April 2012 and January this year as it prioritised immigration alerts."
posted by reynir at 11:54 AM on October 12, 2013


Humble reminder that you're more likely to be killed by law enforcement than *puts flashlight under chin* Islamic terrorists. You mentioned your mother was a dispatcher? You're not under arrest, but we'll have to take you in for questioning. Give me your cell phone.
posted by gorbweaver at 12:01 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


tylerkaraszewski: "You can handpick stories like this of authoritarian power abuses in every country in the world if you want to. That doesn't excuse them, but it's a lie to pretend this is somehow uniquely American."

IndigoJones: " I mean, would anyone do other than yawn if the stories were from, say, Russia, or Somalia, or other places where getting in relies more on a Franklin than on a passport?"

"All the other kids are doing it" is not an excuse.
posted by adamrice at 12:04 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's even more humbling to remember that there is a huge list of things more likely to kill you.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:04 PM on October 12, 2013


Consider that there may be an extremely obvious reason for that.

Well, there is the demand to consider. If lines are long, that's not necessarily a planned agency event that has a budget coming from a political source. For outsiders to blame Americans at large for creating a traffic jam at the gates is not rational. Also, interrogations happen to Americans all the time, and the result is often arrest and a bus ride to jail, not a bus ride to Canada.
posted by Brian B. at 12:05 PM on October 12, 2013


He has visited several countries hostile to the US – as the agent (and author, in fact) mention, he has visited more countries hostile to the US, than not hostile to the US.

Which several countries are those? Malaysia and Singapore? Sri Lanka? The UAE? Canada? He mentions visiting five countries militarily and economically allied with the United States and the West, and one that isn't.

And Socotra looks amazing. No wonder he wanted to go there.
posted by rory at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2013


> Which several countries are those?

It's coded speech. "Hostile to the US" means "Muslim".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:21 PM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Interestingly enough, I went through the TSA in La Guardia on Friday and came back through US Customs in Toronto Airport on Monday, and for the very first time they were polite and friendly to us - both ways!

I have mentioned here before that all my encounters (numerous) with the TSA have been characterized by rudeness and hostility (and I'm scrupulously polite because I have a Green Card and I know that they could bar me from the country and I could lose everything with no explanation at all) - so I felt I needed to say here that these two times they were very civilized.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:25 PM on October 12, 2013


What I find interesting that My Hard Time At The US Border seems to have become a meme.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:37 PM

Consider that there may be an extremely obvious reason for that.


I'd really like to see some research about this. We've been seeing so many of these stories, and personally I seriously doubt that we all just suddenly decided to complain more about border crossings. I'd like to know statistics on how many people are detained, for how long, how many of them eventually make it in, etc, etc, and how all of that compares to twenty years ago.

I assume nothing of the kind exists? Or at least anywhere I can read it?
posted by gerstle at 1:30 PM on October 12, 2013


> I assume nothing of the kind exists? Or at least anywhere I can read it?

How would anyone other than the TSA possibly collect such statistics? You aren't allowed anywhere near these checkpoints without a boarding pass.

The TSA might collect such statistics but they certainly aren't telling us. I'd personally be skeptical even if they did - self-reporting is notoriously inaccurate in every field.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:33 PM on October 12, 2013


It's coded speech. "Hostile to the US" means "Muslim".

Those well-known Muslim countries, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Canada.

Yeah, I know that was the border agents' code. It was just a shame to see it being used here.
posted by rory at 2:02 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd really like to see some research about this.

One anecdote is not data. Many anecdotes are data.

Individually, I can only claim that the US border controls are the worst in my experience (though I've found the Port Angeles crossing to be fairly civil). When hundreds or thousands of people are saying it, well, you might start to wonder.

Of course, as an American, you wouldn't experience as much suspicion. They're just happy you're home so they can start listening in on your phone calls again.
posted by klanawa at 2:14 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"And so they are targets for terrorism – the same magnetic force that attracts people to them, also makes them magnets for a different kind of attention."

