Crossing the Canadian Border

I spent the week in British Columbia visiting my sister who lives and works there. I flew into Seattle where she picked me up and drove me to her home in Canada. While crossing the border we were hassled a bit by a Canadian border agent.

After asking my sister to explain three times why she lived in Canada, he had us park and enter the building for further questioning. I was taken into a room by a border agent there and questioned about my criminal history. While I was explaining about the charges being brought against me by the State of Colorado for sitting in a park over night and my upcoming trial, the same agent who interviewed us in the car entered and addressed the agent interviewing me, “I also have questions about the girl with the work permit. I don’t know what she is doing here.”

Thinking he must not have been able to understand her from the car, I offered a clarification, “She works in Canada. She cleans houses.”

“I know, but we already have house cleaners up here. Why is she here?”

That’s when I realized he wasn’t sincerely trying to determine our purpose in Canada. He was a Canadian nationalist trying to find an excuse to keep American labour out of his country.

When they were finished with me they brought my sister in for a private interview so they could ask her how she dare clean Canadian houses. Eventually, finding no technical reason to turn us away, they returned our passports and let us continue past the border.

They never searched our vehicle or our persons. They were not concerned with the migration of drugs, pestilence, or weapons. They were concerned with the migration of labour. At the border of two of the richest countries in the world. At the longest international border in the world, with few or no military fortifications, where anyone willing to walk a few miles could likely enter without detection. I wouldn’t have expected it.

While my sister crosses the border frequently and this is the first time she’s had a problem, this one agent’s behavior perhaps shows anecdotally the conflict between modern, liberal capitalism (the welfare state) and freedom. The more say workers have in policy under capitalism, the more wage-jealousy has a say in policy. Also, established welfare programs, as can be found in Canada, depend on having a high taxable-wealth to recipient ratio. Immigration, especially of poor workers, threatens to upset that delicate balance.

I can only imagine what immigrants face at most borders in the world, where they don’t speak the same language or have the same skin color, and where they are looking for a place to work and live instead of a mere vacation. This was my first experience at a border crossing, and it has reinforced my thoughts On Borders and the Status Quo I wrote a few weeks ago.

David Rovics' song “No One is Illegal” shares my sentiment towards borders.

Will we open up the borders
Tear down the prison walls
Declare that no one is illegal
Watch the giant as it falls


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