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My brush with Immigration!

In 2001 while employed at the University in Davenport, Iowa, I would often attend conferences in various states to represent the institution. In late September that year, the Michigan State Association held its annual conference in Dearborn, Michigan, and I was scheduled to attend. These conferences were always held on weekends. As a result, I missed spending those weekends with my young children. Dearborn was within driving distance of Davenport, sort of, and it was home to the Henry Ford Greenfield Village. I decided to make it a long weekend with the family, so I rented a car and included the whole family on the trip.

Everything went well during the weekend, and we were in fine spirits on Sunday as we prepared to return home. On a whim I suggested that we could drive across the river to Windsor, Canada, so that the boys could tell everyone at school the next day they’d gone to Canada. We crossed into Canada,made a U-turn at the bottom of the bridge and headed back into the States—and that’s when the trouble started.

The border patrol newly infused with the 9/11 furor only a couple of weeks prior to our visit asked for our I.D.s. My and my wife’s driver’s licenses were perfectly acceptable. The two boys, ages 12 and 15 had I.D.s from their local schools. My four-month-old daughter had nothing.

She was plucked from her mother’s arms and spirited away. We were escorted to the glass-lined cage where no amount of smooth talk and pleading made one ounce of difference. My wife was frantic, the boys were in high anxiety, and I didn’t know whether to wind my butt or scratch my watch.

We stood and watched as they systematically disassembled the rental car on the driveway in front of us. They took off the tires, removed the spare and broke them down to look inside of them. They took out the seats and removed the door liners. They passed mirrors under the car from front to back. I didn’t know where the rental had come from or who might have used it last and was terrified that they would find something arrest worthy.

There was no language barrier, everyone spoke English, but it didn’t matter because no one would speak to us. No one would tell us where our baby was. My wife who was nursing the baby was in agony, she said she could tell that the baby was crying in distress. It was the most distressing experience that any of us had ever had as a unit. It went on for two hours at which time they seemed to say,” Oh never mind; you can go,” loaded us all back into the reassembled rental, handed us the baby and bid us farewell.

If that is just a taste of what the people are experiencing at our southern border, then yes, they have not only my sympathy, but I understand what their agony is like, and it must never happen again