You drive over the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor and pull up to a bulletproof booth, laden with video cameras, signs warning that compliance is required, metal gates ready to drop, concrete abutments everywhere.  Surly, scowling agents await; they are surrounded by wandering armed guards carrying automatic weapons.  The guards are wearing utility belts full of dangling equipment that all looks aggressive; sometimes they are accompanied by dogs or carrying mirrors to check under vehicles.

Are you trying to get into an area requiring top secret security clearance?  A vault filled with millions in  gold bullion?  Nope, just the United States.

Once you pass the scrutiny and cross examination of the agent in the booth, there is a contradictory sign that says “Welcome to the United States!”

You enter and what you find is the opposite of Fort Knox.  It’s Detroit, a city of abandoned houses, roads in disrepair, a large empty hotel with no windows left. It is the bombed out remains of what used to be a prosperous city.  A city that is in bankruptcy.  Hardly worth guarding like a fortress.

Nevertheless, Canadians line up (our national sport) to head into the US.  We come bearing money to buy things to bring back home.  We are looking for bargains.  More choices.  Access to cheaper goods from China than we see at home.

Hey US Border Guards!  We are customers bringing money!  Give us a little more than your disdain and disrespect.  You are just Walmart greeters.

But the US Border Patrol acts like they are defending some sanctified bastion.  Here’s an example from a real encounter:

“The Agent asked me where I was going.  I said I was driving to Florida to play golf.  He said ’so tell me about this trip?’  I replied, in a friendly voice, “What would you like to know?”   He looked at me, almost sneering, leaned towards me and said, in as threatening voice as he could muster, ‘You are entering a country where you are not a citizen or a resident, and you need to tell me the details of your trip.’”

A woman we know, an American who lives in Canada and is married to a Canadian, was driving her family at the same crossing in their car.  The guard asked if her son was her “natural born” child.  She was then aggressively told by the Border Agent that she better get her Canadian child registered at the US Consulate because “if we close this border, you are getting through but your child and your husband are not.”  She was embarrassed and affronted.

But still, Canadians come to buy, wanting to come home after their brief visits because they are scared of the violence and lack of healthcare in the US.

Canadians are the opposite of what the Border Agents are supposed to be guarding against:  We really don’t want to stay.  We are not coming to work illegally.   And we are not earning money there and sending it out of the country.

While border guards are harassing Canadians, there are an estimated eleven million Mexicans who really do want to stay.  They want to work illegally and earn money to send out of the country.  And still the intrepid Border Patrol can’t seem to find those eleven million.

Nor are we Muslims (well, most of us aren’t) who are routinely profiled and given even more terrible treatment at the US border.  A recent NPR On the Media story outlined the humiliation suffered by a group of American citizens coming back into their own country after attending a wedding in Canada.

That story has spawned other stories about the excesses and police state mentality of the Border Agents.  A medieval flautist complained that the border folks had destroyed his Arabic flutes.  No matter.

The attitude at the US border seems counter-productive to the US Tourism ads that regularly air in Canada telling us how we are welcome to come and spend time discovering the free and open society which the US dreams it is.

Time to teach the Border Patrol how to have the judgment to tell the difference between tourists and terrorists, visitors and invading workers.  Treating millions of tourists as if they are each a possible terrorist is bad politics and bad for business.

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