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Old 08-22-2013, 10:17 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Bruce Wray View Post
I too had a similar experience in early June at Sumas getting back into the U.S. They did not like my U.S. bought tangerines, even though I had been in Canada only two nights. I got the full vehicle/trailer inspection, interrupted by a half-hour office BS meeting. Lesson learned -- next time I will have NOTHING of interest to those freaking fruit nazis, and will politely tell them so.


Harsh words Bruce! The U.S. CBP enforces hundreds of laws for other government agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each of these agencies have rules that prevent the import of items they deem unsafe. CBP officers have responsibility for enforcing those prohibitions at the border. These officers don't make the rules! I don't think their job is easy.

We have found the simplest solution is to know the rules and comply with them.


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Old 08-22-2013, 10:30 PM   #22
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True, Brian. However, I chose them on purpose and stand by them. The way the whole thing went down made it completely obvious that they had total disregard for how much of people's time they wasted. After making me and and a dozen others wait for over a half an hour while they had a chatty, social, BS-filled meeting right in front of us, the Ag inspector, who had my passport and car keys on his desk 20 feet from me, picked them up, walked to me, handed them over, and said "You're free to go." Stunningly callous treatment.


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Old 08-23-2013, 04:33 AM   #23
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Thank you for explaining. I think you are right that we should be able to expect courtesy from Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Their mission statement is found here It includes the statement "We serve the American public with vigilance, integrity and professionalism."

In cases where you don't experience this CBP provides a means of giving them feedback. See I suggest that you tell them about what happened and see what their response is.

Here are a few other things that you can do to avoid unpleasant border experience.
  1. Try to travel when the border is not busy -- this will reduce your frustration
  2. Know the rules for what you can bring into the US so that when you are asked "do you have anything to declare" you know what your answer should be.
  3. Try to be polite with the CBP officers -- you don't want them to read your behaviour as suspicious -- they do have a lot of power and you don't want to see them using it against you!
  4. Explore the possibility of getting a NEXUS pass if you travel frequently. We have these and it does expedite your border crossing as well as helping you know the rules
  5. Try to understand why CBP officers may be tense or seem to be dragging things out. See 3,400 Border Patrol Agents on the Chopping Block | Center for Immigration Studies
    They may be insecure about their jobs!

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Old 08-23-2013, 07:54 AM   #24
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Something else to consider yes it may have been an inconsiderate waste of your time... However, it also may have been a cover waiting for other checks being done via computer etc. With computers these days if there was one on his desk that he could see he may have gotten a cleared message on his screen. When running computer checks it does take time sometimes depending on which data bases are being accessed and how many points of access there are. Terminals connected to certain databases are single point dedicated access clients IE only one machine or two are hardline secure connected. This is just a guess I work in the LE field and have had a time or two to delay someone while waiting for a records check. You are entering the country or leaving a country so the standard computer check a LEO will do for writing a ticket takes minutes a more heavy duty check is more involved.

Bvansnell suggestions are right on par.

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Old 08-23-2013, 10:07 AM   #25
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A suggestion for US residents - stop at US Customs before leaving the US on the way to Canada, and explain your situation. They should be able to advise what products cannot leave and return to the US. Or they may be able to ceritfy that your products originated in the US for easier re-entry.
Kirk & Shelley
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Old 08-23-2013, 05:29 PM   #26
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A word about the US CBP officers. A year ago, we wanted to enter the US at the International Falls, MN crossing. We pulled up to the check point and the officer asked us if we had any fruit or vegetables. Kathy replied that all we had was canned stuff, no fresh. The officer then, without any explanation and in a very authoritative voice, told us to go park at a designated point. We did and waited for some time before someone came over and asked us the same question, again not in a pleasant manner. Again, Kathy gave him the same answer. He then told us we would have wait for an agriculture inspector. After an hour or so, the ag. inspector arrived. "Any fresh fruit or vegetables", he asked. Again, the same answer. He then told us he didn't believe us. "OK", said Kathy, "Here, take the keys to the trailer and go see for yourself. Tear the place apart if you have to." To which he replied "No, that's ok. Where are you from?" "Terrace, BC, up near Alaska". How's the fishing up there?" "It'sgreat". "I'll have to get up there some day. Oh, and you're free to go".

