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December 5, 2006

Passports
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:42 PM * 116 comments

Another quote from a small newspaper that no one outside of town is likely to have seen. This is from the weekly The Colebrook Chronicle (published every Friday) in a small New Hampshire town located on the Canadian border:

Quebec Official Speaks Out Against Passport Initiative

by Donna Jordan

The Colebrook Development Corporation (CDC) held its annual meeting at the Colebrook House this week. The special guest speaker was Frances Dionne, who is the New England delegate from economic affairs for the Quebec province.

Dionne pointed out in her talk the importance of making sure that the United States and Canadian border remains “fluid,” so that citizens and transportation of product can move back and forth.

Dionne said that she is not in favor of the passport initiative and spoke out against the passport initiative at the Senate hearings in Concord last May that were hosted by N. H. Senator John Sununu. Dionne suggested that if a school in the United States can come up with a simple system of scanning a student’s thumb to identify their allergies or if they have paid their lunch bill, then something similar can be created for border crossings—rather than asking citizens to invest $100 in a passport. She said that requiring passports, especially for those living along the border, is not the answer and cited the example that the 19 terrorists on Sept. 11 all had passport and it didn’t stop them.

It’s clear that the new passport requirements have nothing to do with security. This is all part of the same plan that is putting armed gunboats on the Great Lakes for the first time since the War of 1812.

Why would anyone want to do that? Let’s quote from Murphy’s Laws of Combat: “Make it tough for the enemy to get in and you can’t get out.”

That’s George Bush’s motive for wanting to build a Berlin Wall around America.

Comments on Passports:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 10:00 PM:

It won't do anything for the southern border either. Think about all the people who cross every day to go shopping on whichever side is the one with better prices - or to have a beer. I think when the full understanding hits (probably the day after it's implemented, since it hasn't hit the major news outlets yet), there's going to be flak hitting Washington at a level that may require air raid sirens.

#2 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 10:19 PM:

I grew up near the Canadian border, so this is a topic near and dear to my heart. When I've crossed the Canadian border, I've always had to bring my passport to show that since I'm an American citizen, I don't need a passport to cross this border. (I am also very, very nice to the diligent and forthright customs officials who look at me, hold out their hand expecting the passport without asking, realize that it's a US passport, ask for my car registration, then search my car before allowing me back into the country of my citizenship.) I now live in Massachusetts so I don't do much border crossing anymore.

I go through all that to say that I don't have a dog in this hunt when I say this:

Requiring US citizens on the US-Canadian border to have a passport to cross that border is stupid in so many ways. This is an open border. People cross it as a matter of course. It's not a big deal to go to Canada and back, so that's what people do. Making it more difficult to cross will have a noticeable effect on people's lives. There is quite a bit of cross-border trade. The economic ramifications of increasing the time it takes to cross the border can not be good.

Now, there is the argument that increased security is worth the economic sacrifice. It might even be worth limiting our mobility. However, this is a poor example for that argument since this won't increase our security. This is, at best, security theater. It's not going to prevent any terrorist from coming into the US. The universe does not work by sympathetic magic. Constantly checking people's passports do not make the terrorists go away. It is just going to encumber a lot of people who have every legitimate right to cross the border. I don't see the rationale for making people's lives more difficult pointlessly.

#3 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 10:55 PM:

It was the Dubai Ports deal that jarred me into thinking about things differently. The secrecy that preceded the deal, and the fast-track authority suggested Bush realized it was a political hot potato. That meant he understood the political ramafications - at least qualitatively. Doing the deal was not a simple act of incompetence. So what was he doing? Did he know for certain that Dubai posed no terrorist threat? Or did he know that they might, given the right inducement? Seems like it had to be one or the other.

Consistent with either point of view would be the suggestion that nobody who is pushing for passport access at the border is doing so because they seriously believe it will improve security.

#4 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:23 PM:

I live in Canada, but my employer is based in the the US. I fly down monthly for 3 day visits. Anxiety surrounding my frequent work-related border crossings led to my getting a TN-1 visa, which allows me to work in the US. Every crossing is still a short grilling asking why I'm coming to the US, why I have to, etc. Nothing difficult, but time consuming, and always with the clear risk of being denied entry, which would have substantial negative effects on my employability. Not nice.
A few days ago I entered the EU at Frankfurt. It was a refreshing change to not be treated like a criminal - I was asked no questions and my passport was quickly examined, stamped and returned. It was a formality, not an expression of fear and domination.
Increasingly I wish Canada could effectively re-orient towards Europe instead of the US. I hope your newly elected government can reverse the growing inward-looking trend.

#5 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:34 PM:

The passport proposals have been big news here (western NY) for a couple of years, and are nearly universally hated. Going to Canada isn't even a day trip here, it's quite common to go for dinner, or to pick up something at a specific shop. The Niagara Falls, NY Yellow Pages have almost as many restaurants in Canada listed as in the US. It's not even a place to drive to - I've walked to Canada, it's the best way to do Niagara Falls for out-of-town guests. (Spend about 3 hours doing the state park on the NY side, walk over the Rainbow bridge, avoiding the backup in customs lines for cars, spend half an hour looking at the Falls on the Canadian side, grab dinner at one of the casino buffets, walk back.)

It's idiotic to require a passport to travel to the next town over.

#6 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:39 PM:

Paul Lalonde @ 4 - FWIW, I'm a native-born US citizen, and I feel more stress when re-entering the US than I do arriving in another country.

The only time I was ever treated decently at US Customs and Immigration was when I went to the airport to meet my friends' newly adopted son who had just arrived from Korea. I was given a pass to meet the plane, and held him as *he* went through immigration with his US documents and Korean passport.

I really do think that the government doesn't want us to travel abroad.

#7 ::: Pantechnician ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:40 PM:

Draconian border restrictions lead to cases like Michel Jalbert's, where harmless people are punished disproportionately for small mistakes. I'm more than a little baffled by the perception that my country is some sort of insidious haven for terrorists waiting to sneak over our southern border.

#8 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:51 PM:

From ‘95-‘04 I was a US citizen living in Quebec with work contracts in Massachusetts & many friends in Vermont. My father is US, I am, my mother has been a green-card Canadian living in the US for 45 years. Crossing the border was often a weekly, if not occasionally daily, event.

During that time border crossing went from rote formality to becoming a presumed criminal subject to harassment & intimidation, all by the US side, *my* government.

It’s gotten to the point I can no longer recommend to many friends their visiting my beloved Montreal. Pop up from Boston for the weekend? Only if your papers are in order. Plus all of your records.

I’ve an American buddy who broke a single school window when he was 16 in an act of teenage vandalism. This was “expunged” from his records when he was 18; he was assured it was gone forever. 3 years ago, at age 40-something, he was cross-examined by border agents about his “criminal history” with references to this long ago act like it was the day before! (In truth it possibly predated the birth of his questioner.)

Another time crossing the border back into the US an American friend was asked to produce title & registration of his vehicle. Upon opening his glove box the border agent spotted his unmistakable pill-a-day box, lunged for it, and in grabbing it out of the vehicle pulled it open and spilled several hundred dollars of VA-supplied HIV medications across the roadway. After assuring themselves that all of the completely legitimate medications were properly stamped & prescribed my friend was informed he was then free to get on his hands & knees in the middle of the border crossing to collect his meds from among the grit, grime, and oil on the ground surrounding & under his vehicle.

How considerate of our civil servants.

Once upon a time a driver’s license was sufficient to cross the US/Canada border. Dropping that wasn’t unreasonable, a state-issued driver’s license is just that, it has nothing to do with nationality. Then it became Voter ID/Birth Certificate/Passport, which wasn’t bad. Most folks already possess these or can get one with little effort or cost. Now it’s this miscegenation of not-really-a-passport or the new high-tech RFID-for-the-sake-of-it insecuritron passport.

Welcome to security theater Amerika, where pretending is more importing then doing and puffing up our collective chest and making threatening noises has replaced good will and sensibility.

It used to be we made fun of the Soviet Union for it’s citizen controls, bragged about sharing the largest unguarded border in the world with Canada, felt pity on Europeans and their border control nightmares. Now as they’ve thrown off all of those we’ve adopted the worst of these, at great expense & inconvenience.

Wonder why US conferences no longer draw international crowds? Because other nationalities don’t want to subject themselves to US asshattery. Wonder why tourism is down? Because in a competitive world we’re actively discouraging transnational travel. Every day thousands of small decisions are made around the world, ones in which the US used to be the favored, trusted, respected, choice. We’ve blown that, gone from being the leader in truth & rule of law to not believing in it ourselves.

I’m back in the US for now. But I honestly don’t know for how long. It’s getting uglier by the day, and I fear I may soon not have the stomach for the perversion it is becoming. I’ll salute those who stay to fight the good fight, but suspect I’ll take my talents elsewhere and live the life folks used to come to the USA for.

#9 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:04 AM:

By the way, in 2002 there was a fascinating study by the Pew Research Center about What the World Thinks oof America. It was turned into a television program by the national new services of several nations cooperating to each bring their unique perspective. It examined how the US views itself, how the US thinks the wrold views it, and region by region how that reflects reality.

It was a sobering, and distressing, production. American jingoism brought up short by honest outside appraisals. The most unfortunate part? This apparently wasn’t shown in in the US. BBC, CBC, their equivalent new services around the globe, but not where the subjects themselves could see themselves reflected.

