Monday, May 29, 2017

NOT - Getting into the USA

On Wednesday May 10, I was denied entry into the USA.
I was attempting to travel to the International Congress for Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo MI.
I have attended this conference, presenting at organized sessions, since (at least) 2012.
One of these sessions was to be a combination demonstration / hands on. I had undertaken similar sessions there in 2013 and 2015.
I had booked a vendor’s table, selling objects made in Ontario at my studio, either by myself as the Wareham Forge, or by my partner as Elfworks Studio. I have done this since 2014.

At ICMS 2017 I was intending to undertake the following:
- travel straight to and straight back from the event, a total of 5 days.
- setting up a vendor’s table to sell products made in Canada (all at my home studio), at a total combined value of $2450 US
- participate in an pannel discussion session (#41)
- participate in a hands on workshop session (#224)

I can not remain dispassionate about this whole episode.

Through this entire event, I made a deliberate attempt to keep my body language calm and unassertive. My hands folded in front of me, on steering wheel or visible on the desk. I attempted to keep my voice casual, calm and relaxed.
I do appreciate that some questions, some actions, are part of standard operations policy. I did attempt to make allowances for all this, never refusing to answer or follow instructions - as they were given.
I consider it extremely important to remember that I have decades of experience communicating to the general public. My spoken language skills are excellent.

Obviously this is based on my memory (although I did make notes at the time) - and not everything is detailed.

I arrived at the inspection booth at 13:25.
To begin with, the interviewing officer at the inspection booth was not speaking loud enough for me to hear her over the noise at the location. I had to ask her to repeat each question she asked. This obviously annoyed her as the initial interview progressed. (1)

I handed over my passport.
I answered each of the questions given to me - as they were stated. (2)
I was asked ‘Where are you from?’
The reply to this was ‘A small town called Proton Station, 2 hours North West of Toronto’.
’No, what is your citizenship?’
The reply : Canadian (3)
‘Where are you going?’
Answer given - ‘To Kalamazoo Michigan for an academic conference.’

‘Are you bringing anything into the USA?’
‘Yes, I will have a vendor’s table, and have a bit over $2400 US worth of small items, mostly jewelry I make myself.’  I hand over the Canadian version ‘Export Declaration’ with an attached detailed item list. (copy below)
This appears to totally puzzle her.
“What are these DVDs on here? You said it was only jewelry.’ (4)

‘You have over $3500 worth of goods here’
‘I see ’total $1367.50 half way down, with another total of $2442.50 at the bottom, together that is over $3500.’
‘No, that top number is a sub total of items I made, with those made by my partner separate. The combined total is about $2450. Excuse me, that is from memory, you have the detailed list in your hands.’
‘You said you made everything. I think you are being misleading.’ (5)
‘Yes, some of the items were made by my partner, working in the same workshop as I do. Using my tools.

‘What is this list on the bottom’
‘Those are the total number of items with their NAFTA classifications. I have been in contact with agents at this specific office in the past and have been instructed to provide the NAFTA descriptions.’
‘Officer - we are not agents’ (6)
‘I think I made a math error on the values with the NAFTA codes, I suggest you use the slightly higher value on the item by item list.’

‘I think your answers are deliberately misleading.
Making false statements is a serious offence.
I am sending you over to commercial clearance.’

‘Ok - where am I going?’
‘Over there. See those trucks?’ (7)
‘Where exactly?’
Officer gets out of the booth. Flags me forward. Gestures me to stop. She walks forward another 10 feet, flags me forward - then gestures me to stop again.
‘Over there, follow that white truck, down past the building with the purple sign on it.’

I have to wait for the traffic to clear from the outbound inspection booths (I was to the far side and had to cut across about 5 lanes). So by that point ‘the white truck’ is out of view.
I follow down the side of the building with the purple sign. I see the white truck now well past this, in a line with several others leading to a drive through inspection point.
I sit in line. For 20 minutes, moving forward as two of the four trucks in front of me enter the inspection building.
An officer comes out of the building.
‘Hey YOU!
What are you doing here!’