Er, 3007 deaths from terrorism in Pakistan last year. 9 in the USA. Some part of your theory doesn't hold up.
posted by welovelife at 3:06 PM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


One anecdote is not data. Many anecdotes are data.

No, they aren't. Data is collecte systematically with precise rules-based controls.
posted by samofidelis at 3:09 PM on October 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, no, I don't think many anecdotes equal data. But I'm not trying to imply that I don't believe these people. What I'm saying is that I do believe these people, these stories horrify me, and I really wish it were possible to know how widespread these practices are.
posted by gerstle at 3:10 PM on October 12, 2013


Er, 3007 deaths from terrorism in Pakistan last year. 9 in the USA. Some part of your theory doesn't hold up.

But that's a testimony to the border patrol, not a criticism. Regardless, when it comes to random travelers, the border patrol is suspicious that some won't ever leave, and that's one of their reasons for not letting people in, who knows if they ever tell them that. The guy had a coat, meaning he may have been planning for a winter stay, beyond what he claimed.
posted by Brian B. at 3:15 PM on October 12, 2013


According to this webpage (using 2005 data, I think), over one million people arrive at US ports of entry each day. Fewer than one tenth of one percent are detained or turned away. So that means that this happens to a lot of people over the course of a year (hence the proliferation of stories), but it also means that the odds of it happening to any given visitor to the US are vanishingly small (in other words, the "I'll never risk traveling to the US!" thing is basically silly).

I have traveled in and out of the US and other countries many times. The worst experience I've ever had from US customs and immigration people is a gruff or curt officer. I used to travel across the US/Canada border (bus and train from Montreal to NYC) and while I was always waved through in both directions, the worst behavior I witnessed was always and without exception by the Canadian immigration/customs people. I never made the bus trip once without seeing them singling out a person of colour for hostile, abusive questioning which almost always ended up with that person not being allowed back on the bus.

US border agents may or may not be worse than other countries; I doubt any of us have the data to make the case one way or the other. But the reason this meme is proliferating has much more to do with its value as part of a little political allegory than to do with the objective quality of US border agents. If you read a newspaper article about someone getting turned back at the Greek border by rude and officious border agents would you care? Would you think for a second (unless there were some other extraordinary element to it) of posting it to Metafilter? We are asked to care about this because it is seen as a synecdoche for aspects of US political and geopolitical behavior, not because we're really being asked to think hard about how US border agents behave.
posted by yoink at 3:33 PM on October 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


The reason this guy got turned away is because he made a joke that suggested -- just barely, in a faint, nearly almost impossibly un-serious way -- that he might blow up a levee. I'm almost certain that's why he got set home.

I've travelled to... thirty countries? Fourty? I've had good experiences in the US, I've had bad experiences in the US. The worst experiences I've had were in Argentina.

You know what I conclude from that? NOTHING. yoink has the measure of this.

Besides, this guy thought nothing of admitting to bribing an immigration official. Screw him. His writing resonates with a real sense of expectation of privilege.
posted by samofidelis at 3:43 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The TSA might collect such statistics but they certainly aren't telling us. I'd personally be skeptical even if they did - self-reporting is notoriously inaccurate in every field.

Similarly, anecdotes improve in the re-telling. And for a puckish twenty something writer trying to expand the brand, it makes for a roiling good topic. (He made it to metafilter, after all.) It seems he doesn't much like England, Greece, or India, either.

Meanwhile, the US is still the world's number two tourist destination after France (many of whose visitors, if not most, need never pass through border control at all, and are only interested in the cote d'azur), whose natives are world famous for rudeness. Once you get past passport control in America, however, why, we're delightful people. Such regular chaps. Even New Yorkers.

Bonus link! Rude Canadian Border Service Agents! "Are you, Alice, menstruating?"
posted by IndigoJones at 4:05 PM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been held up in other airports, even once, in Indonesia, pulled into a side room where men were holding AK-47s to get told that there weren't enough pages in my passport for the Indonesian stamp (it takes up a full page). It was a potentially terrifying situation, but I was made to feel at ease, and the people talking to me were polite at all times.