Anyway, here’s the latest report from last summer:

Pew Global Attitudes Project: Introduction: 16-Nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey: U.S. Image Up Slightly, But Still Negative

#10 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:08 AM:

Larry Brennan (#6): I've usually had to answer more questions when entering Canada than when re-entering the US, though in one case that was due to arriving at YUL with a large suitcase and truthfully filling out the card saying that we were planning to spend 0 days in Canada. We simply had to explain to the Canadian immigration official that we were connecting to another flight, but had to enter Canada first to get to the check-in desk.

(BOS-YUL-CDG-MAN; it was the only routing we could get frequent flyer seats on. Coming back was MAN-CDG, CDG-JFK with a ground connection to LGA-BOS. Clearing JFK immigration was very quick, though, even in 2003.)

Even before acquiring my EU-member-state citizenship, I never had any problems entering any of the EU countries; a quick look at the passport (and arrival card, where applicable), and it was stamped. Same thing when we went to Japan.

Preclearing into the US at YUL after my last trip abroad, though? As many questions at immigration as the arrival involved, despite my US passport.

#11 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:43 AM:

I was crossing back into the US from Canada when I was asked where I was born. I replied, "The District of Columbia." The next question: "Are you a US citizen?" Apparently you not only need to make sure that your papers are in order, and your records, you also need to make sure that the border agents you run into are smart enough to understand them. It really reminds me most of travelling to Communist bloc countries, back when the joke was that government agents went around in threes--one to read, one to write, and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:48 AM:

The passport thing put a pot of bad-taste-in-the-mouth simmering on my mental bad burner. What really turned up the hat is the announcement that the military would be deploying a PHUQQING PAIN RAY to Iraq.

A PAIN RAY.

For . . . riots. Of course. Just riots. Not to break up protests, or torture prisoners, or to have fun with Hajji kids, because our soldier boys never do that kind of thing.

Who could have imagined that The Onion's inaugural-day take on the Bush administration was
too tame.

Do you think I could get a patent for an ass-kicking machine that folks who voted for Bush would be required to be strapped into for three hours a day?

* * *

I picked up the form for renewing my passport a couple of weeks back, and had new pictures taken. The biggest difference between my old and new photos: My old coke-bottle-bottom glasses shrunk down big chunks of my face. Weird and creepy.

#13 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:19 AM:

Christopher Davis @ 10 - Hmmm. The only lengthy conversation I've ever had entering Canada was in 1997, when I rolled up to the border at Calais, ME / St. Stephen, NB on my very respectable BMW motorcycle.

Mustachioed, heavily French-accented Canada Customs Guy: Where do you live? Ou habitez-vous?
Me: Great Neck, NY

CC: Where are you going?
Me: PEI, Nova Scotia and Quebec City.

CC: How long will you be in Canada?
Me: 10 or 11 days

CC: How much money do you have with you?
Me: About $250 US and $50 CDN

CC: What is your license plate number?
Me: Rattles off plate number.

CC: Blah-Blah-Blah?
Me: Pardon?

CC: Blah-Blah-Blah?
Me: (Removes helmet and earplugs) Pardon?

CC: (agitated) Blah-Blah-Blah?
Me: (Turns of motor) I'm sorry, I really didn't understand you.

CC: Do you have any pepper spray?
Me: Pepper spray? No. Of course not!

CC: Enjoy your stay in Canada.

By contrast, I've had US customs take my friend's car apart (in the late 80's) for no apparent reason, which made for a 2 hour stop on the border at I-87.

Shortest re-entry into US - in 1999 at Niagara with my then 90 year old grandmother in the passenger seat. They just asked us where we were from and let is in without showing any documentation at all.

#14 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:23 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 12 - I rather suspect that police departments will start buying that system and turn it loose on dangerous protesters - like Grannies For Peace. Then it'll be safe to have WTO meetings in the US again.

#15 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:28 AM:

What the hell, armed gunboats on the Great Lakes? I mean, I know we Canadians won the war, but good grief....

#16 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:54 AM:

The last time I crossed back into the US from abroad was through the pre-clearance desk at Trudeau. The customs agent was wearing a paramilitary jumpsuit. I had to stifle a laugh when I handed him my passport. The uniform suggested the designer was someone who read Tom Clancy and played Half Life.

"What were you doing in Canada?" He barked.

"Business."

"What kind of business!" Again with the barking.

"I was at a software development conference in Montreal."

Gah. It's theater, but people at a border crossing aren't in the focus group. I guess it looks good on TV.

#17 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:57 AM:

I just went through this last week, flying back to JFK from Heathrow. I was interrogated more brusquely there than I had been upon arrival in the UK. "Where were you, why did you go, what were you doing, and exactly what are these $150 worth of Christmas gifts you've declared on your landing card?!" I felt like a criminal for having had the audacity to leave the country.

The US is definitely trying to close its borders and keep us all in, under the guise of keeping everyone else out. Sobering thought, that.

#18 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:12 AM:

It may not always be clear from my blogposts, but I've always thought I'd end up working in the US for a few years; now I don't think I'll bother, or visit the country on holiday.

Nothing against the country perse, but the risks are too high.

#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:18 AM:

The armed gunboats is about putting machineguns on Coastguard cutters, and "reinterpreting" a treaty from after the War of 1812 which put a limit on armed ships on the Great Lakes.

Like "reinterpreting" the Geneva Conventions?

Well, it seems that machineguns are considered law-enforcement weapons, which reminds me of the Colorado Coalfield War, where Americans machinegunned tented camps of the families of striking mineworkers.

At around the same time, British and German machineguns were killing military targets in the tens of thousands. Law enforcement?

Law enforcement includes grenade launchers for CS gas and rubber bullets. Where do you stop?

I can, just about, see the point of carrying a belt-fed 7.62mm machinegun on a Coastguard cutter. But classing it as a law enforcement weapon feels wrong.

#20 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:25 AM:

I'd like to write about the increasingly interrogative tone of the border guards coming back into the US, but just thinking about it is making my blood pressure spike.

I feel lucky the last time I flew back home: I was so tired that when they asked "where did you stay. Was it with friends or people you know?" I accidentally didn't directly answer, instead saying "I stayed in Banff National Park."

Because if I was really awake, I'd have really, really wanted to answer with "I'm sorry, are you asking who I was associating with during my travels? What kind of question is that?" And then I'd have missed my flight or gotten me and my name on a dreadful list.

#21 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:10 AM:

#18: same here. I visit only when entirely necessary for business. I went there on holiday a couple of times before 9/11: that won't happen again soon. Why would I want to?

#22 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:10 AM:

I have entered the US twice, to go to Worldcons. Both times I was courteously treated by polite ladies and gentlemen, and I have no complaints whatsoever. I found British immigration far more trying.

I wrote this:

BRITISH CUSTOMS

Stopped by barricades, we stand and queue
With all the rest. Not just Australians. There's
New Zealanders, Canadians in pairs
And even a South African or two.
They're processing us slowly. We make way
For those Italians passing through by troops,
And well-tanked German tourists, all in groups.
They wave their passports. They're EC. Away

They go. No bother with formalities,
No entry permits, stamps, for such as these.
They check our bags, our passports scrutinise,
Demand our business; grudging, let us by.
It's nothing new. Above, Australians fly
And leave a mark that fades on English skies.

#23 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:43 AM:

> I can, just about, see the point of carrying a belt-fed 7.62mm machinegun on a Coastguard cutter. But classing it as a law enforcement weapon feels wrong.

I think shooting at pirates or drug smugglers who are refusing to stop (and possibly shooting at you) is law enforcement, not national defence. Whether there's a serious need to do that on the Great Lakes is another question.

#24 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:28 AM:

In general, I've found US immigration to be more likely to ask intrusive questions than immigration in other countries. But that can vary. I've generally had an easy time moving in and out of the US (I show my passport and my green card, they run the card through the card reader, they stamp my passport, they ask where I'm coming from and how long I've been away. On one occasion, landing in Miami, the immigration officer said 'Welcome home.')

On the other hand, there was that immigration officer in New York who barked at me demanding what I did, and when I replied that I was a student at NYU asked 'Where is New York University?' This while my American wife and children were right beside me. The worst I've had recently, though, was an immigration officer at Piarco Airport in Trinidad who wanted to know what was written on the wedding bands of my wife and I. When I explained that it was Elvish writing he said 'That's not any kind of Elvish I've seen.' This raises interesting questions about just who is passing through Trinidad and Tobago these days and where they're heading.

#25 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:39 AM:

I don't know of any national border where you can go to and fro freely without having an acceptable national identity document. Even going between the Netherlands and Belgium, where the border has been open and invisible for many years and there are no checks, everyone is still supposed to carry a national ID card or passport, as they do in all Schengen Agreement countries.
A lot of people work in Geneva but live in France, so thousands of people cross that border every day, mostly without being checked (last time I was there, anyway) yet there is still a border post and they can check you if they like, so you have to have the ID. The point, of course, is that the ID in those countries is a cheap and simple card, rather than a high-tech passport.

Requiring everyone to possess verifiable ID when they cross a border seems reasonable, but a sensible border control should be flexible about the ID and the checking regime in places where people cross frequently. US border controls just don't seem to be sensible right now.

Does the US have a verifiable national identity document, other than a passport? I suppose a driver's license won't do, because it's a state document, not a national one, with potentially 51 or more different appearances, so difficult to check (I presume - I don't know the US system in detail). What else could they use?

I wonder whether the hostility of many US immigration officials is DHS policy, or just cultural suspicion of furrin places and anyone who goes there?

#26 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:54 AM:

Alan Braggins scribed -
I think shooting at pirates or drug smugglers who are refusing to stop (and possibly shooting at you) is law enforcement, not national defence. Whether there's a serious need to do that on the Great Lakes is another question.

