Civil Liberties

Answering Questions at the Border: Don't Do It!


So urges patriotic American traveler Paul Karl Lukacs. See his reasons why, and enjoy the very long comments thread for an interesting and sometimes appalling sense of the range of average American opinion on when we need to just give in and go along to get along with federal agents. (I fault not those who themselves choose to just cooperate, but those who get angry that anyone else does not strike me as a bit curious.)


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  1. CBP officers are not your friends. CBP officers treat returning U.S. citizens as potential criminal defendants.

    They pretty much treat everybody like crap, instead of treating them like returning citizens, or friendly visitors. Welcome to the U.S.S.A.

  2. I fault not those who themselves choose to do so, but find those who get angry that anyone else does not a bit curious.

    Frankly, I lack the time and energy to fight the hassle. I admire the courage and determination of those who do say to them “MYOB.”

    1. This. As a frequent traveler to our Northern Neighbor?, I admit to succumbing to The Borg and just answering the fucking questions. Most of the time everyone’s quite polite, but every once in a while you run into the border dude who’s convinced he’s the last defense against the next 911, and the middle-aged white guy from Michigan is probably in cahoots with Bin Laden, Big Oil, and teh Devul. Or at least harboring Big Winnings!! from one of the Canuck casinos. [Dude, I’m just returning from band practice – I bought NOTHING]

      Props to Lukacs for taking on the little pricks.

      1. Sorry for my lack of understanding, but why do commenters type “This.” frequently in the comments section? I used to think it was a failed hyperlink, but it happens too often for me to think that anymore.

        1. Sometimes there are also incomplete arithmetical operations in the comments. No idea what they are used for.

          1. EMPHASIS!!!1!

        2. By typing “this” they are reaffirming the point of the commenter they are responding to.

            1. this. I’d use “ditto”, but don’t want to be confused with another life form.

              1. You’ve done well, Pikachu.
                Ditto! I choose you!!

        3. It is an emphatic agreement with the previous poster’s statements. As in “THIS is what I’m talking about” or “Yes, I totally and completely agree with THIS.”

          Often combined with a “^” as a pointer upwards to the previous comment to indicate “THIS” (up above) is what I’m agreeing with.

          Sort of like the old “hear, hear!” or “well said, sir!” in parliamentary debates.

          1. That makes sense. My webspeak is pretty lousy; I’m constantly googling some of the phrases and terms used here. Then of course there are all of the inside jokes that I can’t even begin to follow, but are very entertaining to read nonetheless.

            1. This^^ I still have no idea what ‘Drink’ means.

              1. Google Reason Drinking Game

        4. Because Rush Limbaugh ruined “Ditto.”

    2. Manufacture Your Own Beer?

      1. Milk yoghurt on bossie.

  3. Open defiance will work as long as the CBP officers can’t stomach shooting you in cold blood… Once they start tasting the “sweetness” of taking A life, several takings will follow, and you may be placing your own life in jeopardy. Welcome to the U.S.S.A.

    1. Nice. You have out-paranoided Paul Karl Lukacs himself.

      1. OM is correct – it’s just a matter of time

      2. Re: Yeah!,

        Nice. You have out-paranoided Paul Karl Lukacs himself.

        World – meet another dimwit who entertains the “Can’t Happen Here” canard.

        1. but but but, THE RIGHT PEOPLE?, we’ve got THE RIGHT PEOPLE?…..

        2. Just because your doctor says you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

          1. It’s not paranoia if you think they’re out to get everyone.

        3. I’m a “dimwit” because I called you on your hyperbolic paranoia. Gotcha. In the near future, border guards will be killing returning citizens at will. Because they have “tasted the sweetness” of murder. That’s a perfectly sane outlook. Not at all paranoid.

          1. “In the near future, border guards will be killing returning citizens at will. Because they have “tasted the sweetness” of murder. That’s a perfectly sane outlook. Not at all paranoid.”

            1. handle above should read “early 1930s”

    2. You mean CBP officers haven’t got tasers yet? OBAMA YOU ARE RUINING THIS NATION!

  4. The problem is that while they cannot prevent you from returning, the government has virtually unlimited search powers at the border. They can detain your for hours while they go through all of your stuff and you. And there is not a God damned thing you can do about it. Yeah, eventually you will get into the country, but it will be a thoroughly awful experience doing so.

    I totally agree with this guy’s points about CBP. They are petty tyrants. But unless and until this movement gets to a critical mass whereby so many people refuse to answer questions that they can’t fuck with everyone who does, I will take my chances by answering questions. I seriously doubt I will ever be charged with a federal crime or anything more than annoyed at the border. But I know I will be completely fucked with if I don’t answer questions. Yes, in an ideal world we should all be civil rights martyrs and say no. But I will freely admit I don’t have the time or the courage for that.

