Thursday, October 17, 2013

An unfortunate experience with U.S. customs

(Bunny rabbit at the U.S./Canada border, 2010)

Last week, in the middle of my recovery, I realized that I had my appointment for a Nexus card. Unfortunately, I realized that I had the appointment less than a day ahead of time so I couldn't cancel it (in my recovery, I'm often easily confused and forgetful, with no sense of time) and the Nexus appointment was booked 6 months ago, waaaay back in May, before our trip to Venice.

So, since I wasn't feeling well, I really shouldn't have gone...I'm still working on knowing my own limits and pacing myself in the recovery process (note to self: I'm supposed to be resting here!)

Anyone who has ever tried to cross the border to go to the U.S. for shopping knows that many of the officers are absolute dicks. Sorry to say...but it is true. The officers at the airports are reasonable, but the ones at the U.S./Canada border crossings (and apparently the Nexus officers) are total losers who act like being on a power-trip is their only job (and it is...)

Now, why do I want a Nexus card? Well, husband-ji already has one. And we'd like to go once and a while for shopping across the border (cheaper, better selection for baby items) and also visit our relatives in Seattle. We need a Nexus card because our 16 month old daughter can't wait at the border for hours at a time - and having a Nexus card lets you go immediately through in the fast-lane without waiting.

(Bored in the car for 5 hours as we try to cross the border, 2010)

Our previous experiences crossing the border have been nothing short of vile. One time, the officer asked us many unnecessary questions about our relationship and refused to believe that we were engaged at the time (as if I was transporting some "random man/terrorist" across the border). Another time, the border was under major construction, and after we were approved to go across the border, we asked an officer which way was the highway to Seattle - he pointed us in the wrong direction so we would go back to Canada and have to wait an additional 5 hours in line (even though we were already approved!!!). When we realized that he had put us on the wrong road, we started to reverse and try to get on the proper road. Husband-ji accidentally ran over some grass. Immediately, 5 officers surrounded us shouting and threatened us that we would have to re-seed the grass by ourselves - and sent us back into the customs office to personally apologize for damaging their 2 inches of grass.

Yes, ALL this trouble for a few hours of shopping...!!

So, me being practically brain-dead from my meningitis recovery, assumed that the Nexus appointment would be easy...big mistake!

It seemed to go well at first, but then the officer noticed that I had attended college in the U.S. and went in for the jugular...

He said, "It says here that you're still a student in the U.S."

I said, "I've been living in Canada for 5 years, I completed my degree. I'm not a student in the U.S."

He said, "You broke the rules of the I-20 because you didn't inform the INS that you are no longer a student"

I said, "My I-20 expired. Nobody ever told me that I had to inform the INS. I informed my college that I was leaving. Obviously if I moved back to Canada and have been living here - I am no longer a student in the U.S."

He said, "Having the Nexus card is a privilege and it is a privilege to visit the United States. You broke the rules of the I-20 and now there is a note on your file"

I said, "I have visited the U.S. several times since I moved back to Canada, and this is the first that I've ever heard of this."

He said, "I don't believe that no customs officer has ever NOT explained it to you"

And it went on and on like that for about 10 minutes, with the officer talking down to me in a condescending way about how it was too late to inform the INS, how he didn't believe that nobody ever informed me of this, and how it is my fault that I did not read the rules of the I-20.

My brain was hurting. I was feeling overwhelmed. I didn't know if I was being slow from post-meningitis, because this man was really not making any sense. To my dismay, I burst out crying.

I said, "Listen. I JUST want to go shopping!!! I have no desire to ever live in the U.S. again - trust me on that! And to be frank with you, the reason why I thought we had so many problems at the border is because my husband & I are in an interracial relationship!!!"

He looked at me with a blank stare. I couldn't believe I just said that. Shit!!!! I thought. I just opened a can of worms...

"You'll be getting your Nexus card in the mail in 2 weeks," he said calmly.

After I left, I realized the officer was just messing with me (a la Indian government style...lol) and he intended to give me the card the entire time. 

