Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I just got back from San Diego today. I flew over in my car on Saturday and flew back today. I make good time--just a 6 hour drive. Almost everyone in my lab literally flew over for a huge annual nerdfest, so I followed them over. As much as I planned on partaking in some of the nerdy festivities, it just didn't work out....but I had a good time anyways.

So on the way there, I had to wait in line at a Border Patrol checkpoint. I was really surprised when they just waved me through because the usual drill would involve me stopping and rolling down my window so I could talk to them. Well on the way back from San Diego, I had to cross another BP checkpoint. I didn't do my usual roll-down-the-window drill this time because they just waved me through last time (I was pushing my luck....I know). When I got up to the BP agent he was just staring at me through the window and saying something. I took this mean that I could pass because he didn't give me the "roll down your window" signal. So I start to leave and he and his buddy jump forward and tap on my window (oh no she's getting away!). Eye rolling on my part. Heeeere we go!

So I roll my window down and wait for the usual questions:

BPA: Hi, how are you doing today?
me: Fine, thank you. (He's staring at my mouth and studying my reaction as I'm talking--usually this question is good enough to let me through because once I respond, they can hear that I am American).
BPA: Are you a U.S. citizen? (they throw that in there sometimes)
me: Of course (with a little bit of attitude--did he not hear me speak?)
BPA: Where are you headed?
me: Home...to Tucson (I've never been asked this before so I can't believe the question)
BPA: Is this your car?
me: Yes...it's my husband's and mine.
what I really wanted to say: Oh no, sir. I jacked it and the owner is in the trunk bound and gagged. Would you like to take a look?

Is it so impossible to believe that the car is mine?

That last question upset me. In fact, the whole encounter upset me--for the remaining 150 miles back to Tucson. I even cried a little bit because they made me feel like shit! I really don't see a purpose in asking those questions because Mexican citizens come into the country every day to go shopping and visit. I used to have to deal with these guys every day during my work day commute. At first, I used to get offended that they were questioning my citizenship (why am I, an American, being harrassed in my own country?), but after many times I just grew indifferent to it. I'm not the only one it bothered either. Jon got really offended by that question. He'd drive off and be pissed off the entire rest of the way to Tucson: "I just got back from Iraq fighting for this fucking country! How can they be questioning my citizenship?!" And the boy don't even look Mexican. Everytime we were stopped when Jon was driving my stomach dropped because guess who has to deal with the pissy husband and try to calm him down?

The reason it bothered me today was the excess of questions. I mean, I really don't think I look at all suspicious. Yeah I'm brown, but I'm driving by myself in a freaking Volvo S60! If I were attempting to cross in a windowless white van, maybe they'd have a reason for suspicion. Oh wait a minute....I wasn't even trying to cross the border! Did they not notice my Ft. Huachuca sticker on my windshield? My gringa accent? They made me feel like I was doing something wrong and I honestly felt unwelcome in my own country! I know they were just doing their job (can they be a little nicer about it?), but it still stings.

4 comments:

Jaime said...

That really was uncalled for. I'm sorry they treated you like that. Some people are such asses!

raecatherine said...

Oh Lord. Border stuff is just awful. Andrew had a lot of border problems at the US-Canadian border too, back in the day...apparently he has a terrorist look about him. You have to remember that most of those border dudes don't have any *real* authority, and it goes to their heads sometimes. ANd usually they're looking at how you react to questions more so than how you answer them.

Jackasses. =)

Tania said...

I don't know how "new" that agent was. He did not even crack a smile the whole time and his tone was unfriendly. I told Jon about it and he is beyond pissed. So much that he said he is going to call and complain--had me email him the time and location of the chkpt. I'm glad you all don't think that I'm reading too much into it. Am I overly sensitive?

Teresa said...

Racists...