My father in law told me today about when he visited expat friends in Canada and they decided to show him Niagara Falls on a day trip.
They asked the Canadian border guards if they all could nip over to the ‘states for a bit – even though they did not have any passports on them. The guards smiled and said it was fine, so they passed onto the bridge.
When they reached the American side, they explained that they were just having a wee look for a few minutes and that the Canadian side had said it was OK. The Americans did not take the same view. Instead they took the matter very seriously indeed.
The expats were allowed to return, but my father in law was detained for several hours. There was no way he was getting into the USA without a passport even for a 5 minute look at the falls. Eventually he was let out to return along the bridge, alone, and with a note pertaining to his being an “unwanted alien”.
At the Canadian side, the guards had changed hours before, and the new ones refused him entry to Canada without a passport. Yikes.
It looked like my father in law was going to have to remain in no man’s land for the rest of his life, when one of his expat pals reappeared. The guards suggested that they fetch my father in law’s passport and return with it.
The trouble was that it was in Vancouver, and it was now nightfall.
A sudden last minute change of heart allowed my father in law to cross back into Canada. He asked the guards if he could keep the note about him being an “unwanted alien”, but they refused, stating that they needed it for the records.
Later in the trip, complete with passport, he drove into the USA and underwent another border hold-up – this time by a large black female guard with infeasibly long fingernails and a big gun. He was fed up and snapped at her – and this seemed to help; she suddenly let him pass.
The punchline was that he returned to Canada fifteen years later – this time with his wife and daughters, and they again passed through into the USA at the very same checkpoint – and (believe it or not) were detained by the self same big black woman with the long fingernails.
My father in law lost it again, and shouted at her that he remembered that she did this to him last time – 15 years before!
And once again, she let them pass!
It’s pretty clear that the border controls between the USA and Canada are based on irrationality.