For Christmas, I decided to travel by road to Maryland; I have travelled the same way before. At the border into Buffalo, some interesting things happened.
To give some context, let me explain the border process. On the side to the US, you only meet US Customs; same for the side into Canada, you only meet Canada Customs. This is unlike traveling to Ghana from Nigeria by road where you meet both border country’s protocol at each border. Regular cars can go across the border by driving past the toll and showing their passports. If you have a Canadian or American passport, you collect yours back and drive freely into either country.
If you do not, typically, you will be allowed to drive through but have to park and go into the Customs building for the stamping.
This process is interesting, because you can detect the racism is this otherwise easy process. That, or I’m overanalyzing as always.
I waited in the bus until they were ready for us but in that time a white car was being searched beside where my bus had parked. I wondered what could be wrong. This was my second time going across and I’d never seen that before. The car next to this one in the parking lot had three ladies and two kids pull up there, come out of the car and come back in to drive off in about five minutes. All of them were white.
All this time the white car was still being searched, by three US Border Protection officers. One opened the boot, took out the jackets that were kept there and put them on top of the car and just kept searching. The other two brought out two suitcases in the car and proceeded to search each one, reading the documents that were kept in files or arranged. One of these saw a blue passport in one of the files and kept it back.
It is important to note here that Canada and the US use blue passports, so the whoever had the passport (and I assume the owner of the car) was a citizen of one of these countries.
I kept watching, it was very interesting to me. After some 5-10 minutes, all three had found nothing and put back everything in the boot and bags (without arranging) and closed the car. A minute or so after, a black man walked up to the car, opened it and drove off.
Maybe I’m over thinking this.
We go into the office building and I’m about last to be checked. The questions are regular, any country would ask the same. I think the worst Customs/Immigration officers I’ve met were in Kenya oddly enough.
Now, here, you go up to an officer, show your visa, there’s a stamp and everyone is happy. Then you carry you big luggage through the scanner and you can go back to your bus.
But not me or some others (one of them actually showed a Canadian passport); we put our belongings on a table and a nice lady searches them. I smile when she asks the same questions the other person just asked me. I smile when she sees my old passport of when I was a year old. She looks at everything, even asks about my Piriton tablets.
The woman next to me is not so lucky. She’s Spanish, but was also traveling with a Colombian passport because that’s where she was born. For this singular fact, she has to be checked like the rest of us. Every item in her bag scrutinized for some effect before being told to go. I also have to pay some fee I had no idea of.
After four months of living in Canada you forget about all these things you read about but then you go to the US and you see why people protest on the streets.