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December 15th, 2009

La migra, la migra, te chingan los pollos

Time to exercise the free speech I'm not guaranteed in a certain place because I don't hold that passport.

The premier episode of this series deals not with the frustrating yet comical bureaucracy of my adoptive society, but the bullying strong-arm tactics of their less-than-pleasant neighbours.

Most nations who have initiated a visa waiver programme have the following as standard: a list of approved countries is drawn up (in the case of the host nation being rich and Judeo-Christian, approved countries are those with a high development, strong economy, and similar social values, i.e. little risk of illegal immigration or criminal activity; and in the case of poorer or non-Judeo-Christian host nations, it is usually nations that they wish to curry favour with economically or politically), and foreign nationals from this list are allowed entry to this nation for a period of 90 days (or in cases such as Mexico, 180 days) without visa to do as they will and stimulate the local economy 'til their frenzied little tourist hearts are content. These waivers are issued at the border; walk right in, sit right down. (Australians are the beneficiaries of such programmes globally, but The Commonwealth of Australia doesn't offer such in return, though the tourist visa is apparently easy to obtain via the internets).

In the case of the Estados Unidos, there are two distinct differences. The visa waiver requires pre-application a day or two before, thus being a visa-without-a-visa, which really is no big deal. I do endorse their right to adopt systems as they see fit (except the system of Imperial units, but I digress), and they have the right to have fair border policies. The second difference, however, is far from fair. Where other nations visa waiver programmes only apply to their territory, the Estados Unidos system extends to border nations as well. They, in their benevolence, allow you 90 days visa waiver in their territory, Canadian territory, and Mexican territory.

This is called hegemony.

For example, you arrive in the Estados Unidos, pass through into their immigration zone for even an hour, pass out, head to Mexico for 91 days, come back, and the Estados Unidos turn you back at the border because you have overstayed the time they have generously allowed you in another sovereign nation they feel they have the right to set such terms upon.

The devil in the above detail is that if you fly into a EE.UU. airport, you come upon another rule of the EE.UU. system (No idea why, but this is the abbreviation the Mexicans use). Unlike in other countries where you can stay in international territory behind aviation security to get to your connecting flight, in the Estados Unidos you are compelled to enter their immigration zone, collect your baggage, pass back through security, and get onto your connecting flight. So, even if you don't want to have the Estados Unidos as a destination, you have no choice. This is, as best I can figure, because they don't trust the security protocols of other nations, and want you to be inconvenienced so you know who is boss. Hence, being forced into a Estados Unidos visa waiver, your 90 days in Canada and Mexico begin.

Coming from Europe, this is no big deal, as in addition to flying into New York or Washington, you can fly straight into Mexico (and I assume Canada, I'm not sure) and avoid the Estados Unidos entirely, and your affairs in Mexico and Canada are between you, those countries, and no bullying third party. Coming from the west, almost all flights go into LAX or San Francisco, and those that do direct to Mexico or Argentina are prohibitively expensive. You have no choice. In my case this requires me to obtain a visa for not only Mexico but the Estados Unidos too. The topic of visa applications I will deal with in a later post; now I will talk on what is really unjust.

Having compelled you to enter, La Migra in it's various forms now lean on the concept that if you 'want' to enter their territory, they have the right to go through you things in any fashion they see fit. They demand you buy certain locks that they approve of, lest they cut them off, and then they cut your expensive compliant locks off anyway. The take a copy of any data storage device you have. If, for example, they inexplicably break the power supply of your external hard drive, and damage the case bolting it into some rack, you have no recourse because they disclaim liability for any damage they inflict upon your goods.

This is called vandalism.

In any other sphere, this would be illegal search and seizure and criminal damage. While they do all this, they allow you to take your connecting flight without knowledge that they have taken your belongings off that flight, and when you arrive you are without your luggage you don't know why. When you get your luggage back you find they have riffled through gifts of an intimate nature intended for your sweetheart. I highly doubt that frikking around with other peoples intimate apparel prevents the attacks of extremists. This behaviour might be reasonable if you wanted to be there, but again, all this when you didn't want to enter their territory.

Note that in person they can copy your laptop drive too. I can't claim credit for this method, but the following can be used overcome this:
“I need to copy your laptop”
[wave hand] “You don't need to copy my laptop”
“I don't need to copy your laptop”
[wave hand] “I can go about my business”
“You can go about your business”
[wave hand] “Move along, move along”
“Move along, move along”

Woe betide you if they find documents in your luggage indicating you intend to visit a country they have put an embargo upon that the United Nations General Assembly has condemned as a violation of international law for every year since 1992. The travel.state.gov website explains said (or... not-said) country “is a totalitarian police state which relies on repressive methods to maintain control”. Stare into the void long enough...

This lunar cycle

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