I've never been made to feel like a criminal, except when I return to the States to visit. My favorite story, of many, is the time I went to Chicago with my girlfriend, who is now my wife. I was going to introduce her to my family, and show her Chicago to see if she'd like to live there. Stupidly, we went through separate lines, and I planned to wait for her on the other side.

When I got to the TSA agent, she asked me where I'd been. I said Japan. She asked how long, I told her I lived there. She scowled at me and demanded to know why I had come back, as if the thought of Americans living abroad was itself some kind of sign of inherent evil. I told her I was in town to visit my family. Up until that point, I'd never been made to feel accutely unwelcome, but oh, lord, that wasn't the last time.

Even better, the future Mrs. Ghidorah got detained. She had written my aunt's address on the form that asked where she was staying. Since it wasn't a hotel address, they pulled her aside. Her English has definitely improved since then, but at the time, she could barely understand what they were saying, or why they were yelling at her. She tried to tell them that she was travelling with me, that I was waiting with her, but they kept her for half an hour, demanding to know why she would be staying at a private residence, with me, waiting in the airport, totally unaware of what was happening.

It wasn't the best way to start a trip founded on the premise of 'hey, do you think you could live here?' I even say it's a solid part of the reason we still live in Japan. We're going home for Christmas this year, and honestly, I dread dealing with immigration already.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:11 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hi. I grew up in New Orleans. I moved back home three days before Katrina. I lost 90% of my belongings. I was super stressed, it was painful every time I'd visit the city for the next few years. But now? I think it's okay for people to make jokes about it now.
posted by egypturnash at 5:12 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "protections" are to keep us IN not other people out.

A nation of rubes, open wallets, all of us.
posted by Max Power at 5:40 PM on October 12, 2013


They can be very angry and unprofessional. I think the problem got worse after the massive expansion of homeland security. They average age dropped and they seemed to have enlisted people who previously wouldn't have made the grade. Being barked at, sneered at, just general rudeness got more common after that.
posted by fingerbang at 5:45 PM on October 12, 2013


And for the CBSA in Canada seek determined to follow their example.
posted by fingerbang at 5:49 PM on October 12, 2013


Thanks very much for the link, yoink.
posted by gerstle at 6:13 PM on October 12, 2013


>I would like proof that the USA is a special target for terrorism.

How much of a "special" target for terrorism is necessary for a country to treat border crossing in a stringent manner? It seems to me any potential targeting for terrorism would be sufficient justification. Does it really matter if the US isn't as big a target as it thinks, or doesn't suffer as many attacks country X? What matter is that it absolutely is a target.

(Lack of) Professionalism is a different issue.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:48 PM on October 12, 2013


Dutch border control people destroyed my film camera and never apologized or compensated me in any way.
posted by Ghost Mode at 7:41 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've only travelled to the US once so far, but the border experience was certainly one of the more thorough (and weirdest) I have had.

The border control guy asked why I was entering.
"For an academic conference."
"What discipline?"
"Linguistics."
"You're a linguist? Can you prove it?"
"Um..."
"Speak some languages."

I fobbed him off by muttering a few German phrases, but it was seriously weird and felt quite hostile.

My only other hostile border experience was once returning to my own native country, New Zealand.
The border agent asked what I had been doing in Australia.
"I live there now."
"Why?"
"Um, I have a job there. At a university."
"Did you study there?"
"Yes."
"Are our universities not good enough for you?"
"I got my first degree in NZ."
"So why didn't you stay here to work then? Couldn't resist the fancy Australian salaries, eh? Took our government-funded education and left, eh?"

That was shortly after I had been interviewed for an academic job back home in NZ and had not been selected. I desperately wanted to "return" but don't actually see any chance of it in the future. I nearly cried.
posted by lollusc at 8:11 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


motorcycles are jets: You have to be a special kind of asshole to travel to a foreign country and make a joke about a national tragedy, like Katrina, to the border control officials. I wonder if he left out his quips about 9/11.
anemone of the state: You have to be a special kind of asshole to treat visitors to your country like that.
Guests who make jokes about the murder of 5,000 innocent people can go fuck themselves.

