Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oops, they did it again

I posted last week on my encounter with the officers of the Department of Homeland Security at a U.S. Canadian border crossing

Well, it happened again. As we returned from Good Friday services we were once again asked to surrender our car keys.

What is going on? We just went through this last Sunday!

Our vehicle was quickly surrounded by Customs agents.

MAM, JUST EXIT THE VEHICLE.

The agent who was IN MY FACE AND YELLING at me was Officer Walter, according to his uniform badge.

Officer Walter, can you tell me what is happening?

GET OUT OF THE VEHICLE... NOW!

We were escorted into the Customs building.

This time I was a little more upset. Once was possibly a random search. Why was this happening again? Why were we suspected of something so horrendous that we were removed from our vehicle twice in one week?

Our wait was shorter this time and our passports were quickly returned to us by Officer Walter. He also provided a brochure which would explain the "U.S. Custons and Border Protection Process." We were seated against a wall and Officer Walter was standing over us.

Can you tell us what is going on?

NO. YOU ARE FREE TO GO.

I would like to speak to someone. Is there someone I can speak to?

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, THERE IS CONTACT INFORMATION IN THIS BROCHURE.

But I would like to speak to someone now. Is there a supervisor here I can speak to?

NO. USE THE INFORMATION IN THE BROCHURE.

My husband is getting agitated. Because of his aphasia he tends to gesture a lot with his "good" hand in his effort to speak.

Officer Walter leans over my husband. SIR! DO NOT POINT AT ME! PUT YOUR HAND DOWN SIR!

Officer, my husband is a stroke survivor. He's just trying to speak to you!

Now I am getting agitated. Kinda like a Mama Bear. Do you have a number, Officer Walter?

A NUMBER?

You know, like an employee number?

NO

Well, do you have a first name? I mean, there might be other officers with your surname...

Officer Walter turns on his heel and walks away from me to exit the lobby.

I stand up to exit the other direction and comment, And you're rude.

Officer Walter returns and yells to me across the room: USE THE INFORMATION IN THE BROCHURE. YOU HAVE A GOOD DAY.

And you have a good day too.

I read the brochure. This is what it says:

You should be treated in a courteous, professional and dignified manner.

You will receive an explanation of the examination process as it occurs.

If you feel that the examination was not conducted in a professional manner, ask to speak with a CBP suipervisor immediately. A CBP supervisor is always available at the facility or by telephone.


So I still don't have any answers. But, thanks to Officer Walter, I can show the brochure the next time I ask to speak to a supervisor. And chances are, there will be a next time....

8 comments:

MoziEsmé said...

Amazing! You definitely got the ones with the authority issues the last few times. And there must be some sort of bad mark on your vehicle license # or something - like someone reported it stolen...?

My husband had one waving a gun in his face just because he was asking questions about his visa status. He was very calm, but she was all agitated and shouting at him as if he was a huge threat. And she ripped his visa out of his passport.

And for a while after that, every time I crossed the border, the agent took a VERY long time looking at my passport, like there was some black mark on my name that he had to read all the notes on before he could give it back to me. Never any explanation, though.

Hope things go better the next time!

grammy said...

It is starting to get scary. Hope you can figure something out to make it work better. Hope your Easter celebration was wonderful.

Anonymous said...

As a current CBP Officer I am dismayed to hear about this treatment you received from one of my fellow Officers. While it is understandable that you may have had to be removed from your vehicle due to a record in the system associating your vehicle or other info about someone who is armed and dangerous there is no reason for anyone in your party to be treated disrespectfully once you are secured and no threat. I would follow up with the info on the contact sheet and file a complaint if I was you. It would also be a good idea to contact your local elected officials and make them aware what has occured. They are in a much better position to get this resolved then you and lets face it,that is why you pay taxes so you can receive help when you need it. Next time you go to cross the border insist on speaking to a supervisor as there is always one on duty who should be able to address your complaints and concerns. CBP is very short on Officers which means that many times we are forced to work long hours against our will which can sometimes lead to frayed nerves. That is not ment as an excuse but just as a possible explanation of this Officers poor behavior. Our job is to protect America and its citizens and my paycheck is essentially paid by you. Most Officers are professionals and I am sorry from the rest of us that you happened to encounter this individual.Do not sweep this under the rug and follow thru with your complaint as you will be doing the rest of us a favor by bringing this Officers poor behavior to task with his bosses.

Good Luck,
JFK CBP Officer

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

What bad luck! I would definitely talk to someone about your experience.

Golightly said...

Okay, that's scary and ANNOYING! And probably those who need to be pulled over aren't. Ugh!

I probably would have pointed out that the brochure says the supervisor is available on site or by phone immediately. (Or I would have cowered away angrily at the unjust treatment...)

AmyK said...

We never got an explanation at the border for being stopped either! Glad it doesn't just happen to us! They demanded our car keys, made us get out of the car, go sit inside while they did... something that was apparently just too big of a deal to tell us...? I don't get it. They sure don't have to yell that much, though. Especially since we were on our way to our honeymoon in Whistler! Sheesh! Ruin our first day married much? And then the Canadian border guards gave us bad directions and we ended up 400 km in the wrong direction. Nice.

One Mom said...

A heartfelt "Thank You" to the CBP officer who took the time to comment. I have the utmost respect for the job you are doing and will take your advice and follow through with my concerns. I dread our next border crossing but your remarks and support is reassuring.

Shannon (muzbeecrazy.com) said...

So I'm a smidge behind on blog reading. Unbelievable that this occurred AGAIN! But how great to have that fellow officer comment on this post! He was very helpful. I hope you get some answers and that you never have to go through this again! Keep us posted!