United States The Canadian border: A Constitution-free zone

Discussion in 'Border Controls, Customs and Immigration' started by Mike, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Traveling while brown in Amerika -- really good read, lots of disturbing material here ....

    Salon: The Canadian border: A Constitution-free zone

    Before September 11, 2001, more than half the border crossings between the United States and Canada were left unguarded at night, with only rubber cones separating the two countries. Since then, that 4,000 mile “point of pride,” as Toronto’s Globe and Mail once dubbed it, has increasingly been replaced by a U.S. homeland security lockdown, although it’s possible that, like Egyptian-American Abdallah Matthews, you haven’t noticed.

    The first time he experiences this newly hardened U.S.-Canada border, it takes him by surprise. It’s a freezing late December day and Matthews, a lawyer (who asked me to change his name), is on the passenger side of a car as he and three friends cross the Blue Water Bridge from Sarnia, Ontario, to the old industrial town of Port Huron, Michigan. They are returning from the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto, chatting and happy to be almost home when the car pulls up to the booth, where a blue-uniformed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent stands. The 60,000-strong CBP is the border enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security and includes both customs and U.S. Border Patrol agents. What is about to happen is the furthest thing from Matthews’s mind. He’s from Port Huron and has crossed this border “a million times before.”
    After scanning their passports and looking at a computer screen in the booth, the agent says to the driver, as Matthews tells the story:

    “Sir, turn off the vehicle, hand me the key, and step out of the car.”

    He hears the snap of handcuffs going around his friend’s wrists. Disoriented, he turns around and sees uniformed men kneeling behind their car, firearms drawn.

    “To my disbelief, situated behind us are agents, pointing their guns.”

    ...

    Months later, thinking there is no way this can happen again, Matthews travels to Canada and crosses the border, this time alone ...

    ...

    On that day in Buffalo, the two agents made a beeline for Miguel to check his visa. A moment later, the hulking agents are standing over another brown-skinned man who is rifling through a blue duffle bag, desperately searching for his documents. Not long after, handcuffed, he is walked to the ticket counter with the agents on either side. Somehow, cuffed, the agents expect him to retrieve his ticket from the bag, now on the counter. There are so many people watching that it seems like a ritual of humiliation.

    Since 2007, this sort of moment has become ever more usual across the northern border region in bus and train stations, as “homeland security” gains ever more traction and an ever wider definition. The Border Patrol are, for instance, staking out Latino community centers in Detroit, and working closely with the police on the Olympic peninsula in Washington state, leading to a much wider enforcement dragnet, which looks an awful lot like round-ups of the usual suspects.

    ...

    The next time Abdallah Matthews crosses the international border, a familiar face asks him the normal questions: Where did you go in Canada? What was the purpose of your trip? Matthews is already in the same CBP waiting area, has already been handcuffed, and can’t believe it’s happening again.

    The CBP agent suddenly stops. “Do you remember me?”

    Matthews peers at him, and finally says, “Yes, I played soccer with you.” They haven’t seen each other since high school. They briefly reminisce, two men who grew up together along the St. Clair River before all those expensive surveillance towers with infrared cameras and radar went up. Although Matthews and the CBP agent were once friendly, although they lived in the same small town, there is now a boundary between them. Matthews struggles against this divide. He pleads: “You know who I am. I grew up here. I’ve been over this border a million times.”

    This is, of course, only one of thousands of related stories happening along U.S. borders, north and south, in a universe in which, as anthropologist Josiah Heyman puts it, there are increasingly only two kinds of people: “the watchers and the watched.” And keep in mind that, with only “32 miles” under operational control, this is just the beginning. The U.S. border enforcement apparatus is only starting its migration north.

    Matthews’s former high-school acquaintance guides him to the now-familiar room with the counter where three interrogators are waiting for him. They tell him to spread his legs. Then they order him to take off his shoes. It’s hard to take them off, however, when your hands are cuffed behind your back. The two interrogators in front are already shouting questions at him. (“What were you doing in Canada?”) The one behind him kicks his shoes. Hard. Then, after Matthews finally manages to get them off, the agent searches under his waistband.

    When they are done, Matthews asks the agents what they would do if he were to circle around, reenter Canada, and cross the border again. The agents assure him that they would have to do the same exact thing — handcuff, detain, and interrogate him as if his previous times had never happened.
     
  2. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    If they're U.S. citizens, one has to wonder what would happen if they simply refused to play their game and declined to talk to them. This charade happens in part because those being abused cooperate with the abusers by answer their questions. It would still be unpleasant but would probably expedite things a lot.

    They need to start piling up lawsuits naming these agents as individuals and gunning for their personnel assets.
     

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