Long-term readers may remember I had a five-day holiday in New York with Bonusbarn back in 2008, after which he flew home and I flew on to Denver. I had heard Things of US Immigration and I was acutely aware I would be travelling with a minor (albeit a 16-year-old minor, legal for most purposes) with whom I had no legal or blood connection. We went in on the visa waiver programme and I took with me a letter signed by his mother, saying he was travelling with me with her permission, and I was married to her, and giving precise itinerary of places, times, dates and flights plus her contact details for home and work. We tried to get it notarised but left it too late so we made do with a witnessed signature.
And I never even needed to take it out of its envelope. The Immigration guy at JFK looked at us together and said, "family?" I didn't want to make a technically incorrect statement on the record so I stated, "stepfather and stepson." He looked at me and said again, in the kind of voice that positively sheds hints, "family?"
"Family," I agreed. And lo, we were in.
All comes to mind because within the space of the last month I've read three very harrowing tales from the US border, one by someone actually known to me, none with happy endings. The utterly lovely Cheryl Morgan, caught in a perfect bureaucratic storm that means she will probably never be able to return there; SF writer Peter Watts, who actually managed to fall foul of border guards whilst leaving the country [and the result]; and a Kiwi lady I've not heard of before, whose tale linked from Cheryl's blog sparked off this train of thought.
No big conclusions to draw: just the reflection that we might have been much luckier than I realised.