Jul 19, 2010

“I understand that the US needs to protect its border, but NSEERS is not the way to carry this out.”

I am a Canadian citizen and have been living in Canada for the last fifteen years or so. I used to be an Indonesian citizen, but got that citizenship automatically revoked upon receiving my Canadian citizenship, as Indonesia does not recognize dual citizenship.

I currently live in a Canadian city close to the American border. Though I am now a Canadian citizen, I still endure NSEERS simply because I was born in Indonesia.

I have visited the US many times since I first arrived in Canada in 1995, be it for business reasons or tourism. I do not have any family members in the US, and the longest period I have ever stayed in the US lasted two weeks, during a holiday.

Since the enactment of NSEERS, I have been poorly treated every single time I visit the US.

NSEERS Incidents

· In 2006, I was admitted to the NSEERS program. I was then a Canadian permanent resident, but because I still retained my Indonesian passport, I was constantly being pulled aside when I crossed the border. I had to join the NSEERS program, although I had been in and out of the US many times before then. At first, I thought NSEERS would only require the standard fingerprinting and picture-taking as my other visits entailed. I was wrong; NSEERS required much more than that. I was asked about my parents, their dates of birth, what I do in Canada, my travel history and pattern, among many other questions. I get asked these questions every single time I enter the US. To make matters worse, the exit procedure is also not a pleasant experience.

· In April 2007, when I was still an Indonesian citizen but still a Canadian permanent resident, I had to go across the border to pick up an automotive part because the owner would only send it within the US. As expected, I was pulled aside when crossing and asked to proceed to secondary processing. Assuming that it would only take a short time, I proceeded with the interview and the rest of the requirements. Prior to 9/11, the crossing that used to take a mere 30 minutes now took almost four hours. That day, something was wrong; the officer either lacked in training to process NSEERS or the computer system was not working. The officer could not find my one and only Finger Identification Number (FIN)—which is assigned to every single NSEERS registrant upon registration. The interviewing officer had to start my registration procedure from the beginning and I was issued a new FIN number. To make the matter worse, there was no bathroom in the area where I was waiting for four hours, and that was a torture of a different level.

The next few times, I entered the US was through a different border crossing and, per usual, it took a long time to get processed at the entry and exit point. This happened even after I became a Canadian citizen, and I no longer hold an Indonesian passport.

· On April 18, 2010, I entered the US for the first time since I became a Canadian citizen. I was pulled aside for secondary questioning, but I was told by the supervising officer that I do not need to be fingerprinted since I am now a Canadian citizen.

· However, on June 23, 2010, I decided to go visit Point Roberts, WA, and was stopped for secondary screening. I was asked to go through NSEERS even though I had my Canadian passport and was told just a few months earlier that I would not have to endure NSEERS. When I complained to the officer, he told me he could not do anything and that he had been ordered to do so.

Now, if I do choose to come to the US via different modes of transportation, I will run into the following NSEERS related problems:

  1. If I choose to enter the US by bus, the bus is unlikely to wait for me if the processing takes a few hours. Moreover, if I exit the US by bus, I would be violating NSEERS’ rules because the bus would just drive through the Canadian border, which would make me unable to be processed at the designated exit point. Failure to exit properly would create problems the next time I try to enter the US.
  2. If I choose to exit the US by train, I would again be violating NSEERS’ rules because the train will only stop at the Canadian destination. At that destination, I would go through Canadian customs, but not through the standard NSEERS exit procedures at the US Border. Failure to exit properly would create problems the next time I try to enter the US.
  3. If I choose to fly in or connect to a different flight in the US, the extra processing time would increase my chances of missing my connecting flight. The extra fees and time cannot be attributed to the US Customs and Border Protection because it is not their problem that I was pulled aside for being subjected to NSEERS.

In a sense, NSEERS has stopped me from visiting America for business reasons or tourism. I enjoyed visiting the US before NSEERS was implemented, but a short trip is no longer worth the trouble of spending four hours at the border to be processed under NSEERS, despite being a Canadian citizen.


the name is fictitious to preserve anonymity.