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Jean
11-30-2010, 06:59 PM
How hard would immigration bite someone's throat?

In my story I have to bring my MC to Canada from US illegally. She would travel with a circus band hiding in a container. Could it ever be pulled off? How hard would they search it?

Phyllo
11-30-2010, 10:09 PM
A couple of things for clarification. Are you writing something contemporary? If it's pre- 9/11 then it would have been easier. Security has beefed up as a general rule since then, as I'm sure you're aware. Second, I assume you're speaking of a land crossing as opposed to air or ship.

Assuming post- 9/11, while I can't speak categorically -- there are numerous ports of entry by land into Canada from the U.S. and their level of scrutiny varies -- it could certainly still happen. I've met several immigrants, most of whom were refugee claimants, who came across by land, hidden in various ways, at Niagara Falls, Ft. Erie, Quebec, Windsor.

Having said that, I've never witnessed the level of examination that a travelling group like a circus might attract. I suspect that a circus with a history of border crossings (e.g. Cirque de Soleil or any well-extablished N. American circus) probably gets an easier time of it than, say, a newly arrived troupe from an impoverished country without a track record doing a one-time tour.

BTW, if authenticity is important, some of the Canada Border Services offices aren't horrible (!) and you could always just try calling (for example, the Niagara Falls office) and tell them you're an author doing research and would like to know what steps they might take in such and such a situation. They wouldn't be revealing state secrets.

Drachen Jager
11-30-2010, 10:32 PM
It would be easy.

As long as the driver stays cool while being questioned at the border and there's nothing to arouse suspicion she'd make it 95% of the time (only exception is if they picked her for a random search).

You can walk across the border easily. It's huge and border stations cover less than 10% of the border. People smuggle pot and guns across the border near here all the time on foot. The only reason we ever hear about it is if they come too close to a border-dweller's property and that individual calls the police.

PeterL
11-30-2010, 10:37 PM
From personal observations and conversations with people in the boder patrol/ICE I would think that yur MC prbably would be safe. Unless there was a random chack. Most containers are either pre-approved or checked after they get to a port of entry inside the U.S.A. The searches are not usually of every container. If the band left the container before it reached the port of entry, then they would be safe, and this might be the easiest way to handle it.

jclarkdawe
11-30-2010, 11:55 PM
I've never been over the border with a circus, but I can guess at some of the complications. First off, I'm going to assume that the circus is traveling together and it has animals. I'm going to further assume that the circus is from the US and is returning to the US.

Commercial carriers (and a circus would be a commercial carrier) are required to schedule their arrival at US customs (this is not a requirement for going into Canada). Upon arrival, the entire circus would be instructed to park and everybody exit the vehicles. You'd have some campers, some tractor-trailers, and I don't know what for vehicles.

The person in charge of the circus would go to the commercial desk for customs, with the appropriate paperwork (I'm not sure exactly what it would be). As soon as they figure out animals are involved, the person would be sent over to the vet, which is always in a different building.

The vet would then check each animal against its health certificate, looking at each and every one to make sure it is healthy and the appropriate animal. Ownership of the animals would be ascertained by the vet, and all wild animals would need documentation of origin. Once the animals are checked, the vet would then check the biohazards such as hay (I kid you not -- hay is a biohazard for customs).

Once the vet signs off, the guy in charge goes back to the main office. (By the way, vets only work during the day unless special arrangements are made and paid for.) There two or three agents will go out to inspect the trucks, looking in at least some of the compartments. Meanwhile the people would be being screened for appropriate paperwork. Since at least some of them would not be US citizens, this is going to take awhile.

Bottom line if you get through customs in less than four hours I'd be surprised, and I'd be expecting around eight. I've never made it over the border with a horse in less than four hours, unless it was my horse.

I would assume that a circus is more highly checked than most commercial traffic. That being said, the vehicles used have lots of hiding places. My guess is some one would be able to hide, but their nerves are going to be shot.

