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Thread: Elevated U.S. border crossing security?

  1. #1

    Elevated U.S. border crossing security?

    After a great weekend in Montreal, I headed home yesterday morning. I cross back into the U.S. at the Highgate Springs, Vermont border crossing. I travel to Montreal 3 or 4 times a year, and yesterday was the tightest boarder screening I have ever seen going back into the U.S. Every car in front of me had to open the hood of their cars, open all the doors and trunks, and there were at least 2 K-9 officers checking out all the cars waiting in line.
    I finally pull up, and the guard asks the usual questions. I forgot to take my sunglasses off, so he asks me to do so. He then asks me to shut off the engine, pop the hood, pop the back latch, and wait outside the vehicle. He proceeds to look through the engine of my car for about 3-4 minutes, then checks under every seat, and asks me to take the jack out of the back compartment of my SUV. As I waiting, it was chilly, it was about 7:30 AM, so I put my hands in my pants pockets. He then asks me to take my hands out of my pockets. I did so, and stood there for another minute or so while he checked the jack compartment. Not really paying attention, I put my hands in my jacket pockets. Again, he asks me to take my hands out of my pockets. After another minute or so standing there in the sun, I put my sunglasses on. He then asks me to take my sunglasses off...what the hell?? My record is totally clean, I dont even have speeding tickets, I go across the border 3 to 4 times a year, and I know it is just their job, but damn, this guy was not polite or the least bit pleasant, maybe he was having a bad day?? He was young, I would say mid to late twenties. After he was finished, he kind of gave me a fake smile, and in a wise ass manner told me to have a safe journey home. I think he knew I was annoyed at the sunglasses and pockets thing. Again, I know it is their job, but damn, the Canadian guards are much friedlier, even when questioning you. Is there a heightened security level in the U.S. right now? I didnt hear anything on the news. Maybe this guy was new and was trying to impress his boss.

  2. #2
    Veteran of Misadventures
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    Merlin,

    Your experience was an aberration. I passed through the Highgate Springs Crossing twice in the last three weeks (including once within the last 3 days) and had a totally different experience. The guy only asked me if I had bought any food and kept asking me if I had bought goat cheese or Clementines which I was bringing back to the USA. I told him the only things I was bringing back to the USA was two packs of Eclipse chewing gum, which I showed him. Later on, I remembered that I had also bought a bottled water which was in my knapsack but I don't think they will prosecute me for not reporting that.

    You need to keep your cool, listen to the questions (and directions) carefully and answer them pithily. If you behave as a wiseass as suggested by your post, your experience will tend to be longer and guys like me who know the deal will blow through the border and be looking at you in the rear view mirror.
    Last edited by EagerBeaver; 04-02-2007 at 10:48 PM.

  3. #3
    Part of the psychological strategy is to intentionally piss you off to see what your reaction is.

    It helps sometimes to keep that in mind in order to remain calm.

  4. #4
    I am me, too!
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    Quote Originally Posted by bond_james_bond
    Part of the psychological strategy is to intentionally piss you off to see what your reaction is.

    It helps sometimes to keep that in mind in order to remain calm.
    That's absolutely true! What they want is see some reaction. Sometimes the answer themself aren't that important, it's how you answer.

    I did get a complete car search about 15 years ago. Canadian Customs. They even took some molding off the trunk to check the rear fenders! I was with my gf and we entered the US near Kingston, to come back in Cornwall. Didin't purchase anything beside gas, declared. I guess they found it was weird to do such a long trip for the hell of it! No smart ass remarks, just told the guy "got nothing to hide, go ahead" and sat on the curb while he was having a blast.

  5. #5
    I find the best strategy is to be perfectly polite and cooperative...and then to curse the dumbass motherfuckers to high hell while driving away.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by joelcairo
    I find the best strategy is to be perfectly polite and cooperative...and then to curse the dumbass motherfuckers to high hell while driving away.
    If they take licsense plates that is not too smart. I did see a US border patrol car take off after a car after it entered the US. I have no idea why, but it did flag it down and make it sit. And they also do stop and ask random people questions an hour down the road on 87 sometimes. Do not mess with border patrol, even though they don't have a good reputation because of illegal immigration, etc. They have as much power as Feds and local police. There is something they can do to harass you if they want to.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by daydreamer41
    Do not mess with border patrol, even though they don't have a good reputation because of illegal immigration, etc. They have as much power as Feds
    They are the Feds. Basically a Border Patrol Agent has almost unlimited power if investigating possible illegal border crossing, possible immigration violations, possible customs violations etc. . . within sixty miles of the border. If you are a U.S. Citizen, Permanent Resident Alien or legal visitor to the U.S. they aren't looking for you. Be polite, answer their questions, show them proper I.D. and you will be on your way. Otherwise. . . . .

