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Author Topic: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)  (Read 21184 times)

ilvny

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Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« on: February 17, 2013, 06:26:07 PM »

I watched a video on YouTube of three young women driving from the United States to Canada.  A woman seated behind the front passenger was videotaping, most likely to capture them crossing the border so they could look back on it.

When they reached the border checkpoint, the border patrol agent said, "Turn it off, turn that damn--" (video cuts off).  I understand that border patrol agents have a very serious job.  They are responsible for protecting the border-and by extension, the countries on each side.  They have to make sure nobody is bringing anything illegal across the border and does not pose a threat to international security.  They also are on the lookout for missing/abducted children.  He sounded very rude and annoyed; not a way a border crossing agent should act.  It appeared that these girls didn't know that they were not allowed to videotape when reaching the checkpoint and had no ill intent.

Watch near the end of the video for the aforementioned incident.


If I were in their situation, I would take a still shot of the crossing from a great distance: close enough to see it but far enough to not get in trouble.  If I were to videotape, I would record up until the entire crossing was in full view.  Then, I would stop recording, turn off the camera, and put it away.  After passing the checkpoint and agents, I would continue recording on a highway.

I've never driven outside the country, so I have no experience with this.  I did some research about entering Canada from the US and I did not find anything that specifically prohibits photography or videotaping.  So many devices are capable of photography and video recording: tablet devices, cell phones, webcams, etc, that if photography and video recording were prohibited, it would be difficult to enforce and would waste a lot of time for the agents, who have more important things to be concerned about than someone taking a picture or video.

Is there a no photography/video recording policy at the US/Canada (or US/Mexico) border?  Was he doing his job or abusing his power?  Is it some form of censorship to prevent people from taking legal action against Border Patrol?  Did the agent simply not want to be recorded? :D

What do you think?
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Alps

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2013, 08:28:07 PM »

One could cite national security concerns in not wanting photo or video recording of what goes on at the border. One would be wrong, in my experience, but they operate outside the realm of the Constitution.

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2013, 11:17:33 PM »

Since they were entering Canada, they would be dealing with the Canadian Border Patrol. It would be safe to assume that Canada's laws and rules on such things are different than the U.S.'s.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2013, 11:34:44 PM »

I can't think of a single country that allows video taping of immigration, customs, or passport control.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2013, 12:08:46 AM »

I can't think of a single country that allows video taping of immigration, customs, or passport control.
Alanland does, but only if it's illegal.

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2013, 12:19:50 AM »

A US citizen entering Canada would have no rights anyway, beyond whatever has been agreed to by treaty which I'm sure doesn't specify anything relating to using a video camera. With still photography, I'll take a picture from far enough away that the agents can't tell I'm using a camera, and then I put it in my cupholder. I put it in the cupholder instead of out of sight because if for some reason the camera is searched and they see the last picture was taken like 30 seconds before, I don't want to raise additional suspicion from very obviously deliberately hiding the camera.

mgk920

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2013, 10:39:05 AM »

It will be very interesting, indeed, to see how this plays out as dash-cams (see the Russian discussion) become more ubiquitous.

 :hmmm:

BTW, I have seen lots of video of border crossings within Europe before the Schengen zone reached both sides of the particular crossings - just cursory passport checks and then back on their ways.

Mike
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2013, 11:50:23 AM »

We take a picture of our group on the US–Mexican bridge every time we drive down, but that's a different deal than videotaping the actual customs checkpoint.  I've considered videotaping our crossing into México, but have wondered about the legality of it, and wouldn't want to have anything confiscated.  I did ask once if the Mexican army guards would pose for a picture, but they said no (darn it!).