Living on Lake Ontario (Rochester), I can say that I've never heard of a situation where the USCG had to do more than run lights to get a boat on the lake to stand to and prepare to be boarded.

While officially they are the "first, last and best line of defense" against an invasion on the Lake (a *what*? Like, Torontians in yachts, trying to invade us for cheap retail goods without VAT? They use *busses* for that...), realistically the CG here spends most of their time doing searches for drowning victims, pulling over dudes what have imbibed a bit too much to be boating, and the like. Not many eevill cocaine smugglers with bad accents and bad mustaches running cigarette boats full of white gold into our harbors....

There was a fairly large - for Rochester - foofawraw recently when the USCG was going to mark off a (fairly large - for the Lake) section of the lake for a firing range for a few days, so the cutter crews could actually test and qualify on their machine guns - M-60s mostly (I don't think they have many/any M2HBs actually mounted - it's a bit of a weapon for the typical traffic on the lake). Last I recall, the plan was tabled temporarily while they evaluated other options (the problem being that qualifying on the ground means a trip, at this point, to Ft. Drum, and doesn't take into effect the differences of firing at a target from a deck up off the water, on a moving target, against moving targets, in rolling waves...).

As for the passport bullshit - it's amazing. Even when I was working in Mississauga for a while for Citi, I never had more of a hassle than "where ya been, anything to declare, what was your purpose, blah blah." My teammate, otoh, got stopped at the border pretty regularly, and one time nearly missed a whole day of work while he was detained and waited for bullshit to subside.

The difference, of course, is that I'm white, and he's brown (New Jersey by way of Puerto Rico). Never mind we're both native US citizens, both ex-military with (lapsed, on my part - his was still active at the time) security clearances (and he's a veteran, having served in Iraq I), papers (or those papers you needed at the time - drivers license, SS card, etc.) in order, etc.

(Well, that, and I usually did not travel over the Rainbow Bridge, and he often did - he had a girlfriend in Buffalo, and I was travelling from Rochester - the Grand Island bridge is not only less hassle, it's closer as the road travels - I'm sure travelling the Lewiston-Queenston or Grand Island bridges is less hassle today as well).

But, even then (2002) we stayed in Canada as much as possible - most weekends I didn't bother going home, just because the border was such a pain even then. Now? I don't know how one of my team members (who has a GF in Canada) manages it.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:20 AM:

Since I became an American citizen, I haven't crossed the border very often. Not often enough, my aging mom had been unsubtly telling me, what with it having been 9 years since my last visit to Quebec City. And so, after the Boston worldcon in 2004, I drove due north to the border. The Canadian official didn't act suspicious when I handed my passport. When asked about my citizenship, I said 'American', no dual citizenship. The guy then prissily explained that I could get a dual citizenship. It's like he had this image of the INS having twisted my arm into surrendering my Canadian citizenship. But I didn't share those feelings with him. Besides, this was Labor Day and it had taken forever to cross the border, what with the traffic, and I was getting an urgent need to answer Nature's Call.

On the way back, no traffic backup, but the American official acted a bit suspicious. Here I was, with an American passport and speaking English with an accent that can't be described as slight (ergo how can I be a true American?). I was used to that attitude though, from when I was a Canadian flying to California to visit my fiancee. On those occasions though, and this time too, they let me thru fairly quickly. Thank goodness. It would have been interesting, having my Archie-Bunker of a father-in-law calling and giving them an earful.

#28 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:29 AM:

Larry Brennan said (#7):
I really do think that the government doesn't want us to travel abroad.

No, the US government makes it slightly easier to travel abroad than some other countries.

It's only when entering (or re-entering) the country that they are likely to give you a hard time, as least with air travel. When I've been in both Spanish and German airports, the situation is this: if you are traveling to a destination outside the limited set of countries covered by the Schengen Agreement, you will have go through a police checkpoint and show your passport. I have even been (very briefly, once) quizzed by a German official at the checkpoint. This is not generally true of US airports -- in fact, at the moment I can't remember a time when I needed to show anyone at a US airport other than an airline employee my passport in order to leave the country.

#29 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:45 AM:

y said (#11):
I was crossing back into the US from Canada when I was asked where I was born. I replied, "The District of Columbia." The next question: "Are you a US citizen?" Apparently you not only need to make sure that your papers are in order, and your records, you also need to make sure that the border agents you run into are smart enough to understand them. It really reminds me most of travelling to Communist bloc countries, back when the joke was that government agents went around in threes--one to read, one to write, and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

Two points:
1. There can be arcane reasons why someone is born in the US, but is not a US citizen (including, say, renouncing your citizenship, or being born to foreign diplomatic staff).
2. More to the point, seemingly trivial, redundant, or dunderheaded questions by customs/immigration officials are sometimes used to look for dodgy responses or suspicious behavior. See this discussion by Bruce Schneier, for example, which explains how an attempt to set off a bomb at LAX in 1999 was foiled by a customs agent asking routine questions at the Canadian border.

#30 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:57 AM:

Canadian tourism has been yelling about this ever since the changes were announced.

http://www.macleans.ca/topstories/world/article.jsp?content=20060605_128094_128094

It's definitely news on the Canadian side of the border, and big news in tourism-dependent areas like Niagara and Nova Scotia.

#31 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 09:42 AM:

Man, it'd be so much cooler if those Coast Guard boats were armed with the treaty-specified 18-pounder.

#32 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:13 AM:

Serge wrote (#27): When asked about my citizenship, I said 'American', no dual citizenship. The guy then prissily explained that I could get a dual citizenship. It's like he had this image of the INS having twisted my arm into surrendering my Canadian citizenship.

I don't know your feelings about your citizenship, Serge, but my understanding is that INS effectively does twist your arm into surrendering non-US citizenships; you are asked whether you've renounced your citizenship of other countries. I was a little concerned about perjuring myself at my citizenship interview, but my understanding is the US has no legal basis on which to ask you to renounce your citizenship of another country, and therefore it's okay to say 'no,' even if you haven't. I'm not remotely comfortable with this, frankly, and it definitely counts in my book as arm-twisting.

While I certainly plan on getting my US citizenship (especially since, as a resident alien, I've just lost my habeas rights), I certainly plan on keeping my Canadian citizenship - among other reasons, because I'm worried that, with the direction that things are going, the US will decide that citizenship-by-naturalization can be revoked and I have no desire to end up stateless.

And speaking of the Military Commissions Act, a mini-rant: I was under the distinct impression that people moved to the United States to get away from living in a state where the government could pick people up on the streets and detain them indefinitely, with no legal recourse. How the fck did the US become one of those countries?

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:29 AM:

Really, debcha, the INS person simply asked me which way I wanted to go and that was it. That was my choice long before she asked me.

As for your last comment... First, I became an American on June 23, 1994. And yes, I had decided to apply for citizenship because of Bill Clinton's victory that had reassured me that there was some sanity left in the country. Yes, I am very ashamed of what is going on these days, but DAMNED if I'm going to let the fascists define what America is.

#34 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:45 AM:

#25: John Stanning:I don't know of any national border where you can go to and fro freely without having an acceptable national identity document.

The reason why people who are howling is because this used to be true of the US-Canadian border. As Ursula L (#5) points out, you didn't need a passport to go over to the next town. Most people got away with a driver's license, or just a simple declaration of US citizenship. It was an open border. I haven't seen a convincing reason to close it.

#27 Serge:The guy then prissily explained that I could get a dual citizenship.

This sort of attitude is precisely why a friend of mine with dual citizenship says she's an American when going into the US and she's a Canadian when going into Canada. They are both true statements. She found both sets of Customs officials have this attitude about citizenship that she found unsavory.

#32: debcha:my understanding is that INS effectively does twist your arm into surrendering non-US citizenships;

It's a little more complicated than that. When you are naturalized into US citizenship, you swear in a US court of law, among other things, that this act of naturalization renounces your citizenship to all other countries. However, unless you are actually on the territory of that other country and officially renounce your citizenship to an official of that country, there is no reason why that country has to revoke your citizenship. (I believe this is the current legal interpretation. I think there has been drift over the years.)

So the US really wants its citizens to be citizens just of the US. However, it's still possible for US citizens to be dual citizens. Certainly, if one becomes a citizen of a country whose naturalization oath does not require that he "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which [he has] heretofore been a subject or citizen", that works too.

Does anyone else find it ironic that there are Americans who have sworn an oath that they "will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic" are ineligible to become President of the United States? (This, of course, is not a recent thing. It's baked into the Constitution.)

#35 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:58 AM:

I can't help but think, now, of a wonderful story told to me by a man I used to work with.

He immigrated to Canada from the Soviet Union, back when it was still the Soviet Union. He had been trying to sponsor his elderly mother to come to Canada as well, but the Canadian government wasn't particularly interested in more immigrants at the time, so he hadn't been able to do so.

His mother got permission from the Soviets to come and visit him. Canada wouldn't let her enter the country, because of the immigration issue. But no one cared if she flew into the U.S., because she had no U.S. family and thus no reason to try to immigrate.

So she flew into New York. Her son came to meet her. They drove until they approached the border, whereupon he let her out of the car, and drove across alone.

She walked up to the border and told the Canadian guard that she wished to claim political asylum. He stared at her and said "Where did you come from?"

"Russia," she answered, truthfully.

"You walked from Russia?" he exclaimed.

I think they admired her chutzpah, because they let her immigrate after all.

(I've ended up working with several people who lived under Soviet rule. They have the best bureaucracy stories. Let us hope we never have ones as good.)

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:11 AM:

JC at #34...

