Dear Adventurous Reader,
We crossed the border, from Canada into the USA. It wasn’t easy, and we had thought by completing a visa waiver would have made it easier. It didn’t.
The interrogation started when we pulled up in our car. He welcomed us, with a stern voice asking questions as fast as a machine gun. "Where are you going tonight?" "Where are you going on this trip?" "Is this your vehicle?" "What are you doing in North Carolina?" "What is your brother's visa status?"
Questions that came so fast, it seemed like I would be wrong if I answered slowly. Every question had an urgency that was not necessary, it was dusk, there were no cars behind us, waiting to enter the U.S.A. Even if there was cars waiting, surely to find out our intentions didn't require the rapid fire approach. He kept asking questions, comparing faces in the car while inspecting our passports.
"You're going to pull up, next to that blue car. Walk on the crossing, into the building and up to the second floor. They will call your name. Your passports will meet you there."
In discussions of our future travels, we have been told not to let our passports out of sight. If they disappear at the border, they will request money to let them go. In this situation, under the watchful and controlling eye, it felt like we couldn't say "no". I felt in no position to request the ability to carry our passports to the second floor, it was not up for discussion.
We took the children from the car, crossed at the crossing, through the building with security guards (with the same stern faces), up the elevator and into a waiting room. There was a man in the waiting room; small glasses, a long beard, flowing clothes, with skin that had seen lots of sun. He sat turning through papers that had scans of finger prints, and photos, waiting to be processed.
Processed. That is the word they used, too. Processed. Like baloney, or cheese slices, we were waiting to be processed, before being accepted.
Our name was called. We were ushered into a room, and another stern-faced man waited for us. He fired questions, just as quickly, but probing further. "Do you have a house back at Australia?" "What about education?" "Is Home school what you did back in Australia?" "Why were you in Canada?" "What were you doing in Canada?" "Was Canada aware that you were staying six months?"
For these he looked directly at Jacquelyn, not acknowledging me at all. Until I needed to go to the car to get more travel documents, "Oh, I'm going to need to see those." Is what he said about seeing our future travel plans. I returned with the documents, and he ignored me for five minutes, while discussing things with his colleagues. He took the papers with no eye contact, and leafed through them.
We Jumped Through Their Hoops
We had applied for a visa waiver. Filling out their forms and paying online, for the eight of us. Surely they can find the answers to questions from there? They know our names, and the location we were going to because filed an application, and paid the fee. We followed the process, and they still felt the need to ask questions. Jacquelyn felt sick to the stomach, and I was confused as to what was happening.
I understand the "need" for strong borders.
Borders define countries. even crossing at Niagara Falls, I could see the difference between Canada and the United States. One was clean, crisp and well looked after, and the other felt like Las Vegas, with neon signs and people walking the streets in hoodies. That small span changed the way it felt to be there, that small span defined the difference.
While borders define counties, they also define ideals. There was an inherent trust coming into Canada. We landed in Vancouver, and we didn't feel uneasy or maligned, and we didn’t feel like were being interrogated. I felt like a human father, crossing into Canada, with his wife and children.
There was no trust and respect when coming into these United States. What were they going to turn us away for, anyway? Because we home school? Because we were in Canada for 6 months? I cannot fathom why they acted like this.
A country needs strong borders if it doesn’t trust visitors. To that end, I have to suppose, that USA has had issues with families of eight visiting relatives - either that, or they were putting on a show, just so they would make it onto our world-famous weblog.
Fine or Fee?
Oh. And before how I said we had been warned about letting our passports go, lest we be charged money? After being grilled, they chap behind the counter charges us US$6 per passport - for some reason he did not explain, and I am still unaware of.
But, when the school bully comes looking for lunch money, you pay the fee instead of being pounded.