And people who think border crossings are a grand place for having a laugh at the border guards' expense really shouldn't be allowed to travel without adult guidance. That's just pointlessly stupid.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure why anyone's mentioning the TSA. Nobody encounters them at border crossings.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:48 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


after France (many of whose visitors, if not most, need never pass through border control at all, and are only interested in the cote d'azur), whose natives are world famous for rudeness

Jesus Christ. 60 million population in France; 300 million in the US. Do the math with regards to the number of tourists per capita that ends up being, especially considering that most tourists actually go to Paris (the Riviera is second, not first), i.e. one, single, city, as opposed to the lesser number of tourists going to dozens of different large cities throughout the States. The Riviera counts about a million in population, total, meaning all cities combined, and greets 10 million visitors per year (again, that's less than Paris). Does New York get ten times its population in tourists? No, it does not. Have you ever heard any stories about border control in Nice? Did you even know there's an international airport with a border control station in Nice? Even knowing there's one, I've lived in Nice for 13 years and still don't have a passport stamp from them, because they're never open.

Then perhaps we can also talk about the double standards of "rudeness" towards US border contol officials when the very same rudeness is being evidenced by some Americans towards other cultures in this very thread.
posted by fraula at 3:01 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had a Dutch border guard at Schiphol joke with me the last time I crossed the border there. It was the first time that had happened in literally hundreds of crossings. It was so remarkable that I commented on it to my wife.

People are people and border guards are border guards and cops are cops. You get good guys and assholes in every bunch. CBP when through a bad period post 9/11 (2001-2005 or so) where they were pretty much assholes to everyone - if your bad US border crossing experience dates from then, then I am truly sorry. Now, it's pretty much back to the way it was before - it all depends on where you cross the border and what your 'luck of the draw' is with agents - not really any different than your check-in experience at the airline (will you get the friendly one, or the one who is a grouch and flips out about your bag being too big when you've checked it on that airline dozens of times before without incident?)

Will having a bad experience not make you want to enter a country again? Yep. Will having a bad airline check-in agent make you not want to fly that airline again? Yep. Will getting pulled over for no reason by an asshole of a cop make you never want to go to a town again? Yep. If you act like a jerk in any of this situations, will it help you out? Nope. Oh look, human nature all around both ways.

If he's a Dutch citizen and frequent traveler, I'm surprised he's not in Privium, which also gets you Global Entry privileges through FLUX (I have as many sketchy countries under my belt as he does, and it didn't prevent Global Entry membership). This would mean crossing the US border without actually interacting with another human being. For someone who self-admittedly says stupid things while nervous, this could be a good idea.
posted by grajohnt at 3:17 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I regularly work in the US and therefore have plenty of opportunities to deal directly with officers as my visa is sorted out. I have experienced a range of treatments, from one who tried her best to prevent me from getting my I94, to the other who suggested approving it for the full six months possible instead of having it expire when the contract expires. I think a major part of what I dislike about entering the US is the uncertainty. I never really know what to expect and what will be a problem.
posted by jamincan at 6:05 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you ever heard any stories about border control in Nice?

Well, duh, of course those border control agents would be nice.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:35 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd really like to see some research about this. We've been seeing so many of these stories, and personally I seriously doubt that we all just suddenly decided to complain more about border crossings. I'd like to know statistics on how many people are detained, for how long, how many of them eventually make it in, etc, etc, and how all of that compares to twenty years ago.

I am skeptical of the idea that the any government agency would ever release any such statistics; who here does not think any FOIA request would not be blocked with "national security"?

I have travelled extensively for decades now and have yet to encounter more obstructionism and harassment at any border crossing than into the US. I include crossings into Israel, which has a notably aggressive border security force, and Germany, where at one time the military police had considered me to a be a Person of Interest.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:28 AM on October 13, 2013


While I don't argue that post-9/11, this country has gone bananas in terms of "national security" and authoritarianism in general, I have a lot of trouble sympathising with people whose tales of woe smacks of "not ONCE did they appreciate how witty I am!"

