Crossing the border from Washington to Canada
Replies: 26 - Last Post: Aug 23, 2013 9:10 AM Last Post By: poppageorge
Aug 12, 2013 5:06 PM
Crossing the border from Washington to CanadaAbout a month ago, I decided to take a quick weekend trip up to Vancouver. I thought crossing the Canadian border would be quick and simple, since I'm American and live only 5 hours away. It turned out to be very stressful and confusing!
I was told that I needed to go inside, where I had to wait in line and then be questioned extensively by another agent, and then they insisted on searching my car and would not let me be present for it. They were gone for quite a while, and I was concerned, especially because I keep hideaway money in my ash tray and wondered what in the world they were doing in there. I have no criminal record and am a normal looking girl, so this whole thing threw me for a loop and traumatized me.
They gave me absolutely no explanation for it, and needless to say, they found nothing to "accuse me of."
I have never crossed the border by myself before, and have never heard of someone demanding that I turn over my keys so that they can search my car without allowing me to be present! I am still really upset about it, the whole thing was really demeaning, and I'm wondering if this sort of thing happens often, and if there is written protocol as far as what questions they are allowed to ask you, and if you have a right to insist on them not being alone with your car. I cant believe that they are allowed to treat people so disrespectfully without probable cause!
Aug 12, 2013 5:30 PM
Aug 12, 2013 9:12 PM
2Sometimes they're fast and respectful, sometimes they're slow and obnoxious--same as everywhere else in the world. "Probably cause" has no bearing once you enter the border zone. Same with other quaint concepts, like search warrants, presumption of innocence, etc. etc. etc. That's life.
Next time you cross a border, try to remember that they're constantly watching for signs of discomfort, fear, irritability, confusion, uncertainty. That's what border guards do. When they start asking simple questions at first contact, if you're nervous or offended you'll almost automatically be culled for secondary inspection. If you look confused or defensive--worse yet, if they get the sense you've got something you're nervous about them finding, like change in your ashtray--they'll pick up on that, too, and give your car a more thorough search. If you want to transit effortlessly, learn to relax--that'll work 90% of the time.
They don't tell you why you were chosen because they don't want anyone to know, thereby able to defeat, their profiling. Nor do they want you to learn how they go about searches, lest you thereby learn how to circumvent them. This is not mysterious. You could have figured it out yourself, if you weren't so busy feeling offended.
I've crossed into and out of Canada a few hundred times. Every so often my luck runs out and I get called inside for secondary questioning. More rarely, someone does a complete search of my car or motorcycle. It's not the end of the world--just inconvenient. Be thankful you're not someone they're really worried about, or they'd have made your life more miserable than you can apparently imagine.
And do bear in mind that, per #1, much worse happens all day, every day. Sounds like you live in Portland (?), and have never been knowingly profiled by agents of the government. Quit complaining and count your blessings. Seriously. We're the lucky ones. Life is good.
Hope that's helpful.
Aug 13, 2013 7:15 AM
3Not an unusual story.
Although I would say that in the past couple of years US border and airport security have become friendlier while their Canadian counterparts have become total jerks.
On a recent crossing while trying to renew my Canadian work visa I questioned a border officers decision not to renew my visa and he said "if you don't like it go back to your own country".
These guys are just glorified mall cops.
Aug 13, 2013 8:43 AM
4Good explanation markhaf; I've calmed down after some months about equal treatment by the US officials and we could laugh because they confiscated our oranges (not allowed to import food) and afterwards the net sticker showed they were from California.
And nice to learn I was still in the computer for an issue three years ago, trying to bring chilli seeds for my relatives.
Will the three strikes law applicable for me? I prepare a posting for it;-)
BTW. there some 'rivalry' between US and Canada like in the past the Dutch and Germans?
Aug 13, 2013 6:48 PM
5I thought that they would want American tourists coming up to stimulate the economy! If somebody stays in a hotel, buys gas, buys groceries, goes to restaurants and stores, is it not helpful for businesses! Aren't Americans known for spending lots of money and tipping well in restaurants?!
Most experienced criminals probably have access to drugs that will calm them down, and know what to expect to not get stopped by border agents! Yes I am in Portland and haven't been profiled because I haven't done sketchy things, and am boring enough that there would be no reason to suspect me of anything other than speeding!
I would rather have a dog sniffing for drugs than a person handling my underwear! On their website it says that you must open and unpack your bags if requested, nothing about not being allowed to see what is going on in your own car. They could be planting drugs in there for all you know! It should have taken them about 30 seconds to scan the inside of my car and trunk, not 5-10 minutes. I guess some of these people are on a power trip and want to show the world how cool they are now!
Aug 13, 2013 7:39 PM
6TravelbugUSA - I'm a Canadian, and I've been searched by the American border guards (both at land crossings and at airports.) I've had my car searched, I've had my luggage gone through. And to give you an idea - I'm 5'6", skinny, short dark hair, big eyes, pointy chin, white of skin....I look like an elf. I look like an elf version of Mary Poppins. I also have lived a boring life - I think I got a speeding ticket once, but I paid it right away. That would be the extent of my 'breaking the law'. I'm even too afraid to speed! (especially in Quebec, seeing as I have Ontario plates on my car) And yet, I've been searched, by Americans!, at both land crossings (and, like you, I was asked to go inside and answer secondary questions, and wasn't allowed to be present when my car was searched) and at airports (I got to watch as they went through my luggage. I helpfully told them as they handled my underwear, that those were the dirty ones). My point is - border searches happen - at all borders.
