Crossing borders: The U.S. of A

Prior to flying to the States I’d been treated to all sorts of horror stories relating to the U.S. immigration. Known for it being unjust, lacking in a sense of humour and overly rigorous with all foreign and domestic passengers I was apprehensive about my first encounter with border control.

Peppered around the immigration were police and airport security. All looked menacing in their dark navy-blue uniforms with pistol by their side. Playing in the background on a dozen screens was a video montage promoting the stone-cold efficiency of the border patrol. Riddled with large dangerous guns the film showed the cops take down terrorists, criminals and violators.  I stood and watched as the real life patrolling officers barked orders at my fellow aliens.

I was in an English-speaking country and I was segregated and treated as a foreigner. And that was a bizarre concept to me.

For some of my cohorts, English was neither a first nor second language. All they had were a few scripted lines that the American border control deemed unacceptable. In the half an hour I was there four interpreters had been called.

So when called I was overly anxious. Entering the States (domestic and foreign), one’s fingerprints, thumbprints and a photograph are all taken intrusively. Understandably questions are asked about itinerary and purpose of visit but the official was certainly pleasant and professional. The ordeal was reasonably painless, except that my details had been added to the list of names and information that the U.S. government is amassing. Leaving, I caught sight of Custom’s and Border Protection’s pledges:

  • We pledge to cordially greet and welcome you to the United States
  • We pledge to treat you with courtesy, dignity and respect
  • We pledge to explain the CBP process to you
  • We pledge to have a supervisor listen to your comments
  • We pledge to accept and respond to your comments in written, verbal or electronic form
  • We pledge to provide reasonable assistance due to delay or disability

I would have taken a picture, but I didn’t want to get shot.

© John Brownlie 2012

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