I understand the tactic, it's supposed to frame the storyteller's innocence by making them appear "down to earth" and "likable" in the face of the unsmiling enemy, but it almost always belies a lack of self-awareness.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:49 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's very convenient that anybody who exposes abuses by the state will have some vital personality flaw that completely discounts what they have to say.
posted by anemone of the state at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's very convenient that anybody who exposes abuses by the state will have some vital personality flaw that completely discounts what they have to say.

I think Uther's comments can be interpreted to mean exactly the same in reverse: some have offered personal anecdotes that self-exonerate and naturally hinge on the teller's self-image and attitude (unless they can quote an abusive act or comment that stands alone as abusive, regardless of what preceded it). There will always be government information received about a detainee that is never part of these stories at all, and unknown to the traveler. Chances are higher that the border agent has not personalized the encounter to the degree that the would-be victim is conveying.
posted by Brian B. at 5:38 PM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


60 million population in France; 300 million in the US. Do the math with regards to the number of tourists per capita that ends up being...

This is a meaningless exercise in arithmetic. Tourists -- and other travelers -- do not travel to a destination in proportion to its population.
posted by samofidelis at 6:44 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, they aren't. Data is collecte systematically with precise rules-based controls.

So, systematically collected anecdotes?
posted by klanawa at 9:43 PM on October 13, 2013


Not anecdotes.
posted by samofidelis at 11:27 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The TSA has been broadcasting warnings that people will be arrested for making jokes in the presence of the infamous federal checkpoint agents. “…You are also reminded that any inappropriate remarks or jokes concerning security may result in your arrest.”
posted by rough ashlar at 6:52 AM on October 15, 2013


From memory, the joking about violations rule has been in effect well before 9/11. It's there because people like this guy want to have the bomb squad come and inspect their bags on a tight time schedule, probably cancelling the flight. The rule obviously exists because every crazy person does it, and they're mostly concerned about those.
posted by Brian B. at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"People who didn't, as I did, grow up on the Canadian side of the U.S./Canada border, are often surprised by my accounts of pre-9/11 border crossings. The interviews on the American side usually went like this:"

Oh, man, growing up in Michigan, the post-9/11 change has been horrible. You used to not even need a passport, and it was mostly like, "Oh hey, what are you doin' in Canada then there?" "Oh, you know, gonna get some Timbits and maybe some Moosejaw at the duty free." "OK then, enjoy your stay."

Last time I went through the Windsor crossing to Canada, I was with my girlfriend's parents in a van with a bunch of the girlfriend's stuff, and we got held and searched while they verified our identities. It was a total pain in the ass.

I do wish that the movie Highway 61 was up on Youtube somewhere, specifically for the scene with Jello Biafra as a border guard, giving a total hassle to the guy trying to come in. "America is like my home. Would you want someone who had been drunk in public in your home?"
posted by klangklangston at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I got to the TSA agent, she asked me where I'd been. I said Japan. She asked how long, I told her I lived there. She scowled at me and demanded to know why I had come back, as if the thought of Americans living abroad was itself some kind of sign of inherent evil.

I had a similar encounter when I got off my plane in Canada, traveling on a Canadian passport with the intention of living there from now on, and no more Japanese visa. A completely sarcastic, unpleasant grilling after a long flight, with snarky comments and questions about why I was coming back. Seriously, it was bullshit and short of having some reason to suspect the passport was fake or something I'm not sure why they had the right to even ask me half of the shit they did. Where am I staying? With who? What does it matter if I'm staying at a hotel, hostel, shelter, girlfriend's apartment, or drunk tank? I'm a fucking citizen of this country.

Anyways, customs officials just about anywhere seem to think there is a benefit to being assholes and there may be, I don't know.
posted by Hoopo at 2:28 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older Middle + Off: A tumblr blog that juxtaposes photos...  |  ICANN, IETF, W3C, IANA -- alon... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments