Culprit of my ordeal at US border: two bags of oranges


Nightmares and horror stories at the Canada and US border frequently make it to newspaper headlines. But not all border incidents involve illegal funds, controlled substances or dangerous weapons, materials as trivia as healthy food products may give you surprises, and ruin an otherwise exciting trip.


As a frequent traveler to the US, I have always been given a green-light at the US border without issue. But that all changed on my recent trip to South Carolina at the Winsor-Detroit border. When we were stopped at the border, I expected to be allowed to continue with our journey after only a brief routine interview.


But out of blue, the border guard directed us to park the car at a designated spot, and ordered us to leave the vehicle without carrying any personal belongings.


“Step out of your vehicle and leave your cell phone on the seat!” a big voice came out from a loudspeaker.


I was terrified. I felt like they were treating me as a criminal. Border horror stories of women being bodily searched and harassed, and ethnic minorities of other religious faith were arrested, began to flood into my mind. I was baffled and dazed, and the anxiety level shot to the roof. How did I end up in this situation? I wasn’t carrying any drugs or dangerous weapons. I’ve never even commit a crime, nor have I ever made it to the no-fly list.


We were led into a cramped room to be further interviewed by a female officer. My attempt to seek any defence using constitutional rights failed. But soon after I found that their questions focused on the two bags of oranges in the car, I felt so relieved and silly at the same time.


I love oranges; they are easily to peel and split, and are the best fruits to carry while traveling. I bought two bags of them in London Ontario for $6.00 each prior to entering the US border, trying to save a few bucks because of the weak Canadian dollar.


But were these two bags of orangessuch a big deal? If some food products from foreign countries may pose health threat to the US, these oranges were imported from the US. Wouldn’t they trust the safety of the fruits grown in the backyards of their own country?


“The oranges were actually the products of the US and we intended to use them as healthy snacks during the prolonged driving trip,” I argued.


 But nothing could stop them from their enforcement actions. The female officer gave me a stern look: “Unfortunately, once these oranges left the US, they are prohibited from re-enter the country!”


But that couldn’t explain their food safety concerns. I couldn’t figure out why the safety of the oranges could be compromised by simply making a round trip back to the country.


But I kept silent, worrying about the serious consequences I could face if I argued further. Two officers finished the search and left my car holding the two bags of oranges in their hands. My ordeal ended as I watched the oranges disappear.


If $6 oranges were “trivial” enough to ruff the feathers of US border guards, believe it or not, a $2 kinder surprise egg caused a kerfuffle between a Canadian woman and US border agents.


According to the CBC, when the woman was stopped at the US border and selected for a random search of her car, the $2 Kinder egg was seized as a banned product.


The candy was banned because “a plastic toy inside it could choke a child, if eaten”.


According to the U.S. department of customs and border protection, Kinder eggs have been determined to present a choking hazard to young children. The U.S. takes catching illegal Kinder candy seriously. During one year period, over 25,000 of kinder eggs in 2,000 separate seizures.


The U.S. government told the woman that if she contested the seizure or the destruction of her seized Kinder egg, she has to pay $250 for it to be stored pending outcome of the dispute.


But there is little chance that the treats would harm anyone, as they are difficult to get into. Have the US border agents lost their commons sense? It appears that the constant high alert against security threats have deprived their sound judgment.


"It's just a chocolate egg," the woman told CBC. "And they were making a big deal. They said 'if you were caught with this across the border you would get charged a $300 fine… It's ridiculous. It's so ridiculous," she said.


If the kinder egg was destroyed, I wonder what they have done to my oranges. They were at their sweetest and juiciest, and were too precious to be obliterated.


But it’s judgment call of the border agency.

编注:本文曾在2015年3月《大中报》上发表。Note: The story was published in Chinese News in March, 2015.

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