He gestures me forward to him. I drive from the lane to him.
‘I was told by the officer at the booth to follow this truck for commercial inspection.’
‘I doubt that..’
He (angrily) points over to the rear side of the ‘purple sign’ building. (8)

The correct location is not at all visible from the inspection booths. It is down the side of that first building, around one end, back up about half way to a series of high loading docks. There are a couple of small trucks and several cars parked. A series of doors marked ‘No Entry’.
I park at the last dock. Wait a bit to see if anyone is supposed to come out.
Get out, have to climb past a barrier to get up to the dock level. Walk down to the other far end. Eventually see a door marked something like ‘commercial drivers’. In that, down a long hall to a door marked ‘wait for entry’.
This proves to be the correct location for the commercial clearance.
Interviewing officer here is considerably more friendly and more reasonable in tone.

I go through the whole description again, handing over my original document (which the booth officer has written some interior code on).
I have explained to this officer that I had been through this same check point, traveling to this same event, undertaking the same activities, in past years. That I had spoken at length to Officers at this office about what information was required, and what value I was allowed to ‘import’ without use of a Customs Broker (9)
‘Correction, the Officer decides if you need a Broker or not. This can be at any value from $750 to $2500.’
‘Ok - first off, this is the wrong form. You need to supply a 7523. This one you have does not supply all the information we require.’ (10)
‘Do all the items have Made in Canada stickers on them? They are required.
’No, most of them have not been attached. The roll of stickers is on the top of the items in box. I just ran out of time to get this finished’ (11)

‘I need to inspect your vehicle, can I have the keys?’
‘Most of the items are in a big silver box over the rear seat’
I wait, two of them head off to undertake this.

The Officer returns. I overhear a comment about ‘all his tools’. (12)
Over this conversation, I finally get asked ‘What all are you doing at this conference.’
I state that along with the vendor table, I will be participating in two academic sessions. One a panel discussion, one a workshop session where participants will be able to make cast pewter badges they can keep. I stress that I am not being paid for any of this.
Eventually, I get told that the goods will be released with no duties and allowed to pass importation.
‘But there is something else I can’t determine, so you will have to go to Immigration.’
Just what the potential problem may be is not given.

Another, heavily equipped (tactical) Officer arrives.
‘I don’t think I need to put you in handcuffs for this, but I am required to put you under restraint’
Please put you hands behind your back, fingers interlaced.
He holds my hands with one of his, pushing up and forward so my weight is off balance on my toes. He is supporting me with his other hand on my upper arm.
This officer is polite and professional. I get escorted in this manner across an open parking area, through a public area at the front of the separate Immigration building. (13)
The Commercial Officer is accompanying as well, with my original invoice document in hand. He still has my car keys.

I get placed in the ‘detailed holding’ secure room.
Total of four officers, two interview stations. One other person being questioned.
I wait about 15 minutes before being called forward.
I get asked pretty much the same questions (Nationality, destination, activities).
The officer seems focused on the workshop session.
I wait another half hour.
I get asked again. I get photographed, finger printed.
I wait another hour. (14)

I am not asked at any point to provide any reference documents related to the actual conference I was attempting to attend.
I actually have the conference catalogue with my specific session descriptions marked. I have my letter of acceptance for the vendor table. I have my letter of acceptance for the panel discussion session. All of these are sitting on the front seat of my car. They have the keys. The car is at this point about 200 m away, across that open parking lot.
I am doing my level best to remain calm and polite.
I am doing my best to explain what I am intending to undertake at the conference. It is becoming increasingly clear that all they are understanding is WORKshop. I have explained that that session is a combination of demonstration of historical technique with a hands on opportunity for participants to undertake the making of their own * rough * casting. For which I am NOT being paid. Participants can pay a ‘nominal fee that covers the out of pocket costs for the raw materials’ -  if they wish to keep the casting.

I get told :
‘You are being denied entry into the USA, because you are not allowed to engage in commercial activities.’
‘Fine, that is your decision to make’.

