Welcome To America
The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) today released A Decade of Decline in Person Crossings From Mexico and Canada into the United States, a review of the 10-year decline in border crossings by. “This report examines the trends in person crossings by mode rather than reasons for the decline,” says a DOT press release. In the quest for reasons, Ed and I road-tested the entry from Canada last night. We might have found an answer for the decline:
The Windsor Ballet wasn‘t at peak performance last night, so we bid Canada a quick au revoir and inserted our car into the tunnel to the Home of The Free. The border guard at the U.S. side subjected us to intense questioning, including whether we ever had been arrested or “in trouble.” I bit my tongue and swallowed the “not until now”. We then were asked various times how much cash we had. Ed’s answer of “20 bucks” was accepted at face value. I had to count the bills in my wallet. All this cooperation did not help. The guard slapped a sticker on our windshield and ordered us to move to “secondary inspection.”
On arrival at secondary, we were told to “open all windows, turn off the engine, pop the trunk and the hood, put all your cell phones on the dashboard and exit the vehicle.” Which we did.
We went inside. Barely in, another guard barked at me: “Take your hands out of your pockets.” This admonition made me feel young again. I had not heard it since I was in school, some time in the last millennium.
A motherly border guard subjected us to the same questioning. The object seemed to be to run down the clock until someone outside had searched the car and possibly the cell phones on the dashboard. When all the questions were exhausted, the border guard turned into an extension of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. Had we been at the Ford Museum already? I promised I would be. “Too bad you can’t stay until July 4th, we will have a great Revolutionary War reenactment.” I expressed my sadness that I could not attend.
Finally, car and possibly cell phones had been searched and we were good to go. Time elapsed: About an hour.
No wonder cross-border traffic is down.
On Sunday, I’ll be on the flight to the police state of China. Immigration procedures as follows: Ni hao. Show passport. Border guard compares picture with face. Border guard checks visa. Wham, a red stamp in passport. Xie xie. 5 little buttons ranging from sad face to broad smiley invite me to rate the service received. Guard gets a big smiley. Time elapsed: 2 minutes.
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I agree that US borders are ridiculous, so are airline security procedures. However, my recent experience getting into China wasn't quite as smooth as Bertel describes...the customs agent in Dongguan didn't believe that the photo in my passport was really me. I provided him with my US driver's license and other id's in my wallet to ensure it was indeed me. He scrutinized it for 20 minutes, which may not really sound too long, but makes one a bit nervous in such a situation. When he finally gave me the stamp and sent me through I wanted to give him the lowest rating on the little device that they ask you to press to rate their service, but feared the consequences considering they were already skeptical of my identity and I had better things to do than deal with customs agents any further.
I just wish they'd staff the borders adequately. Last time we went for a lunch and a little shopping in Vancouver, on the way back to the Land of the Free we had to wait 3 1/2 hours. A few people were running out of gas, the duty free shop-snack bar on the Canadian side at Peace Arch was out of everything to eat or drink except liquor and their bathrooms were among the worst I've ever seen. Of course, the electronic "wait time" signs were out of order.