It was an open border. I haven't seen a convincing reason to close it.

In a recent Robert Metzger column of the SFWA Bulletin, I read that the Persian Gulf isn't the USA's biggest outside oil provider. Canada is. Yes, let's invade Canada even if it sounds like the South Park movie.

Does anyone else find it ironic that there are Americans who have sworn an oath that they "will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic" are ineligible to become President of the United States?

It is a bit ironic, yes, but on the other hand, do we want Arnie Schwarzenegger for President?

#37 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:41 AM:

on the other hand, do we want Arnie Schwarzenegger for President?

Not particularly ... but it's a damned shame that Madeleine Albright can't run either.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:45 AM:

True, meredith, but she couldn't run. She'd perceived as too old, even if, for all I know, she is no older than McCain.

#39 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:47 AM:

#26: I think shooting at pirates or drug smugglers who are refusing to stop (and possibly shooting at you) is law enforcement, not national defence. Whether there's a serious need to do that on the Great Lakes is another question.

But the recent attacks by bold corsairs who swept into Green Bay and pillaged the gold, rum, and tobacco before they swept back to their secret pirates' lair on Isle Royale in a swift caravel have led to calls for the Coast Guard to take decisive action. Johnny Depp has a script in development.

#40 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:06 PM:

Robert L said (#39):
But the recent attacks by bold corsairs who swept into Green Bay and pillaged the gold, rum, and tobacco before they swept back to their secret pirates' lair on Isle Royale in a swift caravel have led to calls for the Coast Guard to take decisive action. Johnny Depp has a script in development.

Gold, rum, and tobacco? This is Wisconsin you're talking about -- the bold corsairs were obviously after the cheese. (Mayhap their next raid will include an overland expedition to pillage the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum.)

(I like the idea of pirates hiding out among the moose and wolves on Isle Royale. Cunning devils.)

#41 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:16 PM:

I tend to use my passport more than my birth certificate because my birth certificate is... well, it's typed in mostly caps, in Spanish, it misspells my mother's maiden name, and it shows I'm a citizen of Honduras.
I am not giving up my dual citizenship without a fight.

If you ever want a pointless argument, try to figure out whether American citizens born abroad count as 'natural-born' enough to run for President. Every single person I've spoken to has a different reason. I figure yeah, I count, but I'm not planning to run for public office unless something catastrophic happens.

#42 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:17 PM:

Scott Taylor @ 26: Like, Torontians in yachts, trying to invade us for cheap retail goods without VAT? They use *busses* for that...

Thus explaining all the smoochy Canadians shopping in Western New York. :-)

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:30 PM:

Back in the mid-Eighties, there was an episode of the revived Avengers that involved Soviets taking advantage of real bad weather all over North America to sneak a small island (really a missile base) all the way up the Saint Lawrence River to Lake Ontario.

#44 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Robert L (#39) quoth:
But the recent attacks by bold corsairs who swept into Green Bay and pillaged the gold, rum, and tobacco before they swept back to their secret pirates' lair on Isle Royale in a swift caravel have led to calls for the Coast Guard to take decisive action. Johnny Depp has a script in development.

I'd believe the bold corsairs pillaging whitefish and tourist knicknacks from Bayfield and Copper Harbor before they swept back to their secret pirates' lair on Isle Royale, but methinks they'd be a mite conspicuous on the way to and from Green Bay. What with having to cross under the Mackinac Bridge, and all--not to mention passing Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks.

#45 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:17 PM:

I cross the Canadian border by car at least twice a year, and I've experimented with different IDs. The least I've been able to get by with for entering the U.S. was a 15-year-old expired student ID. I don't think I've ever been asked for ID to enter Canada, and I've never been searched either way. The only unusual question I ever get is "why do you have all those books?"

I usually cross at Niagara, Buffalo, or Lewiston, depending on how much of a hurry I'm in and whether I want to linger and look at the Falls.

I already have a passport, but given the length of lines at border crossings now, I am NOT looking forward to what's coming.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:20 PM:

"why do you have all those books?"

Yes, Susan, why?

#47 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:36 PM:

I travel on business outside the USA several times a year. The last time I went to Vancouver, BC was an interesting moment at the immigration control point.

I'm used to getting grilled by US officials when I return, but I was surprised when the Canuckistani subjected me to a similar level of grilling after I said I was coming in for a technical conference. Suddenly, they wanted to know everything about me, about the conference, where I was staying, what I would be doing, where I would be going, and they asked multiple variations on the same questions. I thought it very unusual, and wondered if our friends on the Northern Border had started hassling Americans in retaliation.

It wasn't until later in the week, when I was in the hotel bar talking up some strangers I met there that it all became clear. We'd been chatting for about ten minutes, when one of them asked me what sessions I was attending, and I said, "high throughput task group, mesh networking, coexistence." He got this weird look on his face, and I asked what sessions he was attending and got back this list of jargon I didn't recognize.

Turns out the other conference in the hotel was for a collection of weapons systems engineers and defense industry people. Yeah, I imagine the Canadians would want to know a lot about people flying in from San Francisco to attend that conference.

#48 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:01 PM:

For anyone who's lived on the US-Canadian border, may I recommend the movie Canadian Bacon. I find it hysterically funny, especially since John Candy was a Canadian.

Susan, next time you're up WNY/NF way, drop me a line if you'd like to meet up for a meal and to say hi in person.

#49 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:17 PM:

Serge @ #46:
I have all those books because I patronize a couple of interesting bookstores in Stratford, and because I frequently bring a crate of used books to trade for different used books. It's not unusual for me to have 50 or more books visible in the back of my car when I cross the border.

Nancy @ #48:
Will do. This may be the rare year when I don't go - if I try to go to the worldcon in Japan, Canada is the vacation that will probably be sacrificed. I don't know if my sanity will survive.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:30 PM:

Susan... Just make sure not to cross the border wearing a Pirate Queen outfit.

#51 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:50 PM:

Wow, I think I must have written a particularly opaque post.

Serge (#33): Yes, I am very ashamed of what is going on these days, but DAMNED if I'm going to let the fascists define what America is.

I guess it wasn't clear that I intend to get my US citizenship (and I only got my green card about a year ago - post 9/11, post-Iraq invasion, after brown people started being detained - so I need to wait a few more years) and I'm absolutely with you - I believe in the ideals that this country was founded on, which is why I get particularly upset when I see them compromised. One of the reasons why I want my citizenship is so I can better help support Constitutional ideals against those who would undermine them.

JC (#34): So the US really wants its citizens to be citizens just of the US. However, it's still possible for US citizens to be dual citizens.

Thank you for filling in the details I omitted in my summary. Again, I guess it wasn't clear from my version that, while I realize the USCIS can't make renounce my Canadian citizenship, I am unhappy that they ask. Given that they must also know that it isn't a legally sound question, it's difficult to interpret their actually asking the question as anything other than 'arm-twisting.'

#52 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:52 PM:

A bit of a tangent, since I haven't been back to the States in a while, but just before 9/11 I was living in Reno, my husband (who had dual citizenship) was down there setting up an office for his company, and I ducked up to visit a friend in Winnipeg. I had applied for a green card, but didn't realize I needed special forms to get in and out of the country until my card was approved. So I just left.

Coming back in was interesting. They asked where I lived, I said Reno, they asked for the right document, and I didn't have it. Several hours later, I met with the top immigration official there (at the Winnipeg Airport) and went through the whole speil for around an hour (they were very interested in me having any kind of fake ID, which I didn't, and if I was working for anyone, which I wasn't since I didn't have the right documents) Finally he asked if I thought the US should let people who deliberately broke its laws in and out of the country just because they wanted to.

Not particularly enjoying living in Reno, I replied No, he had to do what he thought was right. The official deflated in front of my eyes, and muttered that my husband should "take care of this problem" as soon as I got back. And I went through immigration.

On another note, when I did get it sorted out, they asked me how long I had been married. It was ten years at the time. They exclaimed "ten years and you haven't gotten your green card" I had to explain we had lived in Canada for all of that time.

I don't think I'd have the same experience anymore.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:58 PM:

Welcome aboard, debcha. As for your saying "...One of the reasons why I want my citizenship is so I can better help support Constitutional ideals against those who would undermine them...", lots of people made that move in 2004. Not enough, true, but they're ready for the next round. Among such people are a lady from Austria (a VERY tall lady) who works at my favorite bookstore and who'd been around for 20 years. And such famous people as Mike Myers and Pierce Brosnan.

#54 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:23 PM:
But the recent attacks by bold corsairs who swept into Green Bay and pillaged the gold, rum, and tobacco before they swept back to their secret pirates' lair on Isle Royale in a swift caravel have led to calls for the Coast Guard to take decisive action. Johnny Depp has a script in development.
You know, there's a market for that kinda fiction.
#55 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Does anyone else find it ironic that there are Americans who have sworn an oath that they "will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic" are ineligible to become President of the United States?

I find it even more ironic that there is an American who has sworn an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," who has flagrantly violated that oath, and who is President of the United States.

#56 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:34 PM:

#55: mds I find it even more ironic that there is an American who has sworn an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," who has flagrantly violated that oath, and who is President of the United States.

Touche.

(It's unfortunate that the most obvious Constitutional remedy for this gives us President Cheney. The legal maneuvers required to end up with President Pelosi instead look difficult.)

#57 ::: Edd Vick ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Robert at #39: and here I thought the pirate problem in Canada was strictly an internal problem.

#58 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:54 PM:

Peter Erwin #40: Aye, there's cheese a-plenty for the takin' in Wisconsin (and it actually goes well with hardtack), but the pirates are darn sick of living on it. Besides, they can make their own from moose milk.