I could easily say to you - "You would think Americans would want me to stay in a hotel, buy gas, buy groceries, go to restaurants and stores! Aren't Canadians known for going to the US and spending lots of money?" And sound just as...well, arrogant, as you.
Being an American does not give you a "get out of border searches free" card. Neither does being female, being white, being whiny, having blond hair, having dark hair, red hair, grey eyes, blue eyes.... You happen to have been unlucky number whatever to cross the border and they searched your car. My advice: Deal with this little bit of border politics, because it happens. They will happen no matter what country you go to. And if you can't deal - stay home.
Aug 13, 2013 10:39 PM
Aug 14, 2013 5:21 AM
8all they are trying to accomplish is to justify there job and feel important. my gd who has tourettes was strip searche d because they claimed she looked nervous./ for most part my . opo of customes employees they are one rung up from useless. for ex. we spend countless million's $ spent on so called security yet usa Canada border is like a sieve for gun runnners
Aug 14, 2013 11:52 AM
Aug 14, 2013 3:27 PM
10I agree with truenic, I am surprised too.
By far the bigger problem of the two parties involved are the people crossing the border, not the guards.
I cross regularly, and every now and then a guard will have a bad attitude. But its usually someone who thinks they can cross w/o any intrusions into their life that ends up making the mistake.
Face it, most of these guards are regular people just like you and me. They have to deal with jerks CONSTANTLY who are trying to pull any stupid maneuver they can. I remember one time a guy pulled out his cellphone right in front of the guard at Pac Highway, even though the guard had already told him to not to use it.
So, feel lucky OP, 'cuz in reality you were.
Aug 14, 2013 6:44 PM
11What exactly are they allowed to do to you??!!
What if they try to make you take off all your clothes or something! There should be written guidelines somewhere so that you know what to expect!
I'm used to the jerks at the airport, but never in a million years did I think they would strip search my car! I consider the inside of my car like the inside of my purse only bigger with more compartments!
Aug 14, 2013 6:57 PM
12Wait a minute! You're outraged because a car search took " 5-10 minutes"? Get serious, bright eyes! It can take longer than that to walk your body, shoes and a carry-on bag through airport security, say nothing about arriving in a car.
Outrageous would be like when my friend and I transited through LAX on our way home from Indonesia to Vancouver, and a US Immigration Thug let me hike right through, but stopped my friend, grabbed the very nice leather and woven fabric bag he was carrying, broke the zipper tearing it open, and slashed open half a dozen packages of Sumatran coffee he was bringing home as gifts, dumping the coffee all over the inside of the bag, and sneering a special sneer each time he did it. Then he let him through, to race to the gate and conclude a very unpleasant two-hour transit stop that most countries would exempt from any inspection whatsoever. And this was years before terrorism became a big issue.
Another US Immigration guy delayed my wife, who was born in the US but has been a Canadian citizen for 30 years, forcing her to declare that she was an American citizen even though she'd relinquished US citizenship by swearing allegiance to Her Majesty. He had no purpose but to be a bully. On the other hand, we've never had anything but a warm and efficient welcome from Canadian Immigration.
That said, I've been whisked pleasantly through US C&I many, many times. Conversely, I wouldn't be surprised or alarmed if someday I'm held up for 5 minutes by Canadian officials. It's a border! Act like it's routine, because it is, and it almost always will be, unless it's your unlucky day. That's life.
The bottom line is, you could suffer 5 minutes of disruption anytime you cross that (or any) border, even though us po' Canucks slaver desperately for your sacred greenbacks. Hey, another time, try offering some of them to the Immigration guy!
Aug 14, 2013 7:30 PM
13Hoo boy. OP, there's a reason why virtually all responses indicate you should count yourself lucky. Maybe think about that.
It does not matter what you think about the inside of your car in relation to your purse. They can (and will, from time to time) strip your car down to the frame if they think you might have something hidden there. They will slash your bags and your clothes, go through underwear whether dirty or clean, and yes, they can indeed make you take off all your clothes--whether electronically or in actual physical fact.
You want to cross borders, that possibility is a part of the price you pay. And again: be thankful you're not a member of a targeted race, creed, or ethnicity. You got off easy, and probably always will.
On the other hand, I'm beginning to feel ever so slightly trolled.
Aug 14, 2013 9:31 PM
Let me tell you what happened to me a few months ago when I crossed the border into the US of A.
Your US border Nazis directed me to go inside their building along with a number of other people.
I was sent "inside", while some goons went through my car and inside I had to count out how much money I carried on me, all the while 3 - 4 trained monkeys tore through my car, which was not where I could see it!
Then after about 20 - 25 minutes I was finally allowed to rejoin my car and proceed on my way!
That evening when I stopped for an overnight stop, I found that they wrecked a duffel bag which is now useless. A pair of reading glasses were obviously dropped on the pavement and got scratched rendering them useless. The same fate had met my prescription glasses. In addition those trained monkeys spilled my prescription medicine pills all over my trunk. They also seemed to lack the intelligence to know how to open a simple antacid tablet bottle without wrecking the screw top/flip top so it could not be closed anymore.
SO YOU THINK YOU HAD PROBLEMS?????????????????
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