But major WTF...pullllleaaaase....as if I want to immigrate to a country with an immature government shutdown (which cost the U.S. economy $24 BILLION) - a place where not even American citizens can afford to go to the doctor!!! AS IF!!! I just want to go shopping at Target for baby clothes, which just so happens to improve the American economy! These customs officers should be performing pranāma on our feet as we cross the border!!!! 

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Click HERE to read "Why I will never, ever, go back to the United States" horror story article about problems at the U.S. border crossing.


What about you, dear readers? Have you ever had any unfortunate incidents with U.S. customs, or any other arrogant customs officers (in other countries)?

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13 comments

  1. Shocking but not surprising. It is all about the power trip. Pathetic men exhibiting disgraceful behavior. This country is increasingly being run by juveniles at every level. Delinquent juveniles, if I may so add since I don't see this level of rudeness among juveniles elsewhere.

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    1. They are just absolute THUGS. No cultural sensitivity or anything. And also the US border is located in the middle of nowhere, so they are "small-town" thinkers. Practically villagers!

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  2. Ouch - that is awful Alexandra! It's like you think is it worth it or not. Some people are just...! Interesting read! But sometimes you just have to - ... I don't think any foreigners in India are looking forward to their visits at FFRO.. ..A lovely weekend to you and your family:-)

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    1. Thanks Eli, yes I'm not sure if it is even worth it for the headache. Hopefully now that we have that fast-pass it will not be so irritating. Hoping!

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  3. Each time we need to renew the resident card of my husband we get hassled... last time, I was so angry, I pulled out the "inter-racial realtionship" argument and suddenly things got unblocked.

    I have bad memories of US customs in airports, travelling alone. I don't even want to imagine what it would be like if my husband came with me ! (Padparadscha)

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    1. Sometimes I feel like they just want to push our buttons. I feel like they get carried away and we HAVE to tell them that it is unnecessary treatment.

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  4. I am so very sorry to hear all of this. As an american I am embarrassed by our government and workers such as this.I hope you are feeling better each day.
    I think I would have done the same thing by bursting into tears of frustration or gotten my first assult charge. ;-D
    Take care of yourself.
    Liz

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    1. I really felt like assaulting, if I wasn't so weak! Good thing my hubby wasn't there with me, he would have had an absolute fit! He has his appointment about 6 months ago and he faced the same thing. He was very aggravated.

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  5. ROFL.... this Husband ji is really cute way of addressing your well Husband ji... Yes, that is all I noticed from your hours long ordeal at the border... :)

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    1. LOL. Yes he is my husband-ji and I am his wife-ji!

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  6. D's dad is a trucker even though he should have been vacationing in Florida. He loves driving and would not retire. He sometimes transports vehicles across the border. He always comes back with a story to tell from border crossings. He is 75+ year old US citizen but those officers still give him hard time.
    Thankfully you got your card so, you don't have to go through this drama again. Does it expire after a few years?

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  7. Having said that, yes, I had to inform the USCIS (not the INS) via my school's international programs office when I left the USA. The reason was more to do with not accumulating "unemployed" days beyond my departure. Had I not had the USCIS informed, "unmployed days" would have accumulated on my record from the day I left the USA and that would not bode so well for future employment prospects in the USA. Also, I have been harassed several times by US officials (both consular officers at consulates and the DHS) but since I DO want to immigrate permanently to the USA, I never quite wanted to demonstrate the gumption that you did and be angry towards a border security type person.

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    1. It was definitely a bad experience all around. I had just got out of the hospital with meningitis and in hindsight I should have rescheduled the appointment, but it already took me so many months to get the appointment in the first place. I did inform my college that I was going back to Canada but perhaps they never informed the USCIS. Either way, that was the first time I ever heard that there was such a note on my file and had previously traveled to the US many times after I moved back to Canada. No desire to ever live in the USA, unless they give socialized healthcare and/or extend their maternity leave to 1 year or 1.5 year, otherwise it's not a country that's worth the trouble for me.

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