JBWoodford #44: If they knew I told ye this, my life wouldn't be worth a plugged doubloon, but they snuck under the bridge and through the locks, right under the noses of the Coast Guard cutters, in the hold of an innocent-looking Panamanian-flagged copper-ore scow, before running up the Jolly Roger once they were safely in Lake Michigan. And pulled the same move on the way back. And that's why they're bold corsairs.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little #54: Thanks for the tip, matey.

#59 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:02 PM:

I'm reminded of a recent border crossing story, where a friend (who went to work very early at MS and has, strangely enough, substantial capital) went to check out some problems at a small B.C. software company of which he is part owner, taking with him another friend who is one of those programmers who can read and correct bad code on a printout.

On the way back they had a ferocious interview at Blaine, about everything under the sun, while the drug dogs searched the car they were in: a Porsche Targa, carrying two computer geeks, either of whom could have been the model for the Comic Book Guy. Obviously a prime vehicle for smuggling B.C. Bud.

Also: reference was made to the arrest of Ramsei Yusef, at the Port Angeles Ferry Terminal in 1999. Look at the date: 1999. Before 9/11, before the onset of Security Theater. He was caught by an experienced border patrol agent who recognized behavioral signs that something was not right with his behavior, not by a DHS agent with a couple of week's training chosing people at random for destructive searches. Using his arrest to justify the current silliness is contrary to the evidence.

#60 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:21 PM:

I think the sadder point in all this border security is those expensive new high tech passports can be easily hacked, mined, faked, damaged and copied as shown in many articles; but we are all stuck with them anyways because heaven forbid the government admit they chose wrong.

#61 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:51 PM:

Edd Vick #57: From the hidden inlets of the Georgia Strait to shores of Newfoundland, the mighty pirate crews are out for plunder!

And don't forget the money pit of Oak Island.

#62 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:05 PM:

JESR said (#59):
Also: reference was made to the arrest of Ramsei Yusef, at the Port Angeles Ferry Terminal in 1999. Look at the date: 1999. Before 9/11, before the onset of Security Theater. He was caught by an experienced border patrol agent who recognized behavioral signs that something was not right with his behavior, not by a DHS agent with a couple of week's training chosing people at random for destructive searches. Using his arrest to justify the current silliness is contrary to the evidence.

Oh, absolutely. My point was only to note that when immigrations/customs officials ask people seemingly inane questions ("Are you a US citizen?" "Did you visit Prince Edward Island as a tourist?"), they are not necessarily being poorly trained bozos reciting a brain-dead script, as someone implied. As I understand it, the customs agent who spotted Ahmed Ressam (Ramsei Yusef was one of the original WTC bombers) probably started off by asking him a series of routine questions, and it was from watching him and listening to his responses that she started to think something was wrong.

#63 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:51 PM:

Susan, #45, when I came back from James' party in Kitchener, the US Customs guy asked if I was bringing anything back with me and I said "Books! Wanna see?" and he moved back in aversion and said "No, havagoodtrip."

#64 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:03 PM:

Susan, #45, and Marilee, #63: I received a copy of the single-volume unabridged OED as a graduation present. Since it was already nicely boxed, I sealed it up again and had it as checked baggage for my return flight back to Boston. As I was clearing US Customs in Toronto, the agent asked,

"What's in the box?"

"A dictionary."

"A dictionary?"

"Yeah, see, it says right here, 'Oxford English Dictionary."

He stamped my card and waved me through, and then I heard him say behind, very softly (and I presume sarcastically), "Rock on."

#65 ::: wolfa ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:08 PM:

I believe you are legally obliged to use US citizenship, if you have it, to enter the US, even if you have dual citizenship. I am somewhat less certain that this is the law for Canada.

I am never asked ID driving into Canada, and always into the US. But the border officers at the two Quebec borders (into NY and VT, on 89 and 87) are always very nice, though sometimes the people at Rouse's Point are annoyed when you drive through there instead of Lacolle/Champlain. Except when I have expired work or study visas into the US, because they seem to think I am looking for a new job there. Luckily, I have a new passport now.

#66 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 09:24 PM:

It's all a part of the push toward a National ID Card ("Your papers, please"). And, as always (in this regime), it's pushed hard and fast, with little real evidence.

Pfui.

#67 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:42 PM:

I imagine that some of the discrepancy between people's experiences at different borders has to do with physical appearance.

For example, one acquaintance (a US citizen from birth) complained of nearly getting kicked out of England for looking very, very Irish.

I'm amazed that I've never had trouble with any US/Canadian or other US checkpoint, but I think it has something to do with my being able to look and speak like the right kind of suburban-raised white person. Unfortunately I'm not joking.

#68 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 10:49 PM:

Peter @ #63, oh, dear, yes. Ressam was/is an associate of Yusef's, or at least that's what passes for my brain insists.

#69 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 01:42 AM:

wolfa (#65): Yes, I believe you are correct that you are required to enter the US on a US passport (or, until the final change, other acceptable documents if entering from nearby countries).

As far as dual citizenship, Rich Wales has put together a good FAQ complete with legal citations, relevant court opinions, and so on. In particular, he cites INA 215(b) [aka 8 USC 1185(b)] as the relevant law for the "use a US passport when entering or leaving the US" rule.

#70 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:23 AM:

Re Schneier's article: I am annoyed at his attempt to water down the term "profiling" by applying it willy-nilly to circumstances in which it does not apply, or applies at best weakly. It reminds me of the watering-down of "Nazi" by its constant overuse in phrases such as "grammar Nazi" or "feminazi" -- eventually, by the constant drumbeat of association with things which are not themselves evil, the sense of "evil beyond bounds" associated with the Nazis themselves starts to lose its force.

"Profiling" contains one vital component that Schneier completely omits: the fact that it is not necessary for the person profiled to be acting suspicious in any way in order for them to be suspected.

If you see a young black male in a store hovering near a display of something small and valuable, looking around as if to see if anyone is watching, it is not "profiling" to wonder if he intends to shoplift. For the same standard to be applied to any black male under the apparent age of 30 who enters the store, regardless of behavior, is profiling.

By the same token, the 1999 case described in the article was not profiling. The border officer recognized a behavioral pattern which suggested that something wasn't right. It would only have been profiling if those behavioral cues had not been present and she still pulled him out for a search because he was the wrong color or nationality.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:40 AM:

debcha...

When can you apply for citizenship? Things may have changed a bit since I did, in the early 90s, long before 9/11. And I was married to an American citizen, which means I could have started the process earlier, had I wished to. But I had not wished to, at first, not with Poppa Bush in charge, and not with the Republican Convention of 1992 where, if I remember correctly, everybody was trying to out-nazi David Duke. Then, like I said in an earlier post, Bill and Al won. Still, I waited because my dad up in Quebec would have been upset. Some time after he passed away, I made the jump. I didn't tell my mom and the rest of the family what I was doing until one year after I had finally acquired my citizenship. One of my in-laws had made a joke about why I wasn't applying, and I casually gave them the news. The expression on all my relatives's faces was, as the TV commercials say, priceless. Do you get the sense I'm not very close to the family in which I was born?

#72 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:10 AM:

#67 - AJ Luxton

Exactly what is looking 'very, very Irish' like? I'm looking at photos of the English rugby team and the Irish rugby team, and the only way you can tell the difference is the colour of the shirts (muddy white and muddy green).

I just ask, since we don't even lock up Irish terrorists since the Good Friday Agreement (well, maybe if they walk into Stormont with a gun and bombs)

#73 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:21 AM:

I took a trip once from the US to Italy, but for some reason, we had a transfer in Canada. I remember the Canadian customs agent rifling through my stuff, stopped at my journal and asked, "What is this?" I said it was a journal. He said, "Keeping a journal? That's what women do, eh?"

I thought of making a snappy comeback, but then I realized how much I'd rather just have a smooth trip to Italy, so I lapsed into Army boot camp mode and just said, "Yes, sir."

#74 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:11 AM:

I was very pleasantly surprised by the way they do customs checks in Mexico City. You walk up to a button mounted below a traffic light and press a button. If it comes up green, you go to the green line, get stamped and 99.9% of the time are on your way. If it comes up red, you get on the red line and they look at your things, ask a few questions and then send you on your way.

I don't know how random the lights truly are, but it certainly creates a feeling of randomness.

#75 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:24 AM:

#72--Martyn, it may have tapered off since the Good Friday Agreement, but for many years before that, Irish-Americans passing through British customs often found it an exciting experience--especially if they admitted to being from Boston or Chicago, which was apparently prima facie evidence of guilt, 'cause in Boston and Chicago, we all live to fund the IRA bombers, doncha know.

Not uncommonly, of course, those very English and very suspicious officials, apparently convinced that terrorism is genetically encoded in those of Irish descent, would have good English names like O'Leary and Callaghan. Self-Awareness R Not Us, all too often, for zealous border guards of any nationality.

#76 ::: wolfa ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:46 AM:

I will mention that I am young, white and female, am anglophone (but can speak to the French customs agents in French, which I do), unfailingly polite at the border, and did a lot of driving with two cats in the car and plastic dollar store flowers in the dashboard. No one suspects someone with a cat on her shoulder.

My favourite experience was flying to the US from Montreal. I put my carryon through the machine, and the guy asked me what I had with me. I said clothing, books -- nothing, really. He then brought me over to look at the suspicious round masses in my suitcase.

Oh! Bagels!

