Dear Ezra and Lian,
In the last 6 months, we have vacationed 3 times in the United States. Don’t let that fool you. Travelling while a single father is not easy. I raise a lot suspicions when crossing the borders of countries. I have to have all our paperwork and travel documents in order. I have to have a good story and definite travel plans. I undergo a thorough interrogation that Mommy never has to do. Strangely, it’s usually more difficult coming back into Canada. Last time, the Canadian border guard congratulated me on having everything ready. That sped up the process to about 2 minutes and we were on our way back home.
US Homeland Security policy states ‘In order to demonstrate they are admissible, the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility’. I respect that. We are guests in the United States of America. The US government is under no obligation to let us visit or to tell us why we can’t. All the same, they are like “everybody” else in this world. Why is this man travelling by himself with two young kids? The expectation really is that normal men need the assistance of women to do this. If one isn’t around, something is amiss.
When I looked ahead and saw two US border guards, instead of one, at that check in station, I hesitated. They had the trunk open of the van ahead of us. I thought, I should switch lanes. Just as I was about to do that, the van’s trunk was closed and they drove away. I moved up for the questions that usually take a couple of minutes.
I’m sorry kids that you ended up in a locked room being interviewed by a US Homeland Security official. You guys did great. You told the truth and looked cute. You convinced him that I was really your dad and that we really are going to DisneyWorld. Without your testimony, we were not getting across that border. This whole vacation would have had to been cancelled. I only had them half way convinced my story was legitimate.
Recently, bad things happened in California. Homeland Security has been criticized for letting one of the people who did it into the US without doing the proper checks. It seems pretty obvious that they are checking a lot more closely now. I was warned and I believed it to be true. Still, I didn’t realize that I was making a lot of little mistakes that would add up to be a big problem.
Every single time, we cross a border, I have a signed, notarized travel consent form from Mommy saying that she gives permission. This time, I only had a photocopy. The original got lost in the mail. The border guard found that suspicious. Then they found a bag of all my unopened mail. I was going to go through it all finally on this holiday. That really bothered them. Then when they saw the business cards for the blog www.dearezraandlian.com that was the final straw. Why would a guy write letters to his kids and put them on the Internet? I know it’s strange, I never realized it might keep me out of the US.
We were sent off for further questioning. We had our entire car searched for anything that might be “bad”. I had to keep answering the same questions over and over, not exaggerating to say about 8 times each. Why do I have a blog to my kids? Why do I have a bag full of unopened mail? Does Mommy really know where you are? Do I really have permission to travel with you guys? Where are we going? When are we coming back? If I ever once contradicted myself, that would have been it. Then I would have had to go through all this again except it would have been an interview with Ontario Provincial Police explaining how I really wasn’t kidnapping you.
Don’t expect this to really change for a long time. A single father with full custody of his kids is unusual. Going on long trips with them will always raise red flags. Get used to the questions. Be polite. As hard as it is, don’t laugh. Take it seriously. (I really had a difficult time doing that.)
So if you ever wonder why I’m never “excited” to go on a trip before a trip, this is why. I’m trying to make sure I’ve got everything in order and realizing that despite my best efforts, I have still done something wrong which could imperil the entire holiday.
I have a tendency to do things the difficult way. If there is an obstacle in my way, I want to climb over it, instead of avoiding it. I really want to give you kids a happy childhood. I want you to experience fun and interesting adventures outside of Canada. That isn’t always an easy thing to do.