    1. Great post.

      See my following post. Being fucked with by petty tyrants was a uniquely horrible experience.

    2. The lesson here is:

      Don’t come back.

    3. John, are you spell-checking your posts now?

      1. No. Just typing them more slowly and paying a bit more attention. I got tired of the “oh no not this again” franchise constantly bitching and moaning about my spelling.

        1. + 1 goldstar for spelling!

  5. Great article. I agree entirely with Mr. Lukacs. Unfortunately, on a practical level, his advice to not answer questions would not work well. Even politely answering questions doesn’t spare you harassment on a vague suspicion. Five or six years ago, as an American Citizen and state of Michigan resident, I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with idiotic power mad border patrol agents when returning from Canada. I was detained, searched and harassed for more than an hour because I looked a little “nervous.” While being detained, I asked an agent if I could use the bathroom to urinate and got the OK. A few seconds after I entered the bathroom, another agent busted in and started yelling and asking if I flushed something down the toilet. After further interrogation by several agents, I was finally sent on my way. I have not returned to Canada since.

    I do not fit the profile of a likely terrorist in any way. I’m guessing that the agents got worked up into a frenzy due to a concern about possible drug smuggling – although I don’t fit the profile of a likely drug smuggler either. I guess terrorizing American citizens at the border is just more collateral damage in our insane drug war.

    1. I do not fit the profile of a likely terrorist in any way.

      Ha! Got 23 pairs of large linear nuclear chromosomes?

      We’ve got our man.

      1. how much international travelling some folks at H&R have done.

        The folks who will be interrogating you when you return from Canada will be American customs agents.

        Only a few countries pay you any mind when you leave the country. Canada and the US are not among them.

        1. Radley had a link a few weeks back about a guy who was hassled by US Border Patrol as he was leaving the US and going to Canada.

          Can anyone find the link?

  6. Sadly for me, when returning to Atlanta from an International destination, I have to reserve MY willingness to refuse for the new full-body-scan. “TRAVELLER REFUSES THE BODY SCAN” the TSA asshat shouted, “WAIT HERE”. I don’t have time to refuse all of the illegal crap it takes to get back into the country if you come in through Atlanta.


  7. I’ll second John’s comments here. When I return to the US I’m usually either at the end of a long day of travelling or making a close connection. I don’t have time to assert my rights, and the local CPB guys are a-holes frequently enough that it’s not worth the hassle. And yes, I know that’s taking the coward’s way out, but I usually just can’t spare the time.

    1. If Customs holds you up based on illegalities, I’d like to think they are liable for a missed flight, a make-up flight, etc.

      Before all the scoffing begins, I know that is unfortunately not true, but I wonder if it could open a doorway for a lawsuit or something to maybe reverse this downward spiral of airport security.

    2. Yep. They can cause you to miss connections. After a particularly brutal screening after my flight from Amsterdam, I looked into possible recourse or even an official complaint. I was informed that they could hold you up to 3 days if they wanted to! (This was before the WTC attacks).

  8. So when returning from, say, Canada, why wouldn’t the jackboots just “find” some cocaine in the trunk of your car after they pull you over? Its pretty obvious that cops carry drugs for this purpose judging by the frequency with which they plant them after murdering an innocent, who is to say the customs people don’t do this also.

  9. Maybe I have an honest face, but I’ve never had trouble with the CBP guys. Typically, it’s at best a pro forma question like “Is this all your luggage?” and then a polite send off “Welcome back!”

    I’ve had more hassle with Wal-mart greeters.

    1. I always end giving ’em way more information than they want.

      Ken: “I have a lot of medications in my suitcase, but I brought my prescriptions with me–and a photocopy of my medical records too and…

      Customs: “I already said “Move along” sir!”

    2. Really? You get no hassle and your name is Abdul? What airport do you fly into?? I will have to make that my new re-entry point when I fly out of the country.

    3. I brought some comix from Toronto over the border — I had to assure the dumshits searching me that it wasn’t “propoganda” that I was smuggling into the country.

      1. Why? You have the right to openly bring propaganda into this country, and distribute it.

        1. That’s what I thought. I guess they can seize lit deemed “propaganda” to prevent sedition.

          They’ll also seize pornography.

      2. Were these the comics you were bringing back into the U.S.?

        Pornography charges are worse than drug arrests as far as their absurdity goes… and even with some of the sick stuff Japan puts out, I still wouldn’t call it pornography.

        1. That Handley case is truly fucked-up and it’s shocking how underplayed it is in the news media and the arts/comix scene.

  10. Kill Boner.

  11. Minority does not have the courage to stand up to them since in the end, those in position only has the authority and will be followed whatever it takes, so what the heck!? Your right, no one will prevent you from coming back, it’s your right.
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