At the inland checkpoint, such as the one on I-35 north of Laredo, there might be more legal protection.  I know I've seen a YouTube of a truck driver going through, in which the officer told him to turn off his camera, he just kept responding that he was a US citizen and nothing more, and they just waved him through.  However, in doing a YouTube search right now, I'm turning up videos of people being detained; I don't feel like weeding through them right now to see if it's because they refused to answer the citizenship question or if it's because they were running video.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2013, 12:01:53 PM »

I don't see why they care.  We have no expectation of privacy at the border, why should they?  If they're doing their jobs properly, there's no harm.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2013, 12:24:19 PM »

I have had some experience taking pictures in and around border crossings and internal frontier checkpoints.  It is certainly true that photography is usually explicitly forbidden at immigration facilities within airports (I know this to be true both in the US and UK), but I am not sure it is within checkpoint buildings at land border crossings.  Out in the open, it is not generally forbidden, and I have taken pictures of signs, the border fence, IBWC monuments, approaches to check lanes, etc. without being hassled.  At internal frontier checkpoints it is a little different since if you pause to photograph the approach signage, the agents manning the checkpoint will send out a cruiser to investigate; I have had this happen to me on both sides of the US-Mexican border.  I suspect remote sensing arrays are used at these checkpoints.

I would not count on being able to take a picture of the crossing undetected from far away using a telephoto lens--in my travels I have seen nothing that would allow me to exclude the possibility that remote surveillance is used at land crossings.  (At the US-Canadian border, neither country needs to have cameras or other remote sensors on its own soil if the other country will allow them to be installed on its side of the border.)

WSDOT SRView imagery on Washington state highways leading to the Canadian border usually cuts off at the last reachable turnaround before the border, or alternately just in front of a "No U-turns Next X Miles" sign if this is posted.  In both cases this is usually just barely in sight of the border crossing station on the US side.  On I-5 there is no SRView imagery whatsoever of the final approach to the Canadian border.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2013, 12:39:11 PM »

I once was taking photos of an abandoned gas station at the Sentinel exit on I-8 in Arizona.  several minutes later, I was pulled over by a Border Patrol vehicle, whose first question was "who were you trying to pick up at the Sentinel exit?"

presumptuous, and containing poor grammar.  the US border patrol, everyone!

they did a full search of my vehicle by the side of I-8.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2013, 12:44:43 PM »

I once was taking photos of an abandoned gas station at the Sentinel exit on I-8 in Arizona.  several minutes later, I was pulled over by a Border Patrol vehicle, whose first question was "who were you trying to pick up at the Sentinel exit?"

You mean this one?

One of the possibilities Google Maps offers for Sentinel, Arizona

Did he say what his "articulable facts" were?
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2013, 12:49:42 PM »

that's the one.  at the time (Dec '06), it had been abandoned.  someone purchased it more recently and reopened it for business.

articulable facts?  what articulable facts?  the dude was a power-tripping asshole, and that's an articulable fact!
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2013, 12:51:08 PM »

I got caught up last summer when crossing the Canadian border into Houlton, ME.  I wanted to get a shot of the first southbound US exit (305--US 2) so I had my camera ready when I crossed.  They said put the camera down and had me tied up at the customs for a good hour.  I showed them what was on my camera, and what I REALLY wanted a picture of.  I was let go without further incident, and snapped the bridge-mounted sign on my way back to my rental car.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2013, 03:19:40 PM »

I have no idea what the rules are regarding this. I found only one image on GMSV that has been taken during the actual procedure at the toll booth.

http://maps.google.com/?ll=42.321057,-83.08018&spn=0.005965,0.009645&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=42.321145,-83.080228&panoid=sW39b5jE3BcxwDBmMIe6Vg&cbp=12,340.64,,0,5.81
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2013, 04:56:39 PM »

I took a photo of the border station on NY 22, where I had driven up to but not over the border, and turned around such that I had to pass through the U.S. customs station. He took my camera and seemed to be considering confiscating it (it was a disposable dealie), and tried to ascertain where I was coming from. It took a while before I made him realize I hadn't crossed the border...although he'd seem me take a photo, he evidently didn't see that I hadn't come from the Canadian side.

Once I made myself understood, however, he gave me back the camera. I have always guessed that since I hadn't actually crossed a border, perhaps he had no actual authority over me. (This was before Customs and Border Patrol were combined; things likely are different now, if my supposition was even correct to begin with. He may have just figured I was not a threat.)