  8. #8
    Sometimes they just have random days when they decide to go full bore at a particular border crossing. It's part of the "unpredictability thing" so that the 'bad guys' can't find a spot where it's "easier to cross." It's a pain in the ass . . . but.

  9. #9
    They're doing their job, but can sometimes powertrip. I remember getting reamed out for pulling over to take a call prior to a U.S. border station.
    I smiled and took the crap, and went on my way which is way better than getting delayed.

  10. #10
    Registered User
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    If your car's registered, inspected and insured, and if you're not carrying any warrants, weapons, illegal substances, or prescription medications out of their original containers, and as long as your purchases are with-in legal limits (I always confess to an extra case of beer) or at least declare them, and of course if you're not driving intoxicated, then customs, immigration, border agents, state police, county sheriff's officers can't do a thing.

    And remember, if you are transporting something you shouldn't then you can be stopped anywhere along your trip home...and even in your home. So it's just not worth it.
    "better to be shot out of a cannon than squeezed out of a tube"

  11. #11
    Medic,

    Actually, they can deny you entry to the US for no reason if they feel like it, whether or not you've done anything wrong. They do not need to divulge the reason for non-admittance. They can simply turn you away.

    Also -- as a previous poster mentioned, you are not in the clear until about an hour's drive from the border. I've seen those "border patrol" SUVs parked on the 89 near St. Albans or Burlington VT on more than once occaision.

    I agree with some of the advice posted above by EB and others. Be nice, but not overly nice. Answer the questions as quickly simply and directly as possible. Do not make little jokes or small talk at all. Do not ask questions of your own or get annoyed. Just yes sir, no sir. I find that younger male guards are by far the worst, young female guards are also bad. If you get into line with an old fat guy in the booth, you are halfway there

    BD

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by bond_james_bond
    Part of the psychological strategy is to intentionally piss you off to see what your reaction is.

    Out of curiosity: How would a terrorist react?

  13. #13
    Logic would dictate that border guards, homeland security and other gov't agencies receive special intelligence, internal warnings and other data that may cause them to increase the security level, even (and probably often) when the general public is not aware of anything. I believe that the heightened scrutiny that we sometimes see, for no apparent reason, could frequently be due to that type of intel... Other times it's probably just random increased security...

    Equanimity -- with US citizens, they can detain you indefinitely at the border, but they do ultimately have to let you in if there's no reason to keep you there. If you have a decent lawyer, and you've done nothing wrong, you should not have a problem getting home eventually in the event they decide to hold you. For Canadians (and everyone else who is not a US citizen), it's like a nice restaurant --> "We may deny service to anyone at our sole discretion".

    I had a friend years ago who tried to cross at niagara falls. The border agent "didn't like the look of him" and "thought he was suspicious". He denied him entry based on that. He had valid papers and there was absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing. Poor guy could not re-enter for 10 years and even after that, to this day, he still has a hard time crossing every single time, because he's now on a list of people who were "previously denied entry"...

    It can really mess up your life if you need/want to travel...

    BD

  14. #14

    Me too!!!

    Hello everybody,


    I recently crossed the US-Canada border, and boy oh boy, I was searched thoroughly.

    Here are what they are looking for:

    1. Have you been to any country outside the US and Canada like Afghanistan or the Middle East.
    If you are, boy , you are in deep trouble. They are going to check everything in the US database.

    2. If your travel plan is suspicous, like going thru a couple of states first, they are going to search you thorougly.

    3. A Canadian family with kids in front of me and a Canadian girl were waived thru without any checking.

    Boy, the @#$holes searched me thorougly, even my personal stuffs, then found nothing, and wished me good luck on my trip.

    Next time, bring a family with you!!!

  15. #15

    slight change of subject

    Out of the guys reading and posting in this thread, how many have passports?
    I am wondering what will happen next year to tourism (for both countries) when passports become mandatory for those driving across the border.

    I dont think it will have too much impact for the hobbiests who read this board, Im pretty sure most already have passports. But its the family who have to decide if its feasable to fork over 100 for each of their kids just to sightsee. And the group of guys wanting to go on a roadtrip...and half of them dont have passports (or one of them forget theirs or doesnt have it handy).

    Ive got several buddies who occasionally drive to Windsor or the Falls...and either dont have the extra cash available to get a passport...or always end up putting off getting one until its too late.

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