May 30, 2011

U.S. Border and Customs "Efficiency"

I'm sure being a customs agent is no picnic, especially in light of what has happened with terrorism over the last decade. But just like the TSA agents groping people, border security agents along the Canadian border don't seem to understand that people going to shop in the United States are not your enemies.

The guy in this video should have shut up and cooperated - border agents have a tough job they are trying to do. But that is no excuse for the behavior of the agents. Clearly this guy is not a real threat, just a guy with a bit of an attitude, an not an exceptionally bad attitude to start with.

This was posted on youtube in 2010.

Just because somebody isn't sure which store they are going to shop at in an outlet mall, doesn't mean they need interrogation.  Combine that with this story from 2009 and you can see where people get frustrated;
A B.C. sales representative who markets equestrian products in Canada was barred from crossing the U.S. border to attend a trade show last month by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who accused him of trying to steal American jobs.

"He looked at me, and in a yelling voice he said, 'You're friggin' stealing jobs away from American citizens,' and I tried telling him that I wasn't," Joel Borsteinas told CBC News.

Borsteinas, a Canadian citizen, said he's been in business for 15 years, acting as a middleman between U.S. and Canadian suppliers of western wear and equestrian products and Canadian retailers who want to stock the products.

He said he goes to the U.S. half a dozen times a year to attend trade shows and meet with suppliers who want him to market their products to retailers north of the border. They pay him a commission for every Canadian order he sends to them.

On Feb. 26, Borsteinas said, he was on his way to a trade show in Oregon when he was pulled over at the border and questioned for an hour before being refused entry. He said he's never been stopped at the border before, and he said he always tells the truth about where he is going and why.

"Anybody that buys off an American distribution company or an American manufacturer company has some sort of a liaison in Canada," said Borsteinas.

"I'm creating American jobs. The (U.S.) companies that I actually work for — I have been in touch with them all — and they still think that this is absolutely crazy."

Borsteinas said the border officer who refused to allow him entry to the U.S. was the supervisor on duty at the time at the Sumas crossing in southwestern B.C.

"I said, 'Well, I don't actually bring the products in. I just write the orders. It's all in Canada,'" said Borsteinas.

"He says, 'Oh, you are a consultant, then.' I says, 'No — I'm just a salesman. I sell to Canadian stores.' And he says 'Nope, you are a consultant,'" said Borsteinas. "Once again, he says 'You are stealing jobs away from us.'"

Borsteinas said he was then fingerprinted and sent back into Canada. The border officer warned him if he tried to enter the U.S. on business again, he should expect to be prosecuted.

"He said if I ever come down to the U.S. again with the intentions of working, I will be arrested," said Borsteinas.
Where job threats come from is a post for another time, but clearly, this guy is not the problem. As for crossing the border, I'm sure the problem exists for some Americans going into Canada as well. The real problem isn't an American attitude - it's a bureaucracy, it's ineffectively trained agents with too much power. Again, I understand that the border presents special circumstances but a little common sense goes a long way. I'm sure neither of these case represent 99.9% of the straightforward dealings people have with border agents. But saying a 0.1% error rate is acceptable is well, not acceptable.  It wouldn't be acceptable if in the first case they were terrorists and got through,  but just because the consequences are not as severe with a reverse mistake, doesn't make it acceptable. 

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