Monday, August 17, 2015

The Borders

I think I was about 4 years old the first time I crossed the border to Canada. Looking out the window after we crossed the border, everything looked the same to me. Then again I was 4 years old. What did I know? Actually it still looks pretty much the same, except there are Chinese-Canadian restaurants and Tim Horton's everywhere.

I went to Mexico the first time when I was 18, why? Beer was twenty five cents a can, mixed drinks were 45 cents and nobody checked your ID. For short money you could have sex with a girl about your age.  The juke boxes played rock and roll and it was teenage heaven or at least what an 18 year old imagined heaven was like. The border crossing was a mere formality, “How long you planning to stay?” Country of birth?” Coming back to the states, “How long were you there?” “Did you buy anything of value?” “Have a nice day.”

20 years later going to Canada was like it always had been, same with Mexico. Crossing at San Ysidro, you parked, walked through a turnstile and there you were In Tijuana. Going through the turnstiles were 1000’s of Mexicans going home after a day’s work in the US. Some were carrying grocery bags from Von’s or Ralph’s supermarkets or shopping bags from American stores. The next morning the Mexicans walked back through the border, caught a bus to their jobs in the US and went back to their families in Mexico that night. It had been like that everywhere on the border for as long as there had been a border.

Then the “War on Drugs” kicked in big time. The Mexican border was tightened down. The walk through traffic was slowed down, the lines of cars going in both directions lengthened, more Border Patrol Agents and a lot tougher questions. Since it was much more difficult to cross the border, Mexicans simply stayed on the US side and continued to go to work.

Some Americans think Mexicans taught Americans about drugs, lured Americans into smoking Killer Weed and introduced them to all kinds of drugs and of course something had to be done about that. Didn’t it? The rules changed, Mexicans could no longer easily come to the US, get a work permit, work the tomato or lettuce or strawberry harvest, collect a few bucks and go home, they were trapped in the US, so they stayed. Now there are generations of them living here, their children barely speak Spanish anymore.

Some believe the solution is to throw them all out of the country and build a bigger fence. I doubt that will work, first of all rounding them all up would be very expensive and we don’t like to pay to fix bridges anymore so if we can’t pay for a bridge how are we going to pay for the deportation of millions and millions of people and no, the Mexican government isn’t going to pay for it.

Part of the fallout of this is it’s become a pain in the ass to cross the Canadian border and because the US has become dickish to Canadians crossing to the US, the Canadians have begun to pay us back by being dicks too. I used to drive across Ontario on QEW to Michigan, border crossing in and out took maybe 10 minutes, depending on traffic, it’s much longer now.

In other parts of the country the illegal immigrants are Chinese, in Boston, the illegals are Irish. There’s an old joke in Massachusetts that goes, “Walk into an Irish Pub and yell “Immigration” and the entire staff runs out the back door, including the beautiful red head who was leading you to your table.” Funny, right? I heard that from an immigration agent one night in an Irish Pub in Brighton, MA.

I have no idea what we are going to do about this, but I know a bigger fence isn’t the answer.


  1. Excellent historical review. And I agree with your conclusion.

  2. Also, thanks to NAFTA, cheap subsidized U.S. corn went to Mexico and devastated the agriculture industry. Here in Canada, we removed MMT from gasoline, replaced it with Ethanol from corn, built an Ethanol Plant in Chatham down the road from where I live thinking our local corn producers would benefit and once again, thanks to NAFTHA cheap, subsidized U.S. corn arrived.

  3. Border crossings between the US and Canada should be an expedited process for regular crossers and citizens of either nation. Folks transiting into either nation from a foreign embarkation can (and should be) scrutinized more carefully. Same for Mexican-US crossing.
    As for your youthful crossings, well you must have learned a lot!

    1. My experience as a kid in Mexico was a rite of passage for any guy I've know who grew up in a border state. The best Mexican, I've ever had was in the employees kitchen at the Papaguyo Club in Nueva Laredo, invited to dine at a 3 in the morning by a lovely Latina named Esperanza.

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