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In the American machine

Don't mess with Texas

USA | Tuesday, 13 May 2014 | Views [121] | Scholarship Entry

When I was 16 I spent a year as an Exchange Student in Southern Texas. Though it was filled with memorable experiences there is one in particular I will never forget. Now, it all started because my host family and I went on a little holiday to the beautiful island South Padre right on the border to Mexico. Because we weren’t travelling out of the country I didn’t think to bring either my passport or my visa. After the holiday as we embarked on the journey home we came to a Homeland Security checkpoint. A big bulky officer step over to the car and with his thick southern accent asks if we’re all US citizens. My host mother says everyone except for me who’s from Denmark. He leans in and looks at me. My host mother tells him that I don’t have my passport but explains that I’m an exchange student and that I live with them in Houston. The officer takes a large step back.
“Ma’am, I’m gonna have to ask you to pull over here for a moment” He orders
As we’re about to get out of the car all four doors are being opened simultaneously.
“Ma’am, get back in the vehicle please” he orders my host mother.
They lead me into an office right off the road. The room I enter looks like something taken out of an episode of Breaking Bad. It’s small and there are a few very uncomfortable-looking benches. As I sit down an officer clears his voice and goes: “So, Spring Break?” I nervously shake my head.
“I’m an Exchange Student from Denmark”. He looks up at me.
“From where?”
“Denmark. Its right above Germany” I explain as I by then had learned not many Americans know where Denmark is.
“What’s your name?”
“It’s Thilde Jensen, J-E-N-S-E-N”
He starts to write on his not-very-hightech computer and asks me to spell it again.
“How do you say your name?” I say my name again
He looks at me like he still doesn’t understand
“Okay, when’s your birthday?”
“Sep. 12th 1993”
“How old are you?”
“I’m 16” Do the math
“Okay.. okay, yep she's there.. an exchange student from.. Denmark you said? Right. Okay, ma'am normally we would have to arrest you and give your host mom a fine of $500 and hold you here until she could bring us your visa”
“...but we won't do that. You're free to go. Remember your passport next time”
I got to go back to the car un-harmed but I must admit I never actually thought in my entire life I would be held back at a border checkpoint for the suspicion of being an illegal immigrant in the US. But I guess it was all just part of the experience.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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