Short Lines And Dog Treats When Crossing From Canada
December 26, 2012

PHOENIX -- We have heard a lot lately about border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, including Adrian Florido's story on border wait times.

But down here in the Southwest we don't hear much about crossing the U.S.-Canada border. I saw a story recently about a border crossing in Vermont that was marked by nothing more than flower pots on a sidewalk.

Is it really that easy?

I checked in with my friend Angela MacIsaac, a Canadian who crosses the border frequently to visit her American boyfriend. She has a great deal of experience at the crossings at Eastport, Idaho; Roosville, Mont.; and Oroville, Wash.; plus crossings in New York and Maine.

Angela, who is also a journalist, reports all points of entry she has used are manned. "You pull up to a stop sign, wait your turn, and while you're proceeding, your vehicle is X-rayed so when they ask you if you're crossing with any booze or what-not, they already know," she said.

Showing a passport is required, and because Angela also travels with her big, gorgeous maremma sheepdog, Shep, she is required to carry proof of his rabies shot.

The questions entering the U.S. are typical: Where do you live? Where are you going? What are you doing there? Where are you staying? If the answer is "with friends," they want to know the names of the friends.

And the wait at the border crossing? Angela tries to travel at off-peak hours to zip right through. But even during busy times (say, the Monday of a long weekend), her longest wait has been about an hour.

Candelario Gonzalez would love a wait of only an hour. As a Mexican working for an American company, he spends about 18 hours a week in line at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California. Weekend waits can top five hours there.

Angela said wait times at the Peace Arch crossing between Washington state and British Columbia can be a nightmare. Calit2 shows the highest average wait time there to be 59 minutes, and no doubt it's much higher on weekends and holidays.

The CBP guards on the U.S. side have been great, Angela said. "I have only once encountered a jerk of a U.S. border guard. Otherwise, they are quite lovely and friendly. They are also quite interested in my dog, give him the requisite amount of attention and provide him with treats that they keep in their booths."

But Canadian border guards have been a different story.

"Coming home sucks. Most of the time, I feel like I'm in the Spanish Inquisition. I have done nothing wrong, but according to my border guards, I get to be treated like I did," she said.

Angela said her American boyfriend has also encountered disdainful guards. She said he has been asked on several occasions to park his vehicle, go into the building and answer questions.

I was surprised to learn Americans were considered more friendly than Canadians at border crossings. I wonder if frequent crossers of the U.S.-Mexico border would agree.

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