Only Terrorists Go to Canada

Department of Homeland Security Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – to require that Americans without passports stay the fuck home, and Canadians on vacation without passports stay the fuck away. (Mexicans without passports will still be welcome to crawl across the Sonoran Desert, provided that they don’t complain when they die or almost die or the people-smugglers break their children’s kneecaps.)

The language in this cute little Homeland Security FAQ has blown past even my elevated barriers of cynicism and growing distaste for the word “Orwellian”:

  • Preventing us from re-entering the country on the only form of ID we routinely carry around will “facilitate entry for U.S. citizens”.
  • travel document options – so okay, that’s not Orwellian, it’s Marketroidy.
  • The advanced notice of proposed rule making will allow these affected publics to voice concern and provide ideas for alternate documents. – I like how voicing concern isn’t tied to any suggestion of actually altering the policy if the public deems it necessary.

Wired recommends wrapping your future passport in aluminum foil. Incidentally, my current passport has a little page where you can enter your address in pencil. What on earth is the point of coding an address in an RFID chip on a document that lasts for ten years? Even normal people change addresses on that kind of time scale!

Bleah. [from Rana]


  1. Rana wrote:

    Oh, I hadn’t even thought of the address issue with the RFID chips. Stupid.

  2. wolfangel wrote:

    They’ve essentially required Canadians to have passports for 3.5 years now; it’s now a formal instead of an informal requirement is all. I just wish maybe they’d charge less for passports here, or have them last more than 5 years. No other country does that.

  3. yami wrote:

    Huh, I didn’t know that. Crazy unfortunate!

  4. Moebius Stripper wrote:

    Yeah, I was going to say what wolfangel said, and add that my born-in-Iran-but-have-been-Canadian-citizens-for-over-a-decade friends haven’t been allowed to enter the US without passports; so I see this initiative as treated us born-and-bred Canadians more like them. That said, I sure do appreciate trains (and even buses) a lot more than I did way back in Year 2001 Part I.

  5. yami wrote:

    Well, if Canada’s only a pretend country, it can’t very well be handing out “citizenship” can it? Thus Maher Arar was a function of the US’s fundamental lack of respect for Canadian sovereignty.
    A little torture is a small price to pay for such funny movies as Canadian Bacon.

  6. wolfangel wrote:

    MS, I am born-and-bred and pale white, and they’ve been enforcing it on me for ages. And now they get all testy with me at the border, cause I have all these stamps saying I studied and worked in the US, and I guess they’re worried I want to go back. No need to worry, guys!
    (I have had friends manage it with just other ID, but they get really snarky, and again — born and bred and pale white girls; my uncle (born and bred to Middle Eastern parents) and his brothers have had this problem since they were teenagers (this could clue people knowing about the Mtl Jewish aristocracy into who I am talking about/related to, but I’m going to assume I’m safe here — it’s not the Bronfmans).)
    I don’t know how well it will go over in the end, because there’s always reciprocity, and they get sort of iffy about being forced to make *Americans* show passports. I mean, Americans are good, non-terrorist people!

  7. yami wrote:

    Americans will have to show passports anyway to return to the FDRUSA, so I doubt that will cause any upset. Good, non-terrorist people have no reason to object to the constant showing of proper identification.

  8. Moebius Stripper wrote:

    Yeah, I get crap at borders too, and agents always insist on seeing my passport, but I figured that that was largely because I am visibly part Middle Eastern. (I do not get nearly as much crap as my visibly completely Middle Eastern friends, though.) Hmm. One time they asked where I was from (”Ottawa”), no, they mean ethnically, where were my parents from (”Montreal”), no, they mean where were they born (”Montreal”) – at this I was reminded that it was a federal offence to lie to a customs agent.
    Lately I have taken to wearing my hair in a ponytail and wearing vanilla non-ethnic looking clothes. Border crossings are a lot smoother now.

  9. wolfangel wrote:

    In May 2002 I went to Maine with friends in my father’s car. It wasn’t a terribly expensive car, but it was more than a bunch of 20ish year olds could afford, certainly. The border crossing went like this:
    Whose car is this? My father’s.
    How do you know each other? Friends from school.
    Where did you meet? School.
    What are your occupations? Students.
    What do you study? Linguistics.
    Where are you going? Maine.
    Why? Vacation.
    Where are you staying? At a friend of the family’s house.
    How do you know them? My parents are friends with them.
    How long have they been friends? About 20 years.
    Where did they meet? In Maine.
    What’s their last name? Hussein-Bin Laden; it’s a hyphenated name.
    After I answered all those questions, I went out to the trunk so they could rummage through our luggage (Why do you have this much? I overpack. What’s in this bottle? Tylenol.) and ask me all the same questions ALL OVER AGAIN.
    The thing is, Yami, I don’t object to the idea that to do certain things, you might need to show identification. An RFID-enabled passport is a little beyond the pale, though.

  10. yami wrote:

    Wolfangel: I agree, it’s absurd. The customs agents must’ve taken out all the snark when my last comment crossed the border, I hope this one gets past the emoticon-sniffing dogs…

  11. wolfangel wrote:

    No, I knew you were being snarky, I’m just saying that I think there’s a distinction to be made for when it’s appropriate to show identification and when it’s not, and I think that crossing a border is a reasonable time to show ID. (Of course, we already do, just not necessarily passports.)
    I was in fact asked all those questions. Do most people know how their parents know every single one of their friends?

  12. yami wrote:

    Oh phew.
    I’d personally like the NAFTA countries to eventually adopt a sort of Schengen protocol. That, and passports are not wallet-sized, so I hate them.
    I went to Canada when I was like 9, so didn’t have proper ID, and my parents had forgotten to bring along my birth certificate. We were let in because we all had matching library cards. Ah, the good ol’ days…

  13. wolfangel wrote:

    My only objection to passports is the cost given how short their use life is. I do not want a wallet-size passport: that would be a recipe for loss.
    We never used to get asked for ID, we just said we were Canadian and we drove a car with a Canadian license plate and, you know, two white adults with their two young blonde daughters? Not a recipe for danger. (Yeah, I harp on the colour issue, but it’s because I am absolutely convinced it’s true. That and the fake plastic flowers I have on my dash.)

  14. Harrison wrote:

    You realize that this is all *actually* the fault of the liberal Hollywood cabal. They just want this to happen for all of the stupid movie plot possibilities it will create. It’s the era of reality TV, and we are suffering from extreme narrative exhaustion.

  15. yami wrote:

    You mean they’re remaking Born in East L.A. as a reality show? Maybe they could combine it with the Amazing Race…

  16. Rana wrote:

    I’ve been thinking about this some more, and I guess what bugs me in particular about this is that I still carry around the notion that passports are for visiting _foreign_ countries, for identifying oneself as an American citizen when abroad. The idea that one has to show a passport to return to one’s _own_ country really bugs me.
    I mean, what happens if it gets lost or stolen? Are you never allowed to go home? What good is citizenship if it depends solely on the possession of a single, somewhat expensive document? I grasp the “practical” aspects of making everyone show some sort of ID at a border crossing, but I really hate the more philosophical implications.

  17. yami wrote:

    Presumably if your passport is lost or stolen, you either sleep on the floor of the nearest U.S. Consulate for a few nights, or meet up with a con man named Jimmy…

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