The point here is that we knew the rules and wanted to avoid the hassle. However, the CBP officer(s) chose to assert their authority and put us through the ringer and, in the end, it didn't matter anyway. Not very professional, in my opinion.

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Old 08-23-2013, 10:41 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by NuthatchBC View Post

... the officer asked us if we had any fruit or vegetables. Kathy replied that all we had was canned stuff, no fresh.

After years of unnecessary hassles, sometimes to the point of tears, we have learned to answer simply yes or no. Be truthful, but do not offer ANY more info than is asked for (he didn't ask if you had canned fruit...) Doing so is breaking the agent's "flow" which can trigger more intense scrutiny.

Some other thoughts based on information from a friend who used to be a Canada customs agent:

Always drive up to the window and then take off your sunglasses, establishing appropriate & respectful eye contact. This goes for the passenger as well.

Above all, do NOT crack jokes or try to make small talk; apparently those are signals that you may be trying to hide something. Most agents are not interested in knowing your personal story/headaches/joys or sorrows; they just want to do their job.

On return it helps enormously if you have a list ready with itemized purchases, amounts etc. that you can refer to when/if asked, rather than trying to remember. Again, apparently looking up and away as you think about it can be a signal that you may be trying to hide the truth. (I have a very painful story about THAT one!) The agents are trained to look for all these signals - not that it means you are being dishonest, but it makes them take extra notice.

Hope this helps a little.
Glenn & Rosemary
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Old 08-24-2013, 07:30 AM   #28
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In a way we are treated like children and the officials are like teachers, making us squiggle until they decide to let us go, it is a lesson we learned years ago in school and it is repeated every now and then when we run afoul of the rules, be it border crossing or a traffic stop or a court appearance. The crossing stop delay happened to me as a result of identity theft, but it did not deter me from respecting them performing their job, I did it for 38 years.
The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why………..Mark Twain
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Old 08-24-2013, 10:01 AM   #29
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When crossing into Canada thru Minnesota's north shore of Lake Superior, when asked about produce we told the guard that we had some homegrown potatoes from our garden. She said that they would have to be thrown away, let us thru and directed us to a large dumpster. The raccoon family living in the dumpster was very happy for the homegrown addition to their feast. So apparently the potato ban goes in both directions.

On another crossing into Canada when asked about weapons, Mary said she had a Swiss Army knife in her purse. The guard laughed and said they weren't worried about the Swiss, that Canada had a large well armed neighbor to the south to protect them.

In every crossing we have made, the Canadian officials have been friendly and respectful and I sure hope that always continues. Strange that it is more stressful to travel back into my own country than into our neighbor to the north.
Eric (and Mary who is in no way responsible for anything stupid I post)

"Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance." George Bernard Shaw
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Old 08-24-2013, 11:12 AM   #30
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We've never had a problem when crossing into Canada from the States; however, had one experience many years that has certainly affected all our crossings since. We were with friends, going to Vancouver for a weekend stay and, when asked if we were bringing in alcohol, we replied yes and told them we had a bottle of Scotch. They directed us to the side and after we stood around for about ten minutes waiting for someone to tell us what to do, three officers came and went through everything, including the rental car. We were so shocked, no one dared speak up to ask what we did to incur such intense scrutiny. After about 20 minutes, they told us we were free to cross ... no rudeness, just very matter-of-fact. The only thing we could determine was that if you replied "yes" to something minor, and drove a rental car, there must be something more sinister lurking in your vehicle. Needless to say, we haven't brought alcohol into Canada since ... just to be on the safe side ;-)

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