A lengthy “welcome back” from the Department of Homeland Security or How not to make friends with a bus full of Canadians at 4am
I’ll spare you the details: suffice to say we held up our Greyhound bus from Toronto for more than an hour while the border officials decided whether it was wise to let two, scraggly but middle-class looking, back-packers (with a hellavalot of stamps in their passports) with no job, barely any cash and no flight booked out of the States (“three strikes”) back in to the United States. For fifty minutes it looked a lot like they were going to lock us up or send us back.
In the end, after a change of shifts of officers we were allowed to get back on the bus.
Highlight moment: I liked that at one point one of the officers used the word “behove” in the conditional. I’m not sure I have ever otherwise heard that word in real spoken language.
Lowlight moments: when they sent me to the ATM machine in the roadside shop (escorted, naturally) to get a statement of how much money I had in my back account. Unsurprisingly, it not being an American account, it wouldn’t give me a statement. Mr K, when asked for the address we were staying at, pulled out his iPod to look it up, and was promptly reprimanded by the adjacent officer, “put that thing away”.
Honestly, other than a few frayed tempers (notably ours and the bus driver’s) no real damage was done. Even so, I felt genuinely sad about this incident for ten hours afterwards. I’ve always felt very welcome in the States before and seeing this side of things was a wake up call.
The last eight years (as a stranger in a strange land) has made me aware of how difficult it is to cross national boundaries even for a well-educated, young, healthy, white person. The plight of illiterate, non-English speaking, asylum seekers is a barely imaginable nightmare.