Asking a US border agent to be polite is asking for a pepper spraying

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Doug
Asking a US border agent to be polite is asking for a pepper spraying

A Canadian who demanded courtesy from a U.S. border security guard says he was pepper sprayed and held in custody for three hours for asking the disrespectful officer to "say please" when ordering him to turn his car off during a search.

"I refused to turn off the car until he said please. He didn't. And he has the gun, I guess, so he sprayed me," said Desiderio Fortunato, a Coquitlam, B.C., resident who frequently crosses the border to visit his second home in the state of Washington. "Is that illegal in the United States, asking an officer to be polite?"

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=1351216

I've seen such agents who were downright surly, but that just takes the cake!

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

...reason no. 732 never again to set foot in the United States of Amerikka.

oldgoat

In the 8 - 10 times or so I've crossed the border, I've found the US guards to be uniformly rude and surley.  There was one exception, when I crossed  over south of Estevan Sask, at a town so tiny the border station was about it.  They were cheerful and joking around, though they were fairly thorough..

Ze

They're always rude, often hostile. And beware, you may even be fingerprinted now. (I was, last time I crossed the border.) There's absolutely no recourse though: the protections of rights in the US constitution only apply after you're granted entry, they specifically exclude your dealings with a border crossing officer. 

Noise

If you're coming from an international flight, you will be fingerprinted now.  Even if it is just a transfer.

In L.A., I was standing in a line for the usual security check... there are 2 line-ups, and then a third door for people with young children to go through.  Infront of me, there was a Korean family along with some young children.  This guard comes up to them and in a hostile manner, almost shouting, says 'DO YOU HAVE YOUNG CHILDREN WITH YOU?!?!'.  I'm not sure how much the Korean man understood what he was being asked, but his confusion was obvious.  I'm not sure if he was having problems with the English, or if it was how absurd the question was...was this guard really asking him if he has young children while he was holding a very young child?  The guard sees the confusion and resorts to the usual American tactic...he gets even louder and repeats 'DO YOU HAVE YOUNG CHILDREN' over and over again.  Any person within earshot is now watching...I finally pipe up and point at the door saying 'Line for people with children is there'.  From that, he seemed to put together what the guard was trying to get at and walked his family over to the other line.  What really got to me was afterwards...the guard looked over at me and said 'Fucking orients never listen'.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Ze wrote:

There's absolutely no recourse though: the protections of rights in the US constitution only apply after you're granted entry...

You're wrong: the courts and the government of the USA have made it clear that non-citizens have no right to the protections of their constitution while on US soil.

They can "legally" send you off to Guantanamo Bay or Syria or Tunisia or Diego Garcia or Bagram or Albuquerque to be held indefinitely and tortured.

Michelle

Noise, that experience sounds infuriating.  I guess that's why they don't let you use any audiovisual equipment while you're waiting in line at the border.  Afraid you'll catch something like that on video.

That said, last time I went through US customs, the border guard was really nice - a jovial, grandfatherly type.  First and only time that's ever happened.  Generally though, my experience has been that they speak in clipped, harsh tones, even when they're not saying anything particularly rude - I think it's a tactic to intimidate people or to take them off guard to see who might have something to hide.

Not that this makes it okay, of course.  But with American border guards, no matter what they're like, I'm as meek as a lamb.  With Canadian border guards (and the last few times I've been over to the US, they've been as surly as the US guards, if not moreso), I don't feel the least bit intimidated.  They work for ME, and as a citizen, I feel at home on my own soil.  So when they speak to me in clipped tones, I drop my own pleasant and sweet demeanor and give them the monosyllable treatment back.  And it infuriates me to watch them treating non-citizens (and usually people of colour) like shit.  Makes me want to tell them to smarten up and quit making me ashamed to be a Canadian.  (But of course I don't.)

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Michelle wrote:

Makes me want to tell them to smarten up and quit making me ashamed to be a Canadian.  (But of course I don't.)

I guess they don't really work for YOU after all. You just get to pay their salary.

Noise

Honestly, I've had no problems with US border guards...  But I get the feeling thats due to my stature as a 6'6" white male more than anything else, privledges of the white male perhaps?  I'm not sure if they bother trying to intimidate me...if they are trying, I haven't noticed.  In my 20 some odd flights through the US over the past couple years, I've never been searched or had my bag opened beyond asking to see if those were batteries inside a side pocket.  They do a quick few questions in customs and wave me on...even with my passport being badly water damaged, along with a few mold spots on the later pages.

What the Americans will let you take onto a plane is far more restricted than any other nation that I've seen as well.  I had a couple bottles of duty free booze, Korean air let me take it onboard in my backpack... I get to LA and they make me check the bag or throw the booze out.  In hindsight, I should have drank it while in the security line-up.

Ze

M. Spector wrote:
Ze wrote:

There's absolutely no recourse though: the protections of rights in the US constitution only apply after you're granted entry...

You're wrong: the courts and the government of the USA have made it clear that non-citizens have no right to the protections of their constitution while on US soil.

They can "legally" send you off to Guantanamo Bay or Syria or Tunisia or Diego Garcia or Bagram or Albuquerque to be held indefinitely and tortured.

Yes you can indeed. I've never disputed that, so not sure how I can be wrong.

I consulted immigration authorities, who informed me as a non-citizen I was entitled to certain protections (which I know are not always in reality respected) once through the border process, but no protections at all before being admitted. And that's all I've said on the point.

Noise, that sounds terrible. The people who have "sinned" by not speaking English get it the worst. On my last border crossing, I was fingerprinted and told when I started to protest, told: "this has been in the government gazette for months." The one before that, they took me into a screening room and refused to let me inform my partner who was travelling with me where I was for the next 45 minutes. But such experiences are nothing compared to the abusive shouting that often is directed at people who have the audacity not to speak fluent English.

Sven Sven's picture

Michelle wrote:

With Canadian border guards (and the last few times I've been over to the US, they've been as surly as the US guards, if not moreso), I don't feel the least bit intimidated.

In all of the travels I've done over the border, I have the impression that they are both pretty much bureaucratic automatons.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Fidel

 I think it must have been easier crossing from east to west Europe and vice versa during the cold war.  Here it's Canadian oil and gas and massive amounts of hydroelectric power that are free to cross the border in an orderly north-south fashion and free of all restrictions. Free trade my ass. Canada is a northern colony.

Sven Sven's picture

Fidel wrote:

I think it must have been easier crossing from east to west Europe and vice versa during the cold war.

That is obviously false, and most certainly so with regard to the movement (or lack of movement) of people from East to West.

Fidel wrote:

Here it's Canadian oil and gas and massive amounts of hydroelectric power that are free to cross the border in an orderly north-south fashion and free of all restrictions. Free trade my ass. Canada is a northern colony.

And that is apropos of...what?  Are you saying that in the absence of a trade agreement, oil and gas moving south is likely to be subject to being pepper sprayed by U.S. border guards if the oil and gas, inanimate objects that they are, insist that the guards be polite?

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!

Ze

Sven wrote:
Michelle wrote:

With Canadian border guards (and the last few times I've been over to the US, they've been as surly as the US guards, if not moreso), I don't feel the least bit intimidated.

In all of the travels I've done over the border, I have the impression that they are both pretty much bureaucratic automatons.

 Not me. I always get all happy-feeling when I see "Welcome to Canada/Bienvenue au Canada" up on cheery red lights. Never had a single bad experience, and they even know how to smile. (I appreciate this is only personal experience and it's nasty for many people, though.)

Only once crossing into the US have I ever gotten anything other than suspicion and hostility. (That one border guard was kind enough to tell me the US immigration system was screwed up, and said "I'm not telling you to lie to the US government, but our system is set up to encourage you not to tell the truth." Maybe no coincidence he's the only border guard I've ever interacted with who wasn't a big white guy on a power trip.)