I flew in to Montreal from an overseas trip the other day and was met by a lady from my office, who had kindly agreed to drive me back home to New Hampshire. At the airport she seemed a little rattled, and it emerged that on her journey from the Granite State she had encountered a “security check” on the Vermont–Quebec border. U.S. officials had decided to impose temporary exit controls on I-91 and had backed up northbound traffic so that agents could ascertain from each driver whether he or she was carrying “monetary instruments” in excess of $10,000. My assistant was quizzed by an agent dressed in the full Robocop and carrying an automatic weapon, while another with a sniffer dog examined the vehicle. Which seems an unlikely method of finding travelers’ checks for $12,000.
Being a legal immigrant, I am inured to the indignities imposed by the U.S. government. (You can’t ask an illegal immigrant for ID, even at the voting booth or after commission of a crime, but a legal immigrant has to have his green card on him even when he’s strolling in the woods behind his house.) And indeed, for anyone familiar with the curious priorities of officialdom, there is a certain logic in an agency that has failed to prevent millions of illegal aliens from entering the country evolving smoothly into an agency that obstructs law-abiding persons from exiting the country.