Re: Miscellany dot ding dang dong

Ron Resnick (
Sat, 13 Sep 1997 01:12:19 +0300

At 08:02 AM 9/8/97 -0400, Jay Thomas wrote:
>> >Steve "Jacques Jimenez" Leif led with his chin and blurted out --
>> >
>> >> ... Snow Mexicans ...
>Since we're on the subject of our friendly neighbors to the north, I
>was banned from Canada this weekend. Unique experience, really, being
>banned from a foreign country, suddenly and without warning.
>Especially when my mothers entire family is French Canadian. I guess
>this means no more road trips for weddings and funerals.
>My wife and I were on a bus trip from Burlington VT to the Chambly
>Fest du Bier in Quebec with about 35 other people.

See, that's the problem! You weren't actually trying to enter Canada,
but rather that whole other national phenomenon known as Quebec ;-).
Just kidding of course. For now. Next time try crossing the border
from Buffalo....

Seriously though, try not to judge the whole by the actions of the few. I
try to respond to the particulars of your story Jay, since I suspect that
you're a speaking from passion, and a subjective viewpoint. It would be
interesting to know the other side of the story.

What I will do is point out that countries, through their governments, do
in fact have the 'right' to whichever policies they like. If these don't
suit outsiders-
tough. Only please let's not confuse government policies with the beliefs
of citizens. I'm sure you would quickly step away from endorsing a US
governmental action that you disagreed with. Suppose, for example,
that a reverse story was reported to you. A surly US border guard hassles
a foreign traveller on flimsy grounds. Surely we can agree that we share
a disdain for dumb rules and self-important rule enforcers, much more than
we are 'different' in culturally being Canadian or American or anything else.

A few years ago we were travelling from Toronto to Brazil to visit my wife's
family. We had a connecting flight via Miami. I and my son (we only had
one at the time) had no visa requirements. Riva, at the time, was not
a Canadian citizen and so needed a US visitor visa to travel into the US.
She had one of those 5year multiple entry ones, issued in 1989. We had used
it numerous times. It expired in 1994, 2 weeks before our trip to Brazil.
We only discovered this at the airport checkin on the day of the flight
from Toronto. Sure - it's our fault; we're supposed to have the visas etc.
in order. Sure, they set the rules, we have to follow them. But you should
have seen the third degree they put her through! At first, they were going
to prevent her from getting on the plane in Canada. Then, they relented
and let her travel through Miami, but kept her under direct observation
the entire 3 hours we were at Miami airport.

Look at our perspective:
1. She had a valid visa for 5 years which she used numerous times, and
never once abused her visitor's right by illegally remaining in the US.
2. The visa had expired only 2 weeks previously; had our trip been just
slightly earlier, they would have readily let her travel. Had she renewed her
visa, again it would have been an automatic rubberstamping process.
What were they thinking? That *she* became a dangerous risk of illegal
immigration just because the stamp in her passport was invalid?
Was *she* suddenly so threatening to them as a person, because of a bit of
3. She was, at the time, a permanent resident of Canada, maintaining a house
and a full time job in Toronto. She had ample motive to return to Canada,
and little motive to flee, and join the ranks of the illegal immigrants in
She had evidence in the airport of her employment; her Nortel ID badge, etc.
4. She had a return trip ticket Toronto/Recife Brazil, clearly indicating that
Miami was but a waystation on the journey elsewhere. She had a valid
Brazilian passport, clearly indicating legal right to be in both of Canada
and Brazil.
5. She was travelling with her family, including a young child. Her husband
is a US citizen, implying that if she really did want to gain entry to the US,
it's a fairly routine procedure for her. She has no need to go illegal if she
really wants it that bad...

None of this phased any of them. Strictly by the book, these guys. She
might have been a heroin smuggler given the abusive treatment she
got both in Toronto, and in Miami. The implication throughout was that
she must be guilty of something, otherwise why wouldn't she have a valid
visa? The possibility of a simple oversight to renew it, given that we crossed
the border routinely for years, never occurred to them. She was kept under
observation in a smoke filled security guard's office in Miami, and I and my
son were not allowed to be with her during those hours. It goes on...

Not surprisingly, Riva has a very similar attitude to the US that you, Jay,
now have to Canada. Basically- you can take your stinking country and
shove it! I try to reason with her, as I do now with you, to separate your
feelings for heartless bureaucrats who get off on lording it over you and me,
and the institutions those bureaucrats would claim to represent. Maria the
Miami airport security officer is no more you, Jay, than the Quebec border
officer is me. These people seem to have a deep inferiority complex
or something, and take great pleasure from feeling all-powerful over others.

We just have to watch our step around them.
After all, they make the rules. The onus is on us to follow them. You
may not like their rules, but you can't argue with their right to make them.
At least under the present system...if you really don't like bureaucratic
arbitrariness, fight *it*, not the cultural/geographical bundles of people
we refer to as 'nations'. It's not Canada or the US that's the problem; it's
stupid visa requirements and border crossing policies!
Want to rip down centralized governments and their minions? I'm all for it!

Look at the damage that damned escapade caused.
Riva won't hear of relocating to the US,
in no small part because of this airport story. Rational? No, I don't think
But understandable? Yes.