At this point, despite the fact I have repeatedly told them I am not being PAID for the workshop session, it is clear that this is the problem.  I request to speak to a supervisor.
I wait another 15 minutes.

First thing I asked, explaining that I had crossed before for the exact same purpose without problem, was ‘Does this reflect a change in procedure after January 1 this year?’ I was told that this was not the case.
During the conversation with the supervisor, the following is clearly stated:
1) Every request for entry is deemed a unique and isolated situation. Past instructions or past experiences do not apply.
2) The decision to allow entry or deny is up to the individual interviewing officer - alone. (15)
3) There would be no way  to have prepared for that interview. There was not any specific documentation I could have provided to support / explain.
4) All commercial activities, regardless of scale, were to be subjected to the identical level of scrutiny.  (16)

I waited about another half hour - it appeared to prepare a three page document with two paragraphs of description.
I was required to sign a document before I would be released.
What was written:

“.. he will be operating a booth showing customers how to make jewelry and sell his products. “

“.. he cannot come into the United States to conduct business and produce merchandise…”

As this document clearly stated those to elements - which differed from what I had (repeatedly) told the officer, I wrote ‘Disagree with Decision’ under my signature. (copy below)

“ … was refused entry into the United States pursuit of 212(a) (7) (A) (i) (I) immigrant without proper documents…”

I was not advised what this actually means.

I asked after signing, how this refusal would effect any future attempt to enter the USA.
I was told ‘You could drive back to Canada and come back in 5 minutes and attempt to enter again’. (17)

Total elapsed time at Customs & Immigration = about four hours.

The Notes:

1) This is the second time I have had this same problem.
I observe officers staring at their computer data - so not directing voice out the window towards the person they are questioning. Officers are not taking into account the traffic noise (especially from trucks), and not projecting their voices to allow the volume needed.
Admittedly, I have about 25% hearing loss from my lifetime as a working artisan blacksmith. I should have identified this factor?

2) Through this entire experience, there was a core problem. Officers ask vague questions, yet insist on precise language in response. They use their own perceived definitions of language, holding the person interviewed responsible for CBS interpretation of what is said.  (The effect of this element will be seen repeatedly.)

3) Perfect example of (2). The officer has my Canadian passport. She has called up my licence plate number on the computer. Proof of citizenship and legal address. If the question was “What is your CITIZENSHIP?’ then “Where are you from’ is sloppy. How am I responsible for a sloppy interviewer?

4) Check the item list and the values. I have a total of 204 pieces. Of those 165 are listed as ‘jewelry of base metal’. Only 10 are DVDs. I did state ‘mostly’ - not ALL . Which appeared what the officer determined I had said (in error).

5) Take a look at the print out I gave her…
- Note that it is my understanding it is the ‘country of origin’ that is important. Not if I personally make the objects or not.
- Again, remember I did state ‘mostly’ - not ALL.

6) What does that have to do with anything? I never once referred to her, or addressed her as ‘Agent’.

7) This is the Port Huron complex. Besides the inspection booths, there are at least three separate buildings to the complex : Customs Clearance / Immigration / Agriculture Inspection. There are trucks moving around all over the place. At the point she said ’see that truck’  - there were at least four in sight moving, all going to different locations. Two were white.

8) There are no SIGNS on any of these lanes or buildings that would direct you.  As I said, you can not actually SEE the commercial inspection area from any point along the route I was ordered to take.

9) The USA CBP web site states ‘commercial import below $2500 US does not require a Customs Broker’ I had been told the same by an Officer at Port Huron in 2014 over the phone.

10) I later requested and was given a copy of the correct 7523. If you compare it with the Canadian document I had provided, the Canadian version actually supplies considerably MORE raw data:
- Business Registration number
- Importer name and address
- Consignee name and address
(note that I had later filled out the provided 7523 shown here - against a possible attempt at a second entry through Windsor / Detroit )(copy below)

11) I freely admit a failure on this. My items are inside small boxes. The roll of stickers that I had only received a week before this event was placed on top of the items. Kelly’s items were all mounted on display boards, obviously without packaging.