I can't remember whether this was pre- or post-9/11 (the time stamp on the image file says 1969...). I feel as though it was after, since I don't remember photography being a big deal until then, but on the other hand I can't imagine myself thinking it wise to pull out a camera at the border after 9/11. I'm going to guess before.

Here is the photo I took of the Canadian station; you can clearly see the border I didn't quite cross. Out of deference, I decided not to post the photo of the U.S. station.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2013, 05:07:41 PM »

A shame. There was a big nice button copy sign just to your left, facing Canada. (It's still there.)
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2013, 05:58:29 PM »

A shame. There was a big nice button copy sign just to your left, facing Canada. (It's still there.)
One that I would have gotten, except no one else in the car wanted me to take a flash photo at night O_O

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2013, 06:56:44 PM »

I'm in New Brunswick on NB95 looking back to Canada Customs on the left. The lanes to I-95 (and Houlton) skirt around to the right and head for US Customs. I drove down the hill on the local street at the left......stopped for a picture then continued on.   


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J N Winkler

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2013, 08:01:33 PM »

I took a photo of the border station on NY 22, where I had driven up to but not over the border, and turned around such that I had to pass through the U.S. customs station. He took my camera and seemed to be considering confiscating it (it was a disposable dealie), and tried to ascertain where I was coming from. It took a while before I made him realize I hadn't crossed the border...although he'd seem me take a photo, he evidently didn't see that I hadn't come from the Canadian side.

Once I made myself understood, however, he gave me back the camera. I have always guessed that since I hadn't actually crossed a border, perhaps he had no actual authority over me. (This was before Customs and Border Patrol were combined; things likely are different now, if my supposition was even correct to begin with. He may have just figured I was not a threat.)

Back in 1998, before the border enforcement agencies were restructured, I visited the border crossing at Lukeville, Arizona, as part of a day trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  I walked up to the Mexican border but did not cross it, and then walked back up SR 85 past the station building and check booths without pausing to show any identification.  This caused someone to step out of the building, waving and looking angry (he might have been shouting too, but as a deaf person I would have course not have been able to hear him).  I found myself standing before an immigration inspector with no way to prove my identity other than a Kansas driver's license and trying to tell him that I was not required to clear immigration because I had not actually crossed the border.  That, if anything, made him even angrier.

I don't know if he actually had black-letter law or judicial precedent on his side, but I did learn several lessons from this experience.  (1) The border is a jurisdictional thicket.  (2) I won't travel long-distance in a border state without a passport within reach, so that I can prove my citizenship as well as my identity if I inadvertently move in a way which would allow an official to conclude I had left the country.  (3) Even if you never actually step outside the country, you are expected to explain yourself to the immigration inspectors if you come into a part of the crossing zone that can reasonably be considered abreast of the facilities designed to handle arriving traffic.

Since 1998, I have approached the border without crossing on two separate occasions.  The first was in 2001 at Porthill, Idaho, when I inadvertently passed the US border crossing post while taking pictures of the fence, monumentation, and approach signage for the Canadian crossing.  The border crossing station was between me and my passport, which was locked up in my car.  Fortunately I was able to present my driver's license to the immigration officers, and my explanation was accepted.  The second time was in Lukeville again, in January 2009.  Remembering my two previous experiences, I took my passport with me when I left the car, and simply queued with the other arrivals once I had finished taking pictures all over the US side of the border crossing.

There is a lot to be said for having your passport within reach if you are going to be within the area of influence of a border crossing.  It only takes something as simple as badly laid out construction signs to force you into an unwanted crossing of the border.  In Arizona especially, the exigencies of queue management force some rather odd approaches to border crossings, because nearly all of them are understaffed to some degree (severely so on holiday weekends, when waits at the Mariposa POE near Nogales can run up to 16 hours).

Quote
I can't remember whether this was pre- or post-9/11 (the time stamp on the image file says 1969...). I feel as though it was after, since I don't remember photography being a big deal until then, but on the other hand I can't imagine myself thinking it wise to pull out a camera at the border after 9/11. I'm going to guess before.

