Sunday, 3 July 2016

Why I was nearly rejected from America

“You can get right back on the bus and go back to Canada, you’re not coming in”

Today, after heading to Trail’s end again, saying hello to a whole bunch of dogs, and going to five guys for dinner, I was dropped off at the greyhound station downtown London and said goodbye to my family, ready to start my solo adventure. 



It took 2.5 hours to get into Toronto, as there was lots of traffic. I grabbed a bite to eat and waited for my megabus to Washington DC. It all started off smoothly until I reached the US border...

The first guy that checked my passport/ questioned me was really lovely and friendly – yeah there were a lot of questions, but he was nice and welcoming. However, his webcam had broken so he ended up having to send me back to the front of the queue to go to another officer instead. “Fair enough, thanks, have a good evening” I replied as I waited for another person.

This guy, mid-30s, called me over so I wandered over with my backpack and stood in front of him, hoping the other guy would just tell him I’m good to go I just need my photo taken – nope, questioning again. This time, the guy was relentless. I mean, part of it is my fault I guess, but I’ve never had issues with this before anywhere I’ve been – (apart from the Philippines actually).

Anyway, so he does the usual “Where have you come from? Why? Where are you going? Why? Who are you staying with? How much money do you have?” etc. Then he gets to “How long are you staying for?” To which I reply 2 months. That gets him confused… He is not impressed by how little money I have for 2 months. “Where’s your return ticket?” he demands, I explain I don’t have one, to which he gets really annoyed: “That’s not good enough; why?” I have to explain that I don’t know if I can afford Alaska, and recently my mum was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and she’s supposed to be meeting me there, but if she’s not able to walk very well then she won’t come with me so I won’t go and I’ll fly home from LA instead. He replied “how do I know you’re going to go home, with you guys leaving the EU travelling is going to get a lot harder, maybe you’ll stay here”. I tell him I have an offer for a masters at Oxford, I have no desire to stay in the US forever. He asks for proof and I can’t produce anything – I show him e-mails from Oxford saying I have an offer at their university because it’s the only thing that’s in my inbox – problem is though, it’s the e-mail where I discuss slightly missing the grades to which he replies “well then that’s useless, that’s nothing then isn’t it?” even though the e-mail clearly says that should be no problem.  (Way to rub my sadness in my face too eh – doubting my reason about my mum, and doubting I even got into university haha, though clearly I shouldn’t have…)

He then asks what I'm doing in the US, I tell him research for my masters - this prompts him to ask what is it about... and suddenly a wave of panic sweeps over me. I start wracking my brain to tell him anything other than what my real research topic is - the student drug trade in California in the 1960s - I know that would send alarm bells ringing in his ears again! However, I couldn't think of anything else to say and then I grew paranoid that he would think I was lying about the research so just blurted out my real research topic and watch his face grow increasingly angry. 

Why don’t I have any correspondence with professors or archives printed off ready for him? I don’t even attempt to explain that I’m just super unorganized and leave it last minute/ don’t plan that… He says I can’t just walk onto a campus and knock for a professor – again, I dare not even explain that that’s precisely what I do and that it works every time… He was just enjoying the power trip/ making me panic, telling me that he wasn’t going to let me in. He also starts asking about why I'm interested in the drug trade, and I have to explain that I did an entire module on it at university and what I'm hoping to do after. But he is not impressed.

The stupidest thing, in my opinion, is that obviously I wasn’t expecting a total grilling, and they didn’t have any wifi – how am I supposed to prove things without the Internet really? He then eventually just stamps my passport, takes my fingerprints/ photo, and charges me $6 without really explaining what it was for – some “documentation charge” he says… I already paid about $10 for an ESTA visa last year to cover me, I have no clue what the next charge was for! But he was in a horrible mood clearly, and I was so angry already but knew it wouldn’t help the situation so just bit my tongue, paid and left ASAP. 

Putting my bag through security I was then questioned again – how long was I staying, why was I going etc. Then after he scans it he asks “do you have any medication in your bag?” to which I respond “yes, I have a first aid kit”, then he questions “do you have any illicit narcotics?” I probably seemed guilty as hell because I was just so shocked he jumped right the point, and I was already shaking from how angry I was at the other officer, but he seemed satisfied with the response and finally let me get back on the bus!

Hell. Total hell. If he had rejected me, I don’t know what I’d have done, I couldn’t have gotten back to Toronto for example. I would have just bought a ticket then and there like I did in the Philippines, but they didn’t even have any wifi to do that so I couldn’t have! STUPID STUPID STUPID FUCKING SECURITY PROCESS. 

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