You read right, I’m currently banned from entering the United States of America until the 8th of September after being finger printed, photographed and scanned into their database at the border. What did I do? I had the gull to help promote CNC in the USA!
Here’s the story
A few weeks ago, I found out about a wonderful 6 day event to promote art, STEM and American innovation in the small town of Waynesboro, PA to be held August 28th through 30th and again September 4th through 6th.
It was really a perfect fit when I found out about it for me so the first thing I did was inquire about the program and throw in my hat to receive a stippen from ShopBot Tools to demonstrate MY ShopBot Desktop CNC router (ShopBottools.com) that has travelled with me for years across Australia, USA and Canada.
About a week later (my hat was found in SPAM), I inquired if there was an update and once things were sorted, everybody started to plan for me to basically do CNC router demos for six days. I wanted to do all those days!
Once everything was organized, we realized that my 240V ShopBot Desktop (converted from 120 when I moved to Australia) would be causing some issues so at the same time, I’d drive down to ShopBot Tools, get my machine converted back and do the show on the way up.
I’m a Canadian citizen so crossing into America is almost a weekly occurrence to me as it’s only 15 minutes from here. I knew having documentation would be important as I had my ShopBot Desktop in the back of the truck with plywood and other supporting tools and accessories.
When I got to the border, the guard had a bit of trouble understanding what I was doing with a CNC machine in the back of the car so he was kind enough to take my passport along with my letter of invitation to Destination Innovation for my attendance.
A few minutes later, I was guided upstairs where I waited for well over an hour with screaming babies and others being interviewed for entry into the United States. They called my name and proceeded to the border guard in his cubicle.
He asked me to explain what I was doing with a CNC machine in my car (yes, it was MINE) and I told him about Destination Innovation and the long trip I had ahead of me to get my machine converted over – hence why I was also going to Durham, North Carolina where ShopBot Tools was based first then the show.
He told me to take a seat and explained this to a supervisor.
He then called me back up to explain everything AGAIN to both him and the supervisor. They then asked me questions as to why I was specifically going, I told them I’ve been publishing books about this stuff since 2008 and I run a website called CNCKing.com etc… showed them my business card etc. If there is a poster child for this kind of stuff, it should be me!
He told me to take a seat again and he called another supervisor on the phone.
He called me up AGAIN and told me that what I told them doesn’t make sense. I asked what the problem was, I had a letter of invitation, I told him to call Ted, the owner of ShopBot Tools and the Chairman of the Destination Innovation to double-check my story as well as visit my websites. I encouraged him to call, I had all the contact information they needed to make sure I wasn’t lying to them.
He told me to take a seat AGAIN!
He then called me up, telling me I was going to be refused entry into the United States as, due to the fact that ShopBot Desktop was giving me a stippen, I’d be considered a worker for them (this is on my machine, using my car, my materials and no, I’m not an employee of ShopBot Tools btw) and as I was a Canadian Citizen, he’d be kind to me and just send me back instead of sending me for further processing. What I was doing was illegal but he was going to let me off the hook (????) as I was honest with him.
This time, I told him I simply don’t understand what the problem is and to explain it to me AGAIN. He proceeded to do so and then we went into the office out back, he took all my fingerprints, photograph, information about my parents AND told me that I was banned from returning to the United States until September 8th. AFTER THE WHOLE SHOW WAS DONE! Apparently, all the ports of entry into the United States now have my picture and finger prints so if I tried to go back in, I was headed right to jail.
I still have no idea what the problem was. I don’t have a criminal record and apparently promoting innovation and STEM by a foreigner in the United States is such a severe penalty that it warrants me being banned. I did not have any contraband in the car, no alcohol, smokes etc… just a CNC machine and supplies! I encouraged them to check the car, visit websites, make phone calls… all to no avail.
This all happened a few hours ago, I still don’t believe what happened or can make any sense of it. Apparently, for this border division, attending a show demonstrating innovation, CNC machines and giving people a taste of what’s possible when these two worlds collide is just too much.
I did ask the border agent why NAFTA and other agreements didn’t cover what I was doing and he told me basically a Canadian isn’t allowed to be paid by an American company that made products in America to promote their stuff as it takes away a job from an American. This makes absolutely no sense to me as promoting American Made manufacturing creates jobs, not kills them.
I asked him if I was doing this for an American importer if I’d have the same problem and he said no, as the manufacturing would have happened overseas. What????? I’m