9/11 doesn't matter nearly as much as the geography of a given crossing.  Lukeville, for example, is a pretty wide-open crossing--relatively little vehicular traffic, the entire crossing area is open to pedestrians, nobody objects to photography.  Mariposa is another story altogether.  I visited it (from the US side) in 2009 because I wanted to photograph a bilingual "All Vehicles Must Stop/Todos Vehiculos Deben Pararse" sign (in button copy!) which is the very first thing vehicles see when they arrive from Mexico.  There is a flat area where I would have been able to park my car if it had not been coned off (road construction of some kind was taking place and I think that area might have been given to the contractor as a staging yard; StreetView imagery now shows it as open).  I considered parking further north, but all of the lots I found were signed as private lots, and I think SR 189 (which connects the POE to I-19) also had no-pedestrians signs along the lengths I would have had to walk in order to reach the POE.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #20 on: February 18, 2013, 08:43:08 PM »

If I had to guess, one of the reasons you have to go through passport control even if you didn't cross the actual border is for customs enforcement. Once you enter the no man's land between the checkpoints, you're outside of the US customs control area and could acquire something forbidden, quarantined, or dutiable when you come back. Don't most US/Canadian border crossings even have a duty free shop in the DMZ-area between the checkpoints?

The USVI are a good example of what I'm talking about. It's part of the United States and you don't need a passport or anything to go there but coming back you have to preclear US Customs (not immigration) since the USVI are a duty free area outside of the US Customs enforced area.
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oscar

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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2013, 09:20:29 PM »

If I had to guess, one of the reasons you have to go through passport control even if you didn't cross the actual border is for customs enforcement. Once you enter the no man's land between the checkpoints, you're outside of the US customs control area and could acquire something forbidden, quarantined, or dutiable when you come back.

There are some huge "no man's lands" on some Alaska/Canada crossings -- on the Alaska Highway, at least 20km wide (Customs Canada sets up shop near Beaver Creek YT, a much more civilized location than US Customs near the border).

I went into that "no man's land" in 2001, to take border photos (thankfully, out of the obvious view of either country's customs agents), and had to clear customs as usual heading back to Alaska. 
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2013, 09:34:05 PM »

Don't most US/Canadian border crossings even have a duty free shop in the DMZ-area between the checkpoints?

There are similar facilities on the southern border, but I don't think those are in the DMZ or "no man's land" in any meaningful sense.  I think they are co-located with border crossings to make it convenient to claim back duty from Customs in the country of departure before crossing the border.  If you don't actually claim back duty, they probably work like regular liquor stores and smoke shops.  (I am guessing as to how they work because I haven't actually shopped for vice goods at a land border crossing--I have done this only at airport duty-free shops in Istanbul and London, where a claimback procedure does not apply because you cannot "back out" of the secure area.)

At Lukeville, there is a long low warehouse-like building right across SR 85 from the border station, which backs right onto the border fence but is separated from it by a gap at least ten feet (when I photographed it, the ground between the fence and the building had just been freshly raked).  Google Maps says there is a business called "ABC Gringo" in this approximate location.  Given the lack of infrastructure for forcing people to actually exit into Mexico once they have purchased duty-free goods, the very large parking lot (really more of a truck apron) to the north of this building, and its being separated from the border station by SR 85, I can't imagine either Customs or the Arizona ABC agency allowing it to sell alcohol or tobacco to the public without the tax being paid up front.
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2013, 10:04:29 PM »

Well, Google Streetview has some pretty good recent images of the checkpoint areas, an example is:

http://goo.gl/maps/vyLPw

This is NY 276 just outside of Champlain, NY.  NY 276 runs along the border for a bit and then turns south past a checkpoint from QC 221.  Pan around to see the nifty way that the checkpoints were set up to avoid having local traffic from NY 276 to the east being caught up in the 'DMZ'.

Enjoy!

Mike
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Re: Photography/videotaping at border checkpoints (US/Canada)
« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2013, 10:43:48 PM »

What we should all learn from Winkler's experience: If you're going to walk around the border area, check in with Customs first. Doug, Shawn, and I did that for Fourth Connecticut Lake, and we had no trouble whatsoever walking to the lake and back, which follows a trail along the border. We never even had to show ID.

 


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