Also understand that crossing with animals involves some unusual considerations. For example, Highgate Springs, VT and Champlain, NY are very close together. Champlain is better for commercial vehicles, but Highgate is a lot better for animals. So a circus would go through Highgate even if it adds a hundred miles onto their route, because they'll have a lot more flexibility with Highgate.

ETA: I went back and reread the original post and realized you're going into Canada. That's a lot easier, but you still have the vet check. Biggest thing is you don't have to arrange a time and Canada is a lot more pleasant about it. However, for a circus, I'd arrange a time for crossing. Going into Canada I'd reduce the time down to a minimum of three hours and maximum of six.

Further ETA: This is a recent story out of Toronto -- http://www.thestar.com/news/article/897752--imported-horses-face-removal-or-death. A circus with animals is going to have a much different experience with customs than most people.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Jean
12-01-2010, 06:15 AM
Thank for replies.


A couple of things for clarification. Are you writing something contemporary?

It's 1990.

OK. I think this stunt could be pulled off. It's very small part of my story. My MC would be in Canada since before the story. I just want to check that it's possible.

PeterL
12-01-2010, 05:35 PM
It's 1990.

OK. I think this stunt could be pulled off. It's very small part of my story. My MC would be in Canada since before the story. I just want to check that it's possible.


In 1990 the odds of being caught would have been about 1 in 1000. You could have had them drive their truck across one of the obscure crossings that was unguarded.

JHUK
12-14-2010, 02:49 AM
Wouldn't it depend on whether you wanted your MC to cross anonymously or illegally? Are the authorities alerted to look for her? Does she have a U.S. passport? What's the motive?

I know I crossed over at Sault Ste. Marie and just said I was going shopping for the day. They looked at my passport, smiled, and said go ahead. This WAS pre-9/11, however. I don't know that they wrote down my passport info or checked it on anything, but I don't think so. Perhaps if they had been looking for someone with my name and/or description it would be a different story. We only stayed a few hours but could easily have just blended in and continued on to anywhere within the country.

Jean
12-14-2010, 06:09 AM
Wouldn't it depend on whether you wanted your MC to cross anonymously or illegally? Are the authorities alerted to look for her? Does she have a U.S. passport? What's the motive?

She's paranormal being, that's why her identity's a secret. She went to Canada with a circus because they went there to open a show.

Kitti
12-14-2010, 07:00 AM
In 1990 the odds of being caught would have been about 1 in 1000. You could have had them drive their truck across one of the obscure crossings that was unguarded.

Seconded. In the 1990s, I know a lot of people who'd go camping on/around the Canada/US border and cross back and forth freely without ever being stopped or required to show identification.

Stewart
12-31-2010, 01:15 AM
I was rushed through once by putting my dirty laundry on top of everything inside the luggage.

shaldna
12-31-2010, 03:18 PM
Not sure if it's helpful, but I've travelled across europe with horses before, and while the horses have to have passports of thier own and all the necessay papers, the actual checking of the lorry is minimal. We usually get the living space just behind the driver seat checked - this is the small space with seats/bed, table, sink, cooker etc. Sometimes they will check the chemical toilet/shower to make sure we aren't hiding anyone in there, and they will usually look in the back to make sure we actually have horses there.

But they never check to make sure they are the right horses, and they never check the back of the lorry, so if you really wanted to sneak in, and had a couple of quiet horses, you could hide in the back of the partitions with the horses and be fairly confident that you wouldn't be seen

profen4
12-31-2010, 09:09 PM
I went to a friends house not too long ago and the 'border' between canada and the USA divided their two properties and was just a chest high fence (it had a gate LOL). My friend would go to the American's house for coffee every so often, and the american would come to his house occasionally, too. They were just next-door neighbours. They just couldn't drive to each other's homes. When you have a border as long as the USA/CANADA border, it's impossible to monitor everything.