November 25, 2009

Detained, harassed and threatened at the border

Here is a story worth reading and thinking about.

Laura, a writer from Toronto, was crossing the border at Buffalo. Among other things, she works with our War Resisters. She helps them get homes and jobs while they attempt to immigrate to Canada. It's all legal. She is an incredibly wonderful and compassionate woman. I hope everyone who reads her story is outraged at the harassment she experienced by our border guards. Even, as she states, "I'm sure glad I'm wearing my white skin and my non-Muslim-sounding last name. I'd hate to be walking in here without those protective devices."

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the Palestinians who encounter checkpoint after checkpoint and face harassment, intimidation, imprisonment and the real possibility of death everyday by the US-funded Israeli forces who occupy Palestinian land.

The best plans we have for Iraq and Afghanistan include dangerous checkpoints and home invasions by our troops in the middle of the night, armed to the teeth and trained to mistreat. If we don't send our own troops, we arm, train and pay others to carry out our dirty work.

How do we manage to allow the people who design and run these programs to find their way into these positions Our country is full of beautiful, loving people. I see them every day. Whey did we turn over the keys to these monsters?

This is what Laura wrote today in her blog:
"the gray area": in which i am detained, harassed and threatened at the border

In September, I helped a war-resister friend of mine take care of some paperwork. Unable to obtain his birth certificate, he needed a friend with a US passport to attest to certain facts. As I slid my passport under the window at the US Consulate, I thought to myself, I wonder what will happen the next time I use my passport...? I was aware I was taking a slight risk. I didn't think it was a big deal. I still don't.

Two days ago, on Monday, November 23, Allan and I drove our usual route down the QEW to the Buffalo border crossing. The female border guard in the booth asked us the usual questions - where we're going, reason for our visit, how long we're planning to stay. Then she swiped our passports, and that's when things changed.

We saw her writing - a lot of writing. She asked Allan for the keys and to pop the hatchback (which was already unlocked). A group of guards descended on the car with mirrored devices used to check under the car. I was in the passenger seat. Someone tapped on the window. I turned around to see a border guard in full paramilitary get-up motioning for me to get out and come with him. Without a word of explanation, he led me across the parking area into a building. I asked, "Can you tell me what this is about?" He said, "If I knew, I would tell you. I was only instructed to bring you in."

He led me through a waiting area with numbered wickets - like at a Motor Vehicles or other kind of processing centre - and into a separate, more secure waiting area, behind a plexiglass wall, that he had to get buzzed into. He asked if there was anything in my pockets; there was not, because my cell phone was in the car. Had I been carrying anything, I would have had to surrender it to him. He told me have a seat. I sat.

So I sat there, by myself. No ID, no phone. Just sitting there by myself. At that point I was a little nervous. After a while, I saw guards escorting Allan into the outer waiting area, which I could see through the glass. We nodded and smiled to each other, and I felt a little better.

I waited in this inner waiting room for quite a while. Eventually a guard came out - a big tall guy, shaved head, reflecto glasses - and walked me to the far corner of the room. He said they were short on space and he would question me right there. He stood directly under the TV, which was blasting the whole time, and had me sit in a chair in front of him, so I had to crane my neck to see his face, and try to hear over the TV noise.

"Do you want to tell me about some of the trouble you've been in?"

That was his first question.

"I haven't been in any--"


Do you want to tell me about some of the trouble you've caused?"

"I haven't caused--"

"Did you try to cause trouble at the US Consulate?"

"I went with a friend--"

And that's how it went. He would ask me a question, I would say three words, and he would interrupt with his next question. After a few rounds I realized he wasn't interested in what I had to say, and I just sat there while he delivered a lecture in question form.

"The US government doesn't look kindly on military deserters, or on people who help them. Did you think you were just going to waltz into a US facility and help a military deserter? You could be in a lot of trouble. You can't just break the law and think that because you're in Canada it won't matter." Read more HERE

1 comment:

L-girl said...
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