He laughed. I did not have to show him that my bagels were not dangerous weapons.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:55 AM:

Oh! Bagels!

wolfa, a few years ago, didn't our Dear Leader nearly choke on a pretzel?

#78 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:04 PM:

wolfa - When I was a teenager, I often ferried bagels, miniature Italian pastries and deli meats (Jewish and Italian) from NYC to Florida, and I routinely had the bagels-in-the-Xray-machine conversation. Oddly, this sometimes struck up a fast discussion of where the bagels were from, since no one would bother taking mediocre bagels.

#79 ::: wolfa ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:47 PM:

Serge,

But pretzels are terrible, while bagels are delicious. And he is your Dear Leader, my Dear Leader has no bread-related history that I know of.

Larry,

The thing is, I ferried bagels all the time (every time I went home I came back with one to four dozen, depending on who else wanted some), but only once did they set off an alarm. No one bothers taking mediocre bagels, though I find that the best *fresh* bagels are not the same as the best bagels that you freeze and later defrost.

#80 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 12:52 PM:

Looking at the broader issue, the DHS is La Migra has been raised to cabinet level, and this cannot fail to produce oppressive results.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 01:02 PM:

I stand corrected, wolfa, as to Dear Leader. Pretzels, though, terrible? Dem's fighting words!

#82 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 02:04 PM:
Not uncommonly, of course, those very English and very suspicious officials, apparently convinced that terrorism is genetically encoded in those of Irish descent, would have good English names like O'Leary and Callaghan. Self-Awareness R Not Us, all too often, for zealous border guards of any nationality.
That would hold true if the officers were of Irish Catholic parentage. If they were of Irish Protestant ancestry, and identified with the Unionist community in Northern Ireland, they might feel especially motivated to scrutinise (presumed to be Catholic) Irish-American travellers.

I'm assuming that the Irish-American travellers who had these encounters would have recognised an Ulster accent if they heard it. If Messrs Callahan and O'Leary were from Northern Ireland, they were more or less bound to be Protestants, since self-respecting Catholics from Northern Ireland don't work for the British security establishment.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Cue to the skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus about the normal day of a totally oblivious man living in Belfast.

#84 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Gag, in the stories I'm aware of (Note: this is not a scientifically valid sample!), they mostly had English accents--their families had presumably been in England for at least a generation or two, and perhaps since the Famine, and most likely did self-identify as English.

As for assuming the Irish-Americans were Catholic, yes, I'm sure they did. And after all, 49% of all Americans of Irish descent are Catholic; a mere 51%, barely more than half, are Protestant. Which was one of the funniest things about British politicians, the BBC, and British visitors to the US, during the years of the troubles, ranting on about the 40 million "Irish Americans", presumed to vote as a block and to be solely responsible for the fact that American politicians did not uncritically accept British policy in Northern Ireland as wholly good and correct: the British assumed that they knew what "Irish American" meant, and they clearly had no clue whatsoever.

It's of course equally true that most Americans had only the haziest idea of what was really happening in Northern Ireland.

I have just snipped a large chunk of text which was deeply interesting to me while I was writing it, but would have taken this even further off course. My only real point, that's relevant to this discussion, is that when a country is confronted with a real and somewhat scary problem, the temptation to simplify it in satisfying but unproductive ways is very strong. It's the US that's going through this now; we need our friends, especially our friends who've been through it relatively recently themselves, to forcefully and effectively point out, not just why these solutions are wrong, but why they're mistakes. It's maddening to have Blair, who surely knows better, aiding and abetting most of Bush's worst ideas.

#85 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ #24 writes:
When I explained that it was Elvish writing he said 'That's not any kind of Elvish I've seen.'

The letters are Elvish, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here.

#86 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Lis, Blair & Co. are up to something very odd in the UK. While the UK (and the Irish Government) severely limited certain human rights in the fight against the IRA, they at least tried to keep terrorist offenses seperate from ordinary law enforcement, and ordinary criminals civil rights intact.

Now, with only a fraction of the IRA's historical level of violence coming from Muslim extremists, Blair & Co. are falling over themselves to use it as an excuse to throw away the rules. Suddenly they want to detain suspects indefinetely, well OK, 90 days then, OK, two weeks, Oh sod it, we give up, but just you wait!

To me, this is a bit more understandable in the US which has never faced a sustained terrorist threat in recent times, but the UK Home Secretary, John Reid, was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland: he knows exactly which measures worked or didn't work in a struggle against terrorism which cost more than 3000 lives.

Yet there he is every evening, lying his head off on the subject on TV. If they are just a bunch of Orwellian power freaks, why didn't they use the IRA as their bogey-man? Why jump at July 7th but not Omagh?

I honestly don't understand them.

#87 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:15 PM:

Niall McAuley #85: And yet they let me in.

#88 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:47 PM:

Lis Carey

I suspect you are right. Most Americans have no more idea what has happened and is happening in the Six Counties than they have anywhere else.

Couple of things to remember. At the time the Provos were coming very close to blowing up 2 British Prime Ministers (imagine the outrage if Mr Bush had got put in a box on 9/11) Americans themselves were putting millions of dollars into the Noraid and other fake charity buckets (said dollars going straight back to America to buy American weapons - at a time when the weapon of choice of freedom fighters worldwide was the AK47, the IRA used Armalites - hence the slogan, the Armalite and the ballot box) Irish American politicians from Ted Kennedy downwards (or upwards, depending on your viewpoint) were wetting themselves for a photo opportunity with Gerry Adams (while he was still commandant of the Belfast Brigade rather than the skilled and imaginative elected politician he has become - like so many other 'terrorists') American courts were refusing to extradite convicted murderers on the grounds that their crimes were 'political' (ie, they were terrorists)

Is it any surprise Irish Americans were regarded with a touch of suspicion, when so much of the terrorism we have endured in the last half century seems to have been cheered to the rafters by Americans? It is unjust to individual Americans, but it is understandable.

Which are just a few of the reasons why quite a few of us thought 'as ye sow, so shall ye reap' on 9/11 (as well as being devastated and outraged by the deaths of so many blameless people - which is the way with terrorists).

We made plenty of mistakes dealing with Irish republican terrorism (principally allowing Irish Unionist terrorism to resurrect the IRA in the early sixties after it had been moribund for half a century, and allowing our spooks to train, fund and support loyalist terrorists thereafter [do you get where my sympathies lie?]) As various others have remarked, now that we've decided that there can only be a political solution there, you seem intent on making the same mistakes, only on a very much larger canvas, with the support of our government.

I could argue that without Ian Paisley there would be no British troops in Iraq/Afghanistan, but this is probably not the place for it.

And all this from remarking that anyone who says anyone looks 'very, very Irish' is talking through their arse.

#89 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Niall #86--What you're saying matches my impressions; it's good(?) to have someone over there confirming that my reading of the situation isn't insane.

The question, or at least one question, is why are Blair & Co. so much more frightened by Muslim terrorists than by Irish terrorists? One possible explanation which seems to fit the timing is that he's far too heavily influenced by whoever is US President. I find that idea scary, the more so because I can see no reason why it needs to be so.

#90 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:18 PM:

Martyn #88: I suspect you are right. Most Americans have no more idea what has happened and is happening in the Six Counties than they have anywhere else.

Did you read what I wrote right above that? Or did you not quite absorb what it meant?

Couple of things to remember. At the time the Provos were coming very close to blowing up 2 British Prime Ministers (imagine the outrage if Mr Bush had got put in a box on 9/11) Americans themselves were putting millions of dollars into the Noraid and other fake charity buckets (said dollars going straight back to America to buy American weapons - at a time when the weapon of choice of freedom fighters worldwide was the AK47, the IRA used Armalites - hence the slogan, the Armalite and the ballot box) Irish American politicians from Ted Kennedy downwards (or upwards, depending on your viewpoint) were wetting themselves for a photo opportunity with Gerry Adams (while he was still commandant of the Belfast Brigade rather than the skilled and imaginative elected politician he has become - like so many other 'terrorists') American courts were refusing to extradite convicted murderers on the grounds that their crimes were 'political' (ie, they were terrorists)

And this is what I meant about the British not having clue. Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neil, most prominently, and other Irish American politicians that Britons loved to hate, labored mightily for years to make Americans understand what Noraid was really all about, and to stop the money flowing to the bomb-throwers through Noraid--and right when they had achieved near-total succes, Maggie Thatcher decided to become the most effect fund-raiser Noraid ever had, undoing the good effect of all that quiet, hard labor, and Kennedy and O'Neil and others had to start all over again.

And they did it again, and they succeeded again. And what thanks did they get from Britain? Crap like this, being regarded nearly as terrorists themselves.

(An important detail to remember: what was going to succeed in getting the message through to people that Noraid were lying about their purpose and about what was really going on was not looking like dupes and stooges for the British government.)

(Another point: Gerry Adams didn't just wake up one morning and decide on a sudden change of career from "terrorist" to "skilled and imaginative elected politician." This is exactly the point Bush & Co. so often miss: you don't make peace with your enemies by talking only to the people who are already your friends and allies.)

#91 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:48 PM:

Lis, Martyn, we're talking about stuff that is history here now, so be cool, there's much worse happening right now elsethread.

Lis: in the chunk of Martyn you quote, there is one really important bit: the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton while Maggie Thatcher was in it. Norman Tebbit's wife was disabled. Try to imagine the complete freak-out which would happen if a hotel was bombed with Bush in it, and members of his government killed or crippled.

It happened, yet that freak-out did not. This was Maggie Thatcher, not noted for her humanism or liberal thoughts.

Nothing like that has happened in the US yet, but the freak-out is ongoing.

