Canada to US Border Crossing
February 23rd, 2012 | Back to Blog Listing
After visiting my friend Marciano in Montreal this evening, Caroline and I headed south on CA15 (US IH-87) towards the American border. I've been hearing more and more stories about how frustrating and "un-American" this process has been getting and so it was interesting to experience it for myself.

I'd been telling Caroline for weeks that she was certainly free to say anything that she felt comfortable saying, but that I simply had no intention of answering questions regarding my life in the United States. Simply meaning that I wasn't trying to sway her to my way of thinking, but that I also had no real intention of altering my principles either.

We crossed around 9:40pm and the border was completely empty. We pulled up and handed Agent Goodine our passports. He started to ask a series of questions, none of which were particularly relevant to anything. Caroline was driving our rental car and did most of the talking. We declared a bottle of whiskey we'd just purchased at the duty free shop and told him we had nothing else. Eventually he asked me where I was born to which I responded "Am I required to provide that to you with that information?"

He acted a little surprised, though I doubt he really was. His initial response to me was that no, I didn't have to answer and instead could just go inside the booth so they could work it out. After some quick jabbing back and forth, I laughed and told him I was originally from New Jersey. He had a good sense of humor up until this point and asked me why I was ashamed to be from New Jersey.

But shortly after this he opted to look in our trunk. I wasn't sure what the law was on this and thus didn't try to argue it (though I am somewhat regretful about that in hindsight; I should have at least questioned the legality of it). I was put off by his statement that he was "going to search it", rather than asking us if he could search it.

Towards the tail end of his snooping, he did start asking some other questions to which we weren't answering. I think Caroline probably wasn't answering him because the questions didn't really make sense, but he took the lack of response to heart. He gave us a brief spiel about how in the past thousand cars he had seen, nobody had problems responding to his questions, so he naturally found suspicion with us that we didn't have good answers to his questions. He then started directing more questions specifically at me. One of the questions was why we had three new boxes of Converse shoes in the back seat. Caroline explained they were a gift, though he seemed reluctant to believe this. I didn't say a word about it, but Marciano is the VP of Marketing for Converse. Obviously I could have provided this as the simple answer, but the fact remains that it's none of the government's business.

He asked why we were having such trouble providing him with simple answers. Sensing that he was about to detain us and that Caroline was not going to be happy with that outcome, I told him our collective lack of response was likely my fault and that I just didn't believe in answering these types of questions. When he asked me why I felt this way, I told him it was because I had libertarian values and I didn't feel I should be questioned to enter the United States (as an American at least). Comically, he said he didn't know what being a libertarian meant. He said something to the effect of "...does that mean supporting liberty? Because I served in the armed forces to protect liberty".

Since my intent was not to inflame the situation, but rather to avoid answering ridiculous questions for entrance back into my own country (where I am a natural, legal and tax-paying citizen), I mostly just sat quiet from this point on. He did give us a brief lecture about how he didn't know us and if we refused to answer questions, then how was he to know that we didn't have drugs or weapons with us? I again sat silently.

After he finished this 30 - 45 second lecture, he concluded with "...but I don't believe you pose any threat, so you can go on". He handed us our passports and off we went. I guess a "welcome home" is not how the system works anymore. I guess we can chalk that up to the terrorists too?

The entire experience was just a big show and definitely confirmed what I already had read about. I believe very sincerely that the whole thing is just a conditioning experience. It's brutish intimidation aimed at forcing people to comply with American authorities at the expense of their basic American [and human] liberties. I know there are a lot of people who tell me that my reluctance to be openly complicit with American agents is unnecessary, but I hope those people are able to understand that no type of abuse wanes with complacency.

As we drove off, Caroline told me that she was actually surprised I didn't argue with the guy more. She said she didn't think I had said much at all, which was honestly my only intention. In hindsight I do wish I had discussed the notion of liberty a bit more with him, but I truly wasn't trying to get on a high-horse about politics, only to exercise my rights within the law. Perhaps next time across I will be a bit more direct about that.