12) ‘all his tools’ ??
I had one milk crate. Contained :
metal dish
face shield
safety glasses
hand propane torch
metal ladle
plastic box about 6 x 9 x 3 with small carving tools, two soapstone blocks
small bag with about 3 lbs pewter pieces
There was a bag of charcoal.
Later I found they had shifted my seats. This to look at my ‘show box’. This is in fact a medium plastic tool box, but it contains primarily office styled supplies like markers, a stapler, pins and screws - all used to assemble and outfit the sales table.
There is also medium soft tool bag with emergency repair tools for the vehicle. It did not look like they had examined this.

13) At this point it became clear to me that something MAJOR was going on.
I had been only polite and forthcoming with every question asked of me.
Likely the requirement to ‘move under restraint’ is standard procedure  - but up to this point, the entire interview process had been about * commercial * aspects.

14) Given the other individual being processed is there for an undeclared past criminal record. References are being made to an FBI background check. As I have been put through exactly the same series of steps, it appears the wait is for my own record check by the FBI.
I have not been asked :
- if I * have * a criminal record
- if I have ever been denied access to the USA in the past.

15) Also what became my obvious conclusion : Once a snap judgement was made by the interviewing officer, regardless of the level of information that judgement was based on, there would be no chance of the admission of error. That decision would stand, with all CBS officers fully supporting the initial judgement.

16) The supervisor, in an attempt to explain, used to analogies that he felt applied to my situation:
1) Someone bringing a tractor trailer full of doll parts into the USA, then assembling these into finished dolls and selling them in the USA.
2) Offering a class to Americans, for which they paid a fee, where they were taught to assemble radios using parts I provided. After which I kept the finished radios, taking these back to Canada to sell there.
I continue to fail to see if either of these examples, clearly a reflection CBS understanding of my intended activities, applies even remotely to the true situation as was described.

17) I find this statement disingenuous at best. Clearly after such a lengthy process, my name has been ‘red flagged’. I find it extremely unlikely that the first question asked of me on any future entry attempt would not be ‘have you ever been denied access before’. At which point I fully expect the same process to be repeated.
Although not entirely clear if it applies, a fast internet search suggests that I may be subjected to a period of 5 years before being allowed re-admission.


There is no information available via search of the CBS web site on the definition of the regulation number given.
I did find this:
“ Intending Immigrant [INA § 212(a)(7)(A)(i)(I)] – This is the most common ground of inadmissibility applied under INA § 212(a)(7).  Any foreign national who seeks to enter the U.S. and remain here permanently, or who is suspected of seeking to enter the U.S. and remain here permanently, but who does not have the proper documents to demonstrate that s/he has authorization to do so, is inadmissible.”

How on earth does this come to apply ?? :
- I presented a valid Canadian passport.
- I was never asked for additional documentation (i.e. drivers licence etc.)
- I was never asked what my occupation was.
- I was never asked if I owned property in Canada, or any other indication of permanency in Canada.
- I only had one gym bag of clothing with me.
- I clearly (repeatedly) stated my return to Canada would be Sunday May 14.

At this point in time, I do not know how the specifics of this refusal for entry may effect me into the future. There is a suggestion (same web site) that I may be refused access into the USA for a period of at least 5 years. (This is a bit unclear, as the specific code quoted applies to illegal immigrants who are caught and deported from inside the USA itself. )

I had made a brief comment on social media after this:
“US Customs and Immigration took something from me yesterday.”

Nothing material.
They did not tear apart my vehicle.
I was not manhandled.
Officers were generally polite.

I was robbed of the cost of traveling to and fees related to attending the event.
I lost at least five days working time - two preparing, one day packing and loading, one day traveling, one day unloading and unpacking.
I lost at least another full day shop time preparing the mould for this specific demonstration.

More importantly :
I have lost any trust what so ever that American Customs and Boarder Security will make rational decisions.
That any decision they make will be nothing but totally arbitrary.
That even when demonstrated a snap decision does not reflect the actual facts, they will modify that decision.

