I was detained at the border…

…on my way into America… twice!

If you happened to read my DMV adventures and the issues I had considering my common name, you are going to love this one…

The entire family went up to Niagara Falls this past weekend for an Irish Dance competition for my daughter, and we stayed on the Canadian side. Getting into Canada was easy, a few questions, and we were on our way to the hotel. We had a nice meal and hit the hotel to rest up for the competition in New York, just over the border, the next day.

We planned ahead, got up early to allow time for traffic going south through the border crossing, and got there in a few minutes. We were relieved to see there was only one car ahead of us so we figured we would have lots of time to eat breakfast before the competition. We figured wrong.

I passed the passports to the officer and he began his review. Before I knew it, he asked me to turn off the car, hand him the keys, and then had my wife and I place our hands on the dashboard. Before I could really figure out what was going on, there were somewhere between 6 and 10 officers surrounding the vehicle, asking me to step out and follow them. I saw one of them read my retired Navy license plate and he had this kind of, ‘are we sure about this’ look on his face.

The officer who read the plate asked me questions about what I did in the Navy as we walked into the building. It reminded me of the ‘baseball questions’ they asked potential Communists back in the 50s and I was trying to figure out if I was being tested.

It was soon revealed to me that a Mike Ward from Oregon who is considered armed and dangerous is at large, and of course, they were not taking any chances. Having been through this kind of thing before, I tried to make the best of it. My family joined me in the room where we were surrounded by people from many other countries (not America), very few of which spoke any English. It was kind of a surreal event.

They cleared it up in about 20 minutes, apologized and said they were doing their job. I told them I understood, that it had happened before, at the DMV and one other time in a passport check, and then I told them that I was crossing again on Monday and asked what I could do to prevent the same thing from happening again. They said there was one thing they could do, but it probably wouldn’t be in effect by Monday, and that I should just tell them I was pulled aside on a false positive on an A&D (armed and dangerous) and see if it would help. It didn’t.

Monday came, and we repeated Saturdays schedule. This time two cars were ahead of us. We waited, pulled up, I passed him the passports, told the man what they told me to tell them, and within a minute, there were at least 6 officers headed towards my car. I heard the guy in the booth say, its OK to the approaching officers.

They had me pull over to another area, and go into a different building. The officer reviewed  the passports again and then said they would add me to the system to help prevent this from happening again. The weird thing is, I was fingerprinted, had pics taken, height, weight, and hair and eye color recorded, and had it all added to the system. It was odd that I was treated more like a criminal than an innocent civilian, and it bothered me a little that I needed to be treated that way to prove I am not the guy they were looking. And after all that, the officer could not guarantee it would not happen again. 45 minutes later, we were on our way again.

The thing is, we will probably go back again next year. They didn’t arrest me, Hannah did well in the competition, and the rest of the trip was pretty good. I guess I just have to get used to this ‘guilty until proven innocent’ world.

Editors Note: Today I got this email from an old Navy buddy who wanted to make sure the subject of the article was not me. And the headline read: “Navy Cmdr. Michael Ward II Faked Death to End Affair“. No JJ, it isn’t me, but thanks for checking in.  ;)

 

 

3 thoughts on “I was detained at the border…”

  1. Hi Mike – there was no “comment” link in Facebook (?) – but i find this appalling! Particularly the ” I was fingerprinted, had pics taken, height, weight, and hair and eye color recorded, and had it all added to the system.” What “system”?! This is a complete violation of your civil rights — hard earned by your service to the country! Some gratitude, eh?

    Even more disheartening however is this statement: “I guess I just have to get used to this ‘guilty until proven innocent’ world.” No – no you *don’t* have to get used to it. The fact that this can happen to you is a direct result of public complacence and acquiescence. It’s great if only the “bad guys” get fingerprinted and put into who-knows-what-kind-of-database – but that’s a perfect world scenario. We all want to protect innocent civilians and prevent acts of violence – but when it gets to the point that each and every “mike ward” gets *fingerprinted* coming into the country, the US has lost it’s status as the home of the free.

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