Thursday, August 24, 2017

stand for inspection

oh, yes, by all means,
build that wall mr. maginot.
u.s. citizens crossing the border to canada? no problem!

"where do you live?
"are you carrying any weapons?"
"what's the purpose for your trip to canada?"
"i have a race in squamish tomorrow."
"what kind of a race?"
"how long will you be in canada?"
"until sunday."
"thank you."

u.s. citizens crossing the border to the united states? not so fast!

"are you bringing back any food?"
"just some packaged food we brought with us into canada."
"why were you in canada?"
"uh, to run a trail race."
"what are the last four digits of your social security number?"

"uh..." (hesitates, silently reciting the entire number) "2376."*
{interminable silence}
"please proceed to the secondary inspection lane."

defining our terms:
"If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry cannot verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers."

my passport is in good standing, and i've gone through the process to obtain a global entry clearance. which means for the low, low price of $100, the u.s. government agrees not to consider me a threat to national security. in return, they get my fingerprints, all my personal data, and a satellite fix on my whereabouts at all times. so...good value! 

the cost, according to the marketing copy on the web site, is darn well worth it!

"Your time is valuable. As a pre-screened Global Entry member, you arrive in the United States, check-in at the Global Entry kiosk and you're on your way. So what are you waiting for?"
  • No processing lines
  • No paperwork
  • Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
  • Available at major U.S. airports
  • Reduced wait times
  • TSA Pre✓® Eligibility

note to self and anyone reading: never trust the marketing copy.

the CBP officer behind the "secondary inspection" counter was terse, unsmiling, and seemingly annoyed at his computer. he didn't let any of that get in the way of his questions, though. oh, yes, he had questions...

"have you ever self-identified as african-american?"
"do you have tattoos on your chest?"
"have you ever lived in independence, missouri?"
"were you born in scotland?"

i had a weird flashback to jack nicholson on the stand in "a few good men."
"are these really the questions you brought me here to answer, lieutenant kaffee?"

"have you visited europe recently?"
"have you ever traveled under a different name?"
"do you have a nexus pass?"

full disclosure: the answer in each case was a straight-faced no. "no, sir," actually. as absurd as the questions were, and as readily as incredulous, smartass answers leaped into my head, i didn't want to spend one moment longer than necessary in "secondary inspection" at the us-canada border.

after 15 minutes of this doltish third-degree, the interrogation lights suddenly dimmed, and we were allowed to continue on our way. 

i assume that's when officer inquisition suddenly stumbled across the marketing copy on the global entry web site, and realized the gravity of the mistake he had just made.
semi-serious epilogue: my wife and i are over-privileged white people. if we are "secondary inspected," it's an inconvenience and just a matter of time before we get to go on our merry way home.

imagine, for a moment, how a similar experience might go for people with fewer resources. people who don't speak english easily. people who are afraid of unhinged american authority.

in a similar vein, does anyone believe this kind of vacuous evaluation is keeping anybody safe?

what a waste. and a shame.
*FPO digits.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud (there needs to be a quicker way of communicating that) at your tail, not a "ha-ha" laugh, but a crazed, manical, wtf kind of laugh. But a laugh, none the less.