Crossing The Border Can Be Weirder Than You Expect

Our trip to Canada and upstate New York involved a lot of visits with family. Because of the geography of it all, we drove back and forth across the U.S.-Canada border many times.

I’ve never been really nervous about border crossings. Growing up with Akwesasne as either my home or as a frequent destination for visits, even as a kid I would cross the border, sometimes going back and forth several times a day.

But the questions the border guards ask have gotten a little strange over the years. As we crossed into New York one morning, the following exchange occurred:

U.S. Guard: “Where does everybody live?”
Me: “California.”
Guard: “Why were you in Canada?”
Me: “I was visiting my dad…”
Guard: “What are you doing here?” (indicating America…where I live…but emphasizing that it’s strange that I’d be coming to New York)
Me: “I’m from here originally. I’m visiting my mom on the rez.”

The Guard paused for a moment, then asked “Who’s your mom?”

Taken aback for a beat, because why the hell is a federal agent asking me my mom’s name, like it’s a test, or like he knows her, I eventually answered him. And that was it. He sent me on my jolly way into America.

I know, it’s not that strange, right? He was probably looking for holes in the story, looking to justify pulling the car over for a search. But on the way into Canada the next day, the following exchange took place:

Canadian Guard: “Where does everybody live?”
Me: “California.”
Guard: “Why are you going to Canada?”
Me: “We’re flying out of Montreal today…”
Guard: “What were you doing there?” (indicating America…where I live…but emphasizing that it’s strange that I’d be coming from New York)
Me: “I’m from here originally. I was visiting my mom on the rez.”

The Guard paused for a moment, then asked “Who’s your mom?”

Are you kidding me? Is this some new script the border guards are running?

Taken aback for a beat, because why would a federal agent be asking me my mom’s name, like it’s a test, or like he knows her, I eventually answered him.

And then HE said: “Oh, are you Shannon’s brother? We went to high school together.”

Maybe the U.S. border guard DID know my mom.

Like I said, I’ve never been really nervous about border crossings.

3 thoughts on “Crossing The Border Can Be Weirder Than You Expect”

  1. I went to Montreal a couple years ago and they made us all get out of the car just because we were four dudes in our early twenties, felt like I was crossing into Iran or something!

  2. I don’t know why border guards always make me nervous. Whenever I have been asked questions, I get anxious and start to ramble, which I’m afraid makes me look suspicious, so I keep chattering away. It embarrasses my husband.

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