I have had my sense of worth assaulted.
I was physically restrained, and moved in that fashion through a public view - for no reasonable reason that I can determine.
Long decades of difficult research was totally disregarded. I am in fact recognized at an international level as at the very least highly skilled and experienced in Viking Age / Early Medieval technologies and material culture. This obviously was considered irrelevant.

I have lost any sense that private individuals are treated fairly, certainly in comparison with corporate identities. Since vast volumes of materials were passing through the boarder crossing even as I was detailed there, virtually without pause, it was clear I was NOT having the same process applied to me as that applied to those trucks.

After this treatment I absolutely have no interest at this point in time in ever returning to the United States of America.

At this point  I have forty years at the forge, over 30 years professionally. I have worked with major museums and universities throughout Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom and Europe.
I have continually gave freely of my hard won knowledge, skill and experience.
I have personally invested thousands of hours and thousands of dollars into research.
Rarely have I had even my direct out of pocket costs recovered for any of this.
I am NOT supported by an institution, but bear all the related costs personally.

MY snap judgement?
If America wants to stay stupid - they can just BE stupid.


The related documents (referred to in the text)

Canadian EXPORT Declaration (note identification details)
Attached invoice description (note subtotals and totals indicated / separate NAFTA)
Required USA 7523 - not used (note lack of identification information)

CBS statement A (note activity described inaccurately)

CBS statement B (note 'immigrant without proper documents')

CBS statement C (note 'required' signature)
Addition - June 1

Wow - I got more comments returned on this posting than any others over the 12 years and almost 950 earlier pieces!
Almost all supportive - and I have set them all for reader's consideration here.

One thing is very clear. 
The experiences of both Americans and Canadians attempting to cross that boarder - in either direction, going or returning show a clear record of arbitrary decisions. 
It is also obvious that the state of mind of any individual inspecting officer has far more influence than any 'official regulations'. 

To my surprise - and their massive credit, The Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo did in fact refund my unused conference lodgings and meal purchases. This is beyond generous, as they had no ability to effect the actions of CBS is any way at all.

I did contact USA Customs and Boarder Security via phone (same Port Huron office - after attempts to contact via web site, Buffalo, Detroit). It was clear that the inaccurate statement seen above has now become the 'official' record of the incident. I was advised to expect to be refused entry again if I attempt to enter for any similar reason - so attempting to attend an academic gathering in the USA, at any point in the future. 


Monday, May 01, 2017

Another season at Point Rosee

...but they still don't have much

Once again I do find an archaeological team that appears to have only limited understanding of the historic bloomery iron smelting process.
But at the same time the entire focus of this excavation involves evidence related to that exact process.  

Primary Bog Iron Ore
- is found all over Newfoundland. Not quite any time you lift a block of peat turf (but pretty close!)

- A concentration of bog ore (finally reported as 8 - 9 kg) *might* represent a human gathered deposit. It might also indicate a chance concentration by water deposit.

- I still notice that there has been absolutely no mention at all if the ore found was roasted or not. Natural bog ore (fe2O3) is not magnetic. After roasting (Fe3O4) * is * magnetic. This is a 5 second test that you can do in the field. Why has this never been done?

- Part of the evidence was a 'dark deposit' on the surface of a single stone. - One stone does not make a furnace. - You smacked off the surface with a heavy sledge hammer?

- The iron smelting process is an involved one, requiring considerable preparation of equipment (a furnace at least) plus raw materials (ore, charcoal).
This furnace operates for hours at extremely high temperatures (1100 - 1300 C). The overall process leaves remains that are :
- specific
- highly durable
- extensive
There is no mention of any of these remains being found.

- I note that in this report, Dr Birgitta Wallace is often shown, but given very little chance to speak.
I have to agree with her opinion that this location holds nothing that specifically illustrates a Norse presence.

At least in what has been reported so far.

I'll be traveling close by to Port Rosee this summer on my way up to L'Anse aux Meadows - to undertake a Norse historical iron smelt no less. I will attempt to see if I can get view of this excavation on my way through??

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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