Posted date : May 13, 2019.
I took particular note of your editor’s comment in the fall issue which stated, “I have found no rationale for the many and varied decisions given by border guards.” You are so right! Here is a classic example. My wife and I spend just less than six months each winter in California from late October to late April. A few years ago, we spent more than 30 days back in Canada, from mid-December to mid-January. When we attempted to return to the U.S., a border guard at Montreal Trudeau Airport advised us that we would be exceeding the six-month maximum stay. His rationale: you have to be outside the U.S. for a full CALENDAR month before those days stop counting towards your annual maximum stay. Since you were physically present in the U.S. for at least one day in December, the full month of December counts towards your six-month maximum. Since you will be physically present in the U.S. for at least one day in January, the entire month of January counts towards your six-month maximum. In other words, his interpretation was that we were deemed never to have left the U.S. in both December and January, even though we had been out of the U.S. for more than 30 days. The U.S. border guard seized our Canadian passports, yelling “I’ve had it with you people! You are not U.S. citizens and you have NO RIGHTS!” We were then led to the secondary inspection area, where we were detained for almost two hours, narrowly avoiding missing our flight. Finally, a supervisor asked us a few perfunctory questions and told us we were free to go. It was a very stressful and anxious experience, all as the result of an uninformed, poorly trained and belligerent U.S. border guard.
Ed.: We decided to print this letter as it clearly outlines the reality of border crossing. The “You have NO RIGHTS” wording is really true. We are foreigners trying to enter another country and it is a privilege to be able to do so. In 50 years of “back-and-forthing” to the U.S., I have only had one issue and that was with Canada Customs, not the U.S. Perhaps I have been lucky, but I do take a “Yes sir, no sir” attitude with me when I cross and try to be friendly. You should do the same.