Profile of a dangerous person?

I said goodbye to my KoD this morning, tucked my heart into his pocket, and began the 6 hour trek back to Montreal, to my babies. Ahem. Sorry. My big boys. My Boybies (that works for me).

The drive went really well, I didn’t even cry when the mushy romantic songs came on the radio. Took a concerted effort, but I did it. The roadwork has been finished up, so there was no going slow…the weather was perfect and I made excellent time.

I get to the US / Canada border and they have closed it off except for one booth a few yards before the usual line of booths at the Lacolle border crossing. It seems they are prescreening cars before allowing them to get to the regular border crossing booths. There is a much more obvious presence of border guards than usual.

No problem, I have my landed immigrant card, my passport, I do this a bajillion times a year. Piece of cake. Right? Noooo.

The cars ahead of me showed passports and sailed through. Initially the border guard did not take my passport from me. Started asking me the regular questions. All was fine until he asked me who I had been to see. I said my husband. Then he asked for the passport. He started quizzing me on the status of my marriage, who lives where, how often we see each other. Meanwhile his cohort was walking around my car peering in windows etc.

They asked me to pull over to the side, ma’am.

Who owns your vehicle? My neighbour.

Your neighbour lets you drive his car? Yes sir.

What does he drive? One of his other cars, sir. I have a letter authorizing me to use this vehicle, sir, would you like to see it?

I also told him he could check in the computer that I cross the border all the time with this car. He did so. And I was right. Wow.

Then he asks me, why are you not driving your own vehicle? I so wanted to say “because you idiots won’t let me drive my brand spanking new Town and Country Touring minivan with US plates into Canada (More info here) so it has to stay in our garage in Monsey collecting dust, and I have to drive this freaking rust bucket that’s older than I am, just so I can see my husband. That’s why the freaking hell I am not driving my own vehicle, rectal orifice!!” But instead, I replied sweetly, “because I don’t have one.” (May God forgive me for the lie, but I wanted to get out of there)

The guys were pounding on the panels of the car, looking underneath it, in the spare tire, pulling my suitcases apart. Looking in my make up kit, holding my excedrin bottle up to the light.

“What does your husband do in the states?”

“Where did you meet him?”

“What’s his name, address?”

“What company does he work for?”

“How much money does he give you?”

“What’s his salary”

“Did he give you anything to bring back?”

“How much child support and alimony do you get?”

“Where are your children?”

“Why did you leave them for the weekend?”

“Who has custody of your children? Prove it” (I carry my divorce and custody agreement with me whenever I cross the border)

“What’s your profession?”

“How do you pay the bills if you are a stay at home mom?” I answered “with difficulty”. He left it alone, smart man, because I was about to get ugly up in his face. They then started in again on the immigration questions. What? My answers were going to change?

Then I unwittingly caused some trouble for myself. I raised my left hand to smooth back my hair. My engagement ring caught the sun. They spent five minutes quizzing me on the provenance of the diamond on my finger. Do I have proof on me where it came from? Uh…no. Who carries that with them? If I was smuggling diamonds would I be so stupid as to wear it on my finger? They looked at my other rings too. Asked about those as well.  Asked what the pendant I wear means. I wear a gold letter “Hey” (fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet that starts off my name) that my great uncle made for me decades ago. No certificate of provenance for that either.

I was shaking. I knew I had nothing contraband on me, nothing I shouldn’t have, no drugs, tobacco or alcohol. No weapons. I was coming back into Canada, my home for the last fifteen and a half years, and they made me feel so very guilty. Of what, I have no clue. I was sweating and shaking. They had me standing by the side of the road for nearly 30 minutes while they quizzed me back and forth, both guards with hands resting on the butts of their weapons. They had a team go over the car. I know they were just doing their job, but come on, I so do not fit the profile of a terrorist or a drug smuggler. I am just a mom. That’s it that’s all.

Eventually they let me go. I had to sit in another line of cars for 30 minutes until I finally was able to cross the border. By the time I crossed I had calmed down. But now I am on a slow burn. Why did they pull me over? Did I fit a certain profile? Was it anti-Semitic? Why did they start to freak out when I said my husband lived in NY and I live in Montreal? Is this going to happen now every time I cross the border? Am I red flagged? Do I dare do the border crossing thing again? I am so sick of this back and forth, and of the border sagas. It’s time for those flippin’ visas to come already.

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  1. Mark says:

    I think sometimes the Canadian border control is a bit overzealous. Maybe because their jobs are pretty much boring 99.999% of the time? Once a few years ago when I and two colleagues were crossing the border in Saskatoon, SK, they decided to give us the third-degree. And this was at midnight after we arrived on the last flight in. They put each of us in a separate room with different border agents and asked us all sorts of questions (why? where? what? business? details? how long? etc), then the agent stepped out (and later we determined that they conferred) and a different agent comes in and starts asking the same questions all over again in different ways. Finally about 45 minutes later they simply stamp our passports and say “Welcome to Canada”. This is after having entered and exited there at least 5 times previously (and that fact being quite clear in our passports and presumably in their computers). We were somewhat panicked at the time, but afterward, it was rather comical.

  2. gemfit says:

    Oy! I’m feel your stress and frustration. Who knows what flags you when you cross the border – I’ve been crossing borders for years and sometimes it’s easy (9 times out of 10) and then you get the one (or two) border guys who are bored or overly by-the-book and they decide to make life difficult.

    Hang in there. I doubt it will happen again – it sounds like something was a little different anyway this time so maybe they were on extra high alert for anything out of the ordinary?

