Thursday, November 18, 2010

Detained but not arrested @ the US border

It's interesting how a calm ordinary day can turn into an international incident at the US/Canada border.

Here's the scoop:

As some of you know, our F-350 dually diesel truck was returned to us late in the afternoon of November 16th - following repairs and exactly one month to the day it was stolen from our driveway.  Because the auto thief drove it better than 500 km, there was no diesel left in the tank when it was returned to us.  So yesterday near 12:00 noon I headed south (all 3km) to the US border (Peace Arch Border Crossing) to purchase diesel fuel.  As a NEXUS pass holder, I proceeded in the lane, scanned the card, was about to proceed to the border guard station when the guard instantly jumped out of his booth and commanded me to stop.  I did!  I thought it odd but was not fazed by it.  Odd things do happen at the border.

After a few moments of waiting, the officer guided me to drive forward and when I stopped he immediately took the NEXUS card from my hand, had me stop the engine and hand over the keys. He sternly advised me to keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times or face being led in handcuffs to a dark place somewhere.  I still had no idea why this was happening till he stated that I was driving a stolen vehicle.  A few words on his radio brought another US border guard to the lane I was in.  The other guard stood in front of my truck. I again was told to keep both hands firmly on the steering wheel where the officers could see them and also told not to move! Whoa!!!  What the heck was going on here?

A few minutes later all of my vehicle registration documents were taken.  I was given the ignition keys and instructed to drive to another secure area.  Another officer told me to leave the truck - with the keys in the ignition - and proceed to US Immigration.  That's where the real fun began.

Once inside the immigration office, I was faced with a long lineup. I was certain to be  facing a one hour wait before being interrogated.  Because I was a suspected auto thief my name was called and I was quickly pulled out of the line.  Standing in front of a new border guard I was made to answer a barrage of questions.  I was told that I was lucky that I was not sprawled out (spread eagle is the term I believe he used) and handcuffed at the booth.  I started to laugh.

For those folks who know me well, I do not normally react well to stupidity.  As hard as it may be for some to believe, I can be argumentative.  To paint a picture of how ridiculous the numerous conversations went would require a lot of finger action on my keyboard.  Suffice it to say that it was a gong show.  Several times the officers placed their hand on their gun.  It's an intimidation tactic.  That simply doesn't not work with me.  I said something to the effect that although I may have been born at night, it was not last night.  The officers (two of them) kind of played good cop / bad cop.  Another stupid game, in my view. I knew that the US Immigration knew that it was the rightful owner who was driving my truck.  I have been through that border crossing on numerous occasions. I mentioned that my truck had been stolen but that it had been returned to me the previous evening.  That was one month to the day after it had been stolen and once all body shop and mechanical repairs had been completed. The officer asked why I had not closed the RCMP stolen vehicle file.  I explained that my truck had been recovered three (3) days after it was stolen.  I explained that the RCMP had called my home on the evening of October 18, 2010 and released the vehicle back to me.  The RCMP also stated it would not investigate the theft.  The RCMP never mentioned that I had to clear the stolen  vehicle file.  I understand that once the stolen vehicle is returned to its rightful owner, the police file is cleared. The officer threatened to send me back to Canada and also stated that I would not be allowed back into Canada because I was driving a stolen truck.  Once again I laughed.  What a buffoonery of ridiculousness!!! I said I would take my chances but also asked if he could possibly call Canada Customs to let them know that I was coming back.  So the 'good cop' took over and offered to call the RCMP on my behalf.  Finally something positive could come from this? it turns out, the RCMP officer who had handled our stolen truck file forgot to remove the file from the CPIC (no idea what that stands for) computer file.  Although our truck had been returned to us, it was still reported as stolen.  That comedy of errors and the stupidity of being falsely accused at the US border - and the subsequent detention of over 90 minutes - was the result of a negligent RCMP officer who failed to do his/her job.

With my name cleared at US Immigration, the 'good cop' had me over to his work station again and proceeded to "clear my name."  Before I was allowed to leave the USA and once the computer files had been corrected, I was assured that I was once again a person in good standing and that I was free to enter the USA anytime.  I was sent off with a friendly gesture.  So....good came from a bad experience.  Ho Hum.  So my name was cleared and my short record as an auto thief was expunged.  Not to be!

When I returned to Canada Customs NEXUS line, guest what?    Yes, my NEXUS card was once again removed from me and I was directed to park in a secure area.  I was told that I was driving a stolen vehicle and that I could be apprehended.  Ho Hum! we go again.

I was given the evil eye and ushered into Canada Customs where a very nice female officer began to question me.  I recounted my experience at US Customs.  She seemed compassionate.  She listened then quickly typed into her computer.  After several minutes I was told that she had accessed US Immigration headquarters in Virginia and she could see that my name had been cleared.  She still insisted that I had to clear my name in Canada.  So the process began.  It did not take too long before she accessed CPIC (still do not know what that stands for) and discovered that the RCMP - following the call by US Immigration - had cleared my name.  So....I was politely handed the 'get out of jail free card'. I was free to go.

That said, I spent two (2) hours being detained in both the US Immigration and Canada Customs because an RCMP officer failed to remove our truck from their 'stolen vehicle' CPIC file.  The innocent suffer for the lack of due diligence on the part of others.

This was a clear case of having to prove my innocence. The buffoonery of what I experienced is why I started to laugh in the first place.  Without any of my doing I created an international incident ....and had to endure the wrath of law enforcement because one officer of the law did not input one little note in an RCMP file.  I was guilty and was made to prove my innocence.  What a day - what an experience!


  1. That made us laugh.

    Last year all the way from New Zealand and on our way to Vancouver to meet our ship the following morning for our Alaskan Cruise we were held up at the border near Abbotsford. The officer asked for our Visas. We looked at each other in horror and spent a lengthy anxious wait while this person sought advice. Finally someone senior came to our rescue and told us we were fine and correct. We did not need Visas to enter Canada.

    I wonder how long that will last.

    Not being used to crossing national borders it was a salutary experience.

    All the best for your next crossing.

  2. what a fun day at the border!!!..did you remember to get diesel!???..geez darn border guards!!