Martyn: Nothing like that has happened in the UK either from the Muslim extremists, yet the freak-out is ongoing in lock-step. Why? Who gave these people permission to freak out? We beat the IRA with law enforcement and political engagement, so why the new, stupid, pointless, bloodstained, rubbish antiterror policy?

#92 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:12 PM:

Serge (#71): When can you apply for citizenship? Things may have changed a bit since I did, in the early 90s, long before 9/11. And I was married to an American citizen, which means I could have started the process earlier, had I wished to.

I can apply after five years of permanent residency, as I am here under my own steam, as it were. If one is married to an American citizen, that drops to three years. Under certain circumstances, such as actively serving in the US military, it can drop further. (full info at USCIS.gov)

My parents are both naturalized Canadian citizens; I don't think anyone would hold it against me if I got dual citizenship, and I have no plans to renounce my Canadian citizenship. As my PhD advisor (Jewish and European, just one generation removed from the Holocaust) says, "You can never have too many passports."

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:24 PM:

"You can never have too many passports."

Unless, debcha, you happen to be living inside a thriller like Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in Charade.

#94 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:34 PM:

#4 - A few days ago I entered the EU at Frankfurt. It was a refreshing change to not be treated like a criminal - I was asked no questions and my passport was quickly examined, stamped and returned. It was a formality, not an expression of fear and domination.

When I went to Portugal last year, I experienced no hassles in Frankfurt or in Porto. In fact, in Frankfurt, whenever someone spoke with me, the assumption was that I was German, not American. On my 4-day jaunt to England, however, I was asked all sorts of questions, many of which pertained to matters which were none of their damned business. I experienced the same when I re-entered the US.

It really does make me think more and more seriously of actually moving to Europe. It would certainly make seeing my girlfriend much less troublesome. I hope I don't experience the same crap when I return from the visit I'm planning to Portugal again this coming Spring.

#95 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:35 PM:

Niall, #91, I'm going to make a wild guess and comparison.

WW2, compare Japan and Germany, and the PoW situations, and consider the complications of Germany and Russia.

The Nazis made a racial thing out of it, but it was at lleast as much cultural. American PoWs in Germany (and vice versa) weren't seen as outsiders in the way that applied to the enemy on the Eastern Front, and the cultural barriers in the Pacific War were huge.

The IRA, whatever else they might have been, were not wogs.

As for the USA: "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me", as long as theu're not too brown.

#96 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:36 PM:

Lis @90:

This is exactly the point Bush & Co. so often miss: you don't make peace with your enemies by talking only to the people who are already your friends and allies.

Which is why the congress today the House of Representatives passed S.2370, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, by Voice Vote (not
recorded). This resolution forbids any talks with the Hamas - which is the democratically elected party representing the Palestinian people.

Personally, I see no good in this for anyone - except some Israeli spies in AIPAC, who'll get to feel big and important for a while - at least until they get caught and convicted. Everyone else in the picture loses. Including the just-plain-folk in Israel, who are being pushed into yet-another-war.

As is painfully obvious to any observer, the Middle East situation including Iraq and Palestine is a key issue in the entire security theater production. Now that you can't talk to the Hamas, security theater will have to be stepped up - since absent diplomacy, the conflicts will have to continue by other means. Until one party or the other is genocided, or diplomacy is permitted again.

Which was exactly what the neocons had in mind all along.

#97 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:44 PM:

Dena: repeat after me:

Lame Duck, Lame Duck, Where Are You?
Here I am, Here I Am,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenyoooo!

#98 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:43 PM:

I should mention that while I never had any problems with Spanish immigration[*] during the five years that I worked in the Canary Islands, one of my colleagues mentioned that she routinely got lots of attention and questions at immigration. Her problem? Being a very dark-skinned Brazilian, apparently.

[*] Well, aside from the very first time, when I managed to enter Spain illegally without actually intending to. But that got straightened out quite easily.

#99 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:20 PM:

Peter Erwin #98: I've never had any trouble with Spanish immigration, and I'm certainly dark-skinned (well, café au lait) and not wholly of what the Aussies used to describe as 'European race and colour'. And this includes the Guardia Civil customs officers who've routinely passed my luggage ('Que lleva usted?''Algunos regalos para mis parientes.' 'Pasa.')

#100 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:02 AM:

debcha (#92): "You can never have too many passports."

In this household, we have a total of five between the two of us.

The final straw that pushed me to acquire my second was an experience at Manchester, UK. We had flown in from JFK, and our flight was late; we arrived after a pair of 747s.

One Cathay Pacific, from Hong Kong; the other Singapore Airlines, from Singapore.

Three months after Hong Kong had been handed over to China to become HKSAR.

The EU citizen line? Breezed right by. My line? Slow as anything, because they were scrutinizing all of the folks from those 747s.

By the time I reached the desk, my wife had already retrieved our luggage and come back to wait for me just beyond the immigration desks.

My entire conversation with the immigration officer:
"Is your trip for business or pleasure?"
"Pleasure; visiting my wife's family."
"Oh, your wife's British then?"
"Yes, she's standing over there with our bags."
*stamp* "Enjoy your visit."

I just didn't want to spend an hour in line to get to that point ever again.

#101 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:53 AM:

wrt comparative British reactions to IRA and Islamic attacks: consider the differences in the attacks themselves. The IRA was a disciplined force; they didn't let their noisiest and most virulent fanatics speak for them, they made a point of attacking property with due warning rather than people at random, and they never had suicide bombers. Compare this with what happened in 7/05, and compare the goals (freedom for 6 counties vs some large-scale and often nebulous clearing-out, often tied to horribly regressive social policies); is it surprising that the reactions are different? Both reactions are massively out of scale, and both involve prejudice and contempt for the opponent (I remember being appalled at the blatancy of Once a Catholic, an (IIRC) award-winning West End play in 1979), but it's not unreasonable to think that some fraction of attacks that claim an Islamist motivation cannot be engaged with but only defended against.

#102 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 04:25 AM:

Martyn Taylor:

I don't know the exact details of his experience except that he was held for a few hours and questioned in connection with fears of Irish terrorism. I can tell you that this individual has (or had, at the last time I saw him) fairly bright red hair; pale skin with some freckles; and the sort of strong bone structure that seems to jibe with his descent.

Not being one who studies familial traits, and being aware that ethnic profiling is never as realistic as it sounds to those who employ it, I'm not exactly an authority here. I'm just saying he has the kind of face that Americans, at least, often stereotype for Irish. I believe his name is also Irish. For all I know (not having been there) he may have been going around with marks of his ancestry (pins etc) on his person, as he did now and again in the short time I knew him. But this is random speculation and not terribly relevant.

I was simply supplying anecdotal fodder for the notion that profiling occurs, whether condoned or not, in many situations; the conditions of profiling will vary by location, and by the various biases of the individuals in charge. These biases, being frequently unconscious, will take a person in America with brownish skin and a large nose, and declare this person "suspicious" out of a suspicion of Middle-Easterners, regardless of where this person's self and ancestors were actually born and what they've been doing in recent years. Which is bothersome twice; once because they're committing the error of imagining everyone from a region the same, and again because they're stupid enough to get their victim wrong.

I don't imagine America is the sole host of this problem, and provided the example of my acquaintance's experience because I wanted to see dialogue perhaps about a tale that hadn't been heard here a thousand times.

Said dialogue has been occurring, and I am glad. Being someone who knows rather less about the broader issues herein than I might, I find it enlightening.

#103 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:05 AM:

CHip: An important PIRA tactic during the 1970s was the "punishment beating". This varied from a relatively mild beating with tyre irons or crowbars, normally focussed on the joints, to the 'kneecapping'. In a kneecapping, a small calibre pistol was fired through one or both knees from behind the joint forward, crippling the victim. Some units preferred to use electric drills, again pushed through the joint from the rear forward. A more serious punishment was the 'six pack', in which rounds were fired through both knees, both elbows and both ankles. A 'six pack' victim would generally be confined to a wheelchair, although Belfast hospitals grew increasingly expert in reconstructive joint surgery as the Troubles continued, and are still regarded as the leaders in Europe in this field.

Several hundred such attacks were carried out. The victims were sometimes petty criminals, but often local businessmen (in particular building contractors) who had refused to pay the 15% protection money demanded routinely by PIRA, or who were competing against a business owned by a PIRA member or sympathiser. Members of the police force, their families and friends were generally not the subject of punishment beatings; they were simply killed.

The PIRA would also occasionally blind their victims. Two non-Catholic passers-by during a PIRA funeral were dragged from their car by the crowd and severely beaten. They were then stripped and blinded, and allowed to run free in the graveyard; after a short time they were recaptured and shot dead.

So, please, don't talk nonsense about limiting attacks to property.

#104 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:59 AM:

CHip,

they made a point of attacking property with due warning rather than people at random

Actually, they were prone to using warnings (true or false) to drive people toward bombs. Omagh included that charming feature.

they never had suicide bombers

They considered using suicide bombers (can't find the link), but their support base would not have stood for it. That doesn't reflect any better on the IRA, IMHO.

...it's not unreasonable to think that some fraction of attacks that claim an Islamist motivation cannot be engaged with but only defended against.

Even if the difference you cited between the IRA and the current crop of terrorists were valid, I cannot agree with that conclusion. I cannot envision a defense that will keep us safe and free at the same time.

Everyone can be engaged with.