    • hadassahsabo says:

      i know they were just doing their jobs…but i cross the borders at least twice a month and this was just out of the ordinary.

      • Mark says:

        I can guess that they flag people that make trips often and regularly to inspect for illegal drugs or other contraband. I mean what other reason could someone have for crossing the border every 2 weeks or so? :-)

  3. shorty says:

    good on you for staying so calm during that whole process. sometimes the guards are just bored and want to mess around with people. It may have been the hair covering. My friend was inthe airport wearing her head covering and got questioned left right and centre.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      i was actually wearing my wig, so it couldn’t have been the hair covering thing…and they didn’t seem like they were bored. it did seem like something was happening.

      • amhausman says:

        Yeah, wig is safer. Going through airport security with my hair in a tichel, the guard said she had to feel my hair. My afro apparently could be construed as a weapon! Don’t even get me started on Israeli airport security when you’re a convert. I’m saving that for the book.

        • hadassahsabo says:

          i hate travelling in a wig, it gets all messed up. but the tichel poses so many more issues….

        • batya from NJ says:

          yisrael (chris) campbell the comedian jokes about that. he says when your name is chris campbell & you look chareidi & you are at el al security they don’t wanna know if you have anything to declare, they wanna know, “WHERE’S THE BOMB?”!!!!

        • Mark says:

          How can they even know that you are a convert??? Does it say it somewhere on your passport? I highly doubt that could be the case.

          • Miriam says:

            Some people’s names give them away. I kept my birth name but went by Miriam, but all El Al saw was an obviously not-Jewish name and spent half an hour quizzing me on assorted observances and questions about the weekly parasha. On the way back I had to explain not only why I had converted but what my life was like before and the process. Needless to say, I’ve changed my name legally so I don’t deal with that. Now I just have to go into detail about how I got triplets.

          • hadassahsabo says:

            do we really have to answer all these questions? i mean, its not as if national security is at stake when they ask about your conversion or how you conceived your trips! none of their business….

          • batya from NJ says:

            i guess u have no choice but to answer their annoying questions if you want to enter the country (be it Israel, Canada, the US or wherever)….

  4. batya from NJ says:

    oy, so sorry that you had to go thru that experience :(.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      thanks….

      • batya from NJ says:

        in the future, you may want to say you are “visiting family” instead of being specific & saying that you are visiting your husband. maybe the husband thing opens up a can of worms which you would probably rather avoid if possible…

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think its because you come across the border so often – that they assume the only reason to go back and forth like that is something nefarious like smuggling.

  6. Chanief says:

    Are you sure they weren’t just flirting with you? You are a pretty lady, after all ;)

    You know I am only kidding about the flirting (they’d have to be real sickos for that to be their idea of fun!) I would assume they had some sort of information, I hesitate to call it intelligence, that had them being extra careful today.

    Nonetheless, whatever the reason was, I am sorry you got such a hassle. That really bites after a long drive and with the strain of leaving your husband behind.

    Side note, I do know of people who have “smuggled” gems into foreign countries by wearing them. Hiding in plain sight works sometimes.

  7. amhausman says:

    Wouldn’t it be crazy if they’d just decided…let’s not just profile people who look Hispanic or like Arabs, we’re going to start profiling frum married ladies. You know, because they totally smuggle diamonds and religious jewelry over the border…that’s some scary ish.

    • hadassahsabo says:

      i have heard of frum young Canadian marrried girls / women coming into Canada from US (where they moved after marriage) to visit their folks / in laws, and being forced to leave their jewellery at the border because they cannot prove its provenance.

      us frum married ladies are a dangerous bunch….

  8. Z! says:

    This doesn’t make me excited about my up coming crossing this Wednesday. It looks like they are on “high alert” for Thanksgiving here in the states.
    It is usually the American side that gives us so much more trouble, so hearing that the Canucks were difficult is surprising.
    I was just warning my friend about travelling with her new ring….
    They can be such jerks at the border and power trip.

  9. Frume Sarah says:

    My grandmother has had very long hair her entire life with just one bad haircut that prompted my grandfather to elicit a promise that she would never cut it again. And she’s kept that promise for over 5 decades. Anyway, she wears her hair up (only my grandfather sees it down) and must have 3 tons of hair pins in there. You’d think it would set off a machine. I think she could be hiding a small child or animal in there.

    I was born to Jewish parents whose lineage goes back to Sinai. But my blonde hair and otherwise Aryan looks ALWAYS get me stopped at Israeli customs. Even when I’ve been travelling with other rabbis.

    Who knows why they stop certain people some of the time…

    I know that the drive away from the KoD is hard enough…you don’t need such tzuris.

  10. Shulamis says:

    Hadassah, your experience is horrifying, but I don’t think that they had anything personal against you. Just bored guards that have nothing better to do than interrogate a woman traveling alone. Consider yourself lucky that they didn’t go into more private questioning which is nothing but pure harassment. I had that once, believe it or not, when crossing boarder from Egypt back to Israel with Israeli guards (and I am Israeli!). I was suspected as Russian prostitute being trafficked to Israel and the questions asked I cannot even repeat here. Hope your visa comes through ASAP. Tshuat Hashem KeHeref Ayin.

  11. Oh honey…this is such a sad story. Such anxiety over and over. I really pray that the visas come soon and this can end and you and your KoD can live happily ever after (and I can come meet you!) BIGGEST hugs Jewru!

  12. Frayda says:

    I’m sorry they gave you such a hard time. Hashem shoul help speed up th visa process.

  13. hadassahsabo says:

    thanks for the support, folks!

  14. tila says:

    …CONTROL FREAKS!!!!!

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