Saturday, December 12, 2009

Canadian SF author beaten at U.S. border

I'm asked every now and again if I intend to become an American citizen.

Alana is cool with her "Canada boy". Logan asks occasionally, but it's more out of curiosity than anything. He knows I already say things "funny" anyway.

There are downsides to becoming an American. Yes, I'd get to vote, but I live in a monoculture where my vote simply would not make a difference, and it would make me eligible for serving on a jury (I wouldn't mind, but this is more an annoyance than a benefit). I could apply for federal jobs, though there really aren't that many around here. One big downside is that if we ever left the U.S., the IRS wants a chunk of my income in another country! (Yes, your taxes in that other country are deductible, but who really wants the hassle?)

What I'm missing is a sense of belonging. I'm a foreigner in this country, and will continue to be as long as I'm not a citizen. (I probably would be even after I became a citizen, but at least I could bitch with more "authoritah").

As a legal resident, I'm protected under the law. I've been here more than 5 years, so I could now apply for social assistance if I needed it (not that I plan to). Of course, I've been contributing with my taxes. As I like to point out to people — particularly those of a "Tea Party" persuasion — I have taxation without representation.

The main advantage I'd get being a U.S. citizen is in not having to renew my green card every 10 years. Not only does this require an out of city trip and a fair bit of money (over $250 last time), I discovered in a post on the other day that if I tried to cross the border after my green card expired, I could get kicked out of the country with no recourse for getting back in!

That revelation came in a topic about a particularly nasty incident at the U.S. border this week. Canadian science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts — who is a friend of friends I left back in Canada — was beaten, arrested, and charged with assaulting a border guard last week. Peter was going back home to Canada, after helping a friend move to Nebraska, when he was stopped by border guards. He got out of his car and asked why he was being stopped. The guards allege that he resisted arrest, while Peter denies this.

Here is the incident via Cory Doctrow at BoingBoing:

(Full disclosure, Cory's article quotes David Nickle, a friend of mine.)

Peter's original description of the incident is here:

An update is here:

And, of course, here's his web site, for ongoing news on this:

If you would like to donate to Peter's legal defence fund, you can do so by sending a contribution via Paypal to

It's incidents like these, and some wingnut things that have been happening post-millennial America, that have me seriously wondering, "do I want to be associated with this by citizenship"? On the flip side, citizenship would offer some (little) protection against this kind of insanity. I suspect they wouldn't be quite as likely to do this to a U.S. citizen, one who could maybe even wield some political power.

For now, my thoughts go out to Peter. Now if you'll excuse me, I want to make a note of the exact date my green card expires.

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