#105 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:02 PM:

My husband is fairly regularly mistaken for Irish because of his red hair and freckles, despite having a solidly Thames Valley accent. Although, now that he's been in the US for 6 years, he's being mistaken for Australian slightly more often because his accent has softened.
Of course, he's also gotten stopped for security searches every time we've gone back to the UK, which might have something to do with his being enrolled in a flight school.
The last time I went through immigration the inspector asked "business or pleasure?" I said, "I'm visiting my in-laws." "Ah, so not pleasure, then."

#106 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:28 PM:

Fragano @ 99:
I'm happy to hear you haven't had any problems. I can't say whether or not such problems are at all common; I only know what the Brazilian woman reported.

There was an Amnesty International report a few years ago mentioning "racist torture and abuse by Spanish police and officials"; none of the incidents mentioned involved immigration personnel, however.

I'm inclined to think that most Spanish people are not consciously racist, and that they believe that they don't harbor much racism; but Spain has up until recently been a very racially homogeneous society, so they haven't really been tested much. I do remember being taken aback at the prevalence of frankly rather racist African caricatures on food packaging in Spanish supermarkets; and there have been some ugly spontaneous chants at soccer matches when black players appeared on the field.

#107 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:28 PM:

ajay: my exact words were "property with warning rather than people at random". Your description bears me out: when they attacked people they attacked targets, rather than random civilians. IIRC, some of the "punished" were their own who went wilder than the leadership wanted.

abi: Omagh included that charming feature.

Omagh was described at the time as coming from a splinter group; throughout the 90's, the press received in the US spoke of the bomb warnings as relied on by the UK police, which does not suggest an untrustworthy practice -- assuming the press was correct, which is always a big "if". (Note that even the local liberal newspaper in this heavily Irish city did not cut the IRA the slightest slack.)

It's nice to think that everyone can be engaged with (certainly the U.S. has not made nearly enough efforts internationally in this regard), but first you have to find them; even discounting half of what I read leaves me with an impression of the sort of formless, leaderless rage that led to Oklahoma City here. I'm quite familiar with the quote about freedom and safety, and unimpressed with initial attempts at safety; but I wonder whether the dichotomy is as sharp as you and the quotation suggest.

#108 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:39 PM:

And, it's not just passports:

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Americans and foreigners crossing U.S. borders since 2002 have been assessed by the Homeland Security Department's computerized Automated Targeting System, or ATS.

The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years. Some or all data in the system can be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring, contracting and licensing decisions. Courts and even some private contractors can obtain some of the data under certain circumstances.
Almost every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is assessed based on ATS' analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

Sara Robinson at Orcinus quotes the above in the course of her own excellent post, which includes this:

The basic paranoia that prevails at US border crossings, both air and land, has already muted my behavior in many small ways that rub at my American sense of justice like gravel in sweaty shoes. The way I tuck away my reading material before approaching the checkpoint, for fear that seeing The Nation or Mother Jones in my lap will arouse unnecessary suspicions. The way I just never get around to putting those great bumper stickers on my car, for the same reason. Being liberal in America these days means that you're only safe as long as you don't try to wear it (literally) on your sleeve or anywhere else. Being a liberal who regularly crosses borders may be unsurprising as a metaphor; but as a literal act, it's best approached with caution, in full awareness that you are putting yourself in the direct path of all kinds of official mischief.

I need to read that Wait! Don't Move to Canada book to remind me why I should stay here at all.

#109 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 06:16 AM:

CHip,

Omagh was described at the time as coming from a splinter group

This is true - the "real IRA" carried that one out. I've found a page that lists all deaths from the conflict here, which describes a lot of bombing deaths (including Omagh) as "inadequate warning given". There is also at least one record of using one bomb to lure the military to an area, then detonating another to kill them.

I'm with ajay - trying to describe the IRA's behaviour as attacks on property (with occasional collateral damage) isn't right. They were murderers and terrorists.


It's nice to think that everyone can be engaged with...but first you have to find them

You don't engage with the extremists. You engage with the moderates, the fellow travellers, and the support base. You reward them, find out what they want and give it to them. There will always be violent nutcases, but it takes money and people willing to hide them for The Cause to make them a credible threat.

(Yes, yes, the Unabomber, but he was an outlier.)

I'm quite familiar with the quote about freedom and safety, and unimpressed with initial attempts at safety; but I wonder whether the dichotomy is as sharp as you and the quotation suggest.

In theory, no. In a society with wise and unselfish politicians, open and transparent decision-making, and an independent and skeptical press, a new balance could be struck between freedom and safety.

Do you know anyplace like that? Do they issue passports, and can I have one? Because I'm not prepared to renegotiate the current social contract with either bunch of deceitful, selfish and unsupervised politicians whom I am entitled to elect. I don't think I'll come out ahead. I don't think I'll even break even.

Barring that, engagement seems to be the only option. (Even if renegotiating the social contract were viable, engagement would be the best option.)

#110 ::: bentley ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2006, 05:43 PM:

I'm curious how the new passport rules are going to affect places like the Haskell Free Library (Derby Line, Vermont). The US/Canada border runs right through the reading room. The Opera House (same building) has the audience in the U.S. and the performers in Canada.

See photos at http://jessamyn.info/bday04/index.php?x=11

#111 ::: giri ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2006, 11:18 PM:

> #25: John Stanning:I don't know of any national
> border where you can go to and fro freely without
> having an acceptable national identity document.

yes, and it in unfathomable to me that americans canot accept this simple fact. to me, it shows tremendous ignorance of the way the rest of the world lives.

> The reason why people who are howling is because
> this used to be true of the US-Canadian border.

ONLY for white americans. do you think a US citizen of asian or indian heritage could ever go through a crossing and just say "US citizen" and get away with it? get real. this has always been an issue for anybody who doesn't look like whatever a traditional US caucasian citizen is supposed to look like.

let's ask the mexicans how they feel about the loss of open borders.

g

#112 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2006, 12:22 AM:

They resent it, of course. Much harder to go across the border for some casual shopping.

#113 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2006, 01:21 AM:

giri,

ONLY for white americans. do you think a US citizen of asian or indian heritage could ever go through a crossing and just say "US citizen" and get away with it? get real.

well, my boyfriend, a canadian of japanese extraction, is often not asked for his passport or papers when he drives back over to the canadian side.

i mean, of course racial profiling & racism exist, but i disagree that every person of colour is always harrassed as much as they want every person, period, to be harrassed when the new law comes in. i think the new law will change things for the worse, for everybody.

#114 ::: giri ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2006, 08:03 PM:

> They resent it, of course. Much harder to
> go across the border for some casual shopping.

Indeed. Maybe they can have walk-past window service for the mexican shoppers, once they are done building the wall.

Miriam, I agree about the possible effects of the new law. It's just that much of this thread seems to consist of "I used to be able to go back and forth freely, now I need to prove I'm a citizen." To that, I say "too bad." The rest of the world has had to carry some kind of ID card, a passport or something else, while traveling abroad. There are definitely ways to make it easy, in terms of both the law and the approach to enforcement, and I very much doubt the current administration will try to make it easy. That's a shame. Someone having to get a passport to hop over to a Canadian bar? Not a shame.

g

#115 ::: profiled ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2007, 03:13 AM:

Thank you giri, i've always wondered if the Canadian border officials commonly practiced racial profiling & now i know there's definitely racial profiling of Asians entering Canada even way before 2001, especially if you have an non-American accent.. almost a decade ago i went by car w/a couple college buddies (all E. Asians) but we didn't bring our passports assuming it wasn't required for land travel & our Driver's licenses would suffice (since someone else had gone before w/o needing one but they're caucasian) then @the border we were asked if we were related? we told them no, we know each other from college but we still got pulled over & questioned in office on the side. i remember (admittedly, a bit ignorantly) thinking "who the heck would wanna sneak into Canada unless they're dodging the draft? besides isn't the income tax way higher?" & couldn't they just use our Driver's licenses to look us up in whatever databases they had access to? We were asked where we were born, which hospital; my friend -who was naturalized in elementary school- was even asked which federal building he went to as a kid to process the paperwork? & why didn't he bring it w/him? (as if anyone would travel w/their original naturalization docs?!) i was given the least hassle being a native-born US citizen w/no accent but i was pretty annoyed (even more so reflecting later on since this happened pre-9/11) that just b/c we weren't white, we'd have to make sure we pay for passports just to drive to Canada or travel w/precious original documents? Can you imagine if you had to risk carrying something like a certified copy of your birth certificate w/you if you didn't want to pay $100 for a passport since you weren't planning on flying anywhere out of the country in the near future?
Oh well, I guess my growing resentment is moot now though.

#116 ::: Roy Chan ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2009, 08:02 AM:

I am a Canadian Chinese, holder of Canadian passport. (I was immigrated from Hong Kong to Vancouver B.C. in 1990. Therefore, I am also holding a valid Hong Kong SAR passport).

I am retired and living in Hong Kong since 1999.
In May 2006, I flew back to Vancouver to attend my son's graduation. Having purchased an air ticket on hand, however, due to my negligence, I didnot aware my Canadian Passport was just expired.

A few days before my trip, I was told by the staff of the airline that I couldnot get on the plane unless I was holding a valid passport.

The airline staff suggested me to use my Hong Kong SAR possport to enter Vancouver Airport. Certainly, I was passed and entered to Vancouver without any problem. Thereafter, I renewed my Canadian passport in Richmond. After two months, I left Vancouver and returned to Hong Kong in July 2006 by using the HKSAR passport through the airline counter.

Now I am holding a valid Canadian passport with me. I am planning to return home in Vancouver by latest August 2009, can someones tell me what questions that the Custom Officer would ask me if he found I had used the HKSAR passport to enter Vancouver in May 2006? Do you think they can check my past entering records?

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