Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon with the Office of Homeland Security

I wasn't sure about posting this. I suppose "they" could tap my phone lines or put a GPS chip on my car...maybe they did. My husband was furious but given his speech disabilities as a result of his stroke and the fact that anger exacerbates the problem, I should be glad that all he did was gnash his teeth, shake his one good fist and slam some doors.

This is our story.

We live only minutes from the Canadian border and cross evey Sunday to attend church in Canada. Yes, it is unusual but we have grandchildren living there and this gives us the opportunity to pick them up and spend some time with them. We weren't able to see them last Sunday so our trip was even shorter than usual.

Border crossings are usually uneventful. Sometimes there is a delay; sometimes vehicles are pulled over for further inspection. We have always been very respectful of the border agents because they do bear an awesome responsibility. We have never had a problem in the many years we have been crossing. Until this past Sunday. I do the driving and speaking because my husband's aphasia can make the question/answer process difficult.

GOOD AFTERNOON, IDENTIFICATION PLEASE

Good Afternoon. (we hand over our passports)

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Grand Island

CITIZENSHIP?

U.S.

WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR TRIP TO CANADA?

We went to church

DID YOU PURCHASE OR ACQUIRE ANYTHING?

No

(We wait while he disappears into his booth and processes our documentation)

(We wait for an unusually long time)

WHOSE CAR IS THIS?

It's my husband's car

HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR WALLET?

I guess I have about $20. My husband has about $100 I think.

ARE YOU CERTAIN YOU DIDN'T ACQUIRE ANYTHING WHILE YOU WERE OUT OF THE COUNTRY?

No we didn't. Absolutely nothing.

ARE YOU SURE YOU AREN'T CARRYING $50,000 WITH YOU?

(I almost laugh...I wish!) No, absolutely not!

WOULD YOU PLEASE TURN OFF THE IGNITION AND HAND ME YOUR CAR KEYS.

Silently, I do what he asks. He disappears again into the booth. He returns momentarily to slide a red and white striped bar under the car. Maybe with spikes in case I try to make an escape???

PLEASE EXIT THE CAR AND MOVE TO THE FRONT OF THE CAR.

We do what he asks. My husband is getting annoyed. We are totally perplexed and the agent does not provide any information as to what is happening. We have never even witnessed anyone being asked to leave their car!

ANOTHER AGENT WILL COME TO ESCORT YOU INSIDE.

May I get my purse out of the car?

NO, AN AGENT WILL HAVE TO GET IT.

The agent arrives to escort us to the Border Station, across 7 lanes of border traffic. Only slightly humiliating. Another agent is summoned to drive our car wherever it is to be taken. I hold my husband's arm to help him navigate the curbs. The agent observes that he has difficulty walking and at least alters our route to avoid so many curbs.

We enter the station and are seated on a wooden bench.

No one speaks to us. There is no explanation offered. After about 20 minutes my husband approaches the counter and says, "Well? What's happening?" He is told that someone will be with us soon.

45 Minutes after we first handed over our passports, an agent appears and returns them to us.

YOU'RE FREE TO GO. YOUR CAR IS IN THE GARAGE OVER THERE. I'LL OPEN THE GARAGE DOOR FOR YOU SO YOU CAN DRIVE OUT.

This is where my husband gets huffy. We weren't mistreated. The officers were never disrespectful. But we were subjected to questioning and our car to inspection without cause. If they had cause, should we not have been entitled to hear what prompted the suspicion and search? If not before, at the very least after all was said and done...and perhaps even an apology for the inconvenience.

So rest assured that the Office of Homeland Security is doing a thorough job protecting our northern border. Especially from 60-something folks returning from church.

6 comments:

grammy said...

how hard that must have been...especially for your hubby. men hate to loose control of a situation. will you still do that trip every week...is it good to be back home...

Ingrid said...

Wow - I've never heard a story like that before! Glad it didn't go any further than that. I hope I have $50K in my wallet when I cross the border!

Octamom said...

Well, y'all do fit the profile...

(snort, chortle, shakes head...)

I'm so sorry! What a bizarre experience! And you're right--it is an awesome responsibility and we do need to be respectful, etc.,...but sheesh!

Hope you don't have to experience this kind of thing again!

Blessings~

Shannon (muzbeecrazy.com) said...

Oh my! That is so strange! An apology was definitely in order! Good luck with your next outing over the border!!

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

Wow, that would be scary, even knowing nothing was out of order with anything you and your husband was doing. They could have had a tip to look for a certain kind of car carrying drug money.

MoziEsmé said...

So what DID you do with the $50,000??? Goodness...

We've had our issues with the US border - my husband and I were actually separated at the border after we'd been married about a year, and he couldn't get back into the US for another 11 months. Some of the folks are on an authority kick there. Not all, just some.