Reason’s “I’m Not Going to Be Interrogated As a Pre-Condition of Re-Entering My Own Country” reminds me of the fall of 2005 when United States Border Patrol detained me for an hour on the Progreso International Bridge, as a girlfriend and I returned from a daytime walking trip to Mexico and back.
Border agent: “Your passport here says you were born in … (lowers Aviator sunglasses for maximum dramatic effect) … Kuwait City.”
Me: “Yes, sir, I was.”
Border agent: “Come with me.”
W was ushered into an air-conditioned waiting area populated with those cheap lawn chairs whose rear legs buckle at the slightest weight shift. I was handed over to a very charming Mexican-American version of Nurse Ratched and, for a quarter of an hour, interrogated about all of my travel abroad since I permanently moved to the United States in 1990. If you’re a professional international traveler like me, it’s not likely you remember every single foreign trip you’ve made in the last 15 years. This turned out to be a slight problem.
Border agent: “It says here you were in Amsterdam in 2003 and 2004, not just 2003.”
Me: “Oh yes, I forgot about that short 2004 trip.”
Border agent: “How can you forget going abroad?”
Me: I don’t know, do you remember what you ate for breakfast on Wednesday three weeks ago? Yeah, it’s like that. “I travel a lot, so I don’t remember every trip.”
Then the border agent went away under the pretext that she had to extract data from and enter it into a ten-year-old 486 laptop or something like that. Likely story, given the two cameras were trained on me. They were observing my every move and facial expression. So I just stood there. For 30 minutes. Probably while a family of illegal immigrants and truckload of nuclear material successfully crossed over into America not yards from this dog and pony show. I’m an American, but hey, it’s the Appearance Of Efficiency we’re going for here, right? Sit, lie down, roll over, give up your constitutional rights in the name of Homeland Insecurity! Good Fido!
Border agent: Where do you live now?
Me: New Orleans. I’m in Houston now because of The Storm.
Border agent: Oh, yes. I’m really sorry about that. So much pain. I hope you can go back home soon. Alright, you are free to go just as soon as I record these notes.
As Paul Karl Lukacs states in the post referenced by Reason, “this is about power not security” and “the federal cops are my servants. They would do well to remember that.” When the hell did America turn into Kuwait or India wholesale is what I want to know. Mindless bureaucracy as security, lengthy and unnecessary border checks of obvious non-threats by the untraveled, third-world reactions to actual threats, burning books to send messages internally and abroad. Fear is the mind killer.
Having paid to participate in the Global Entry Trusted Traveler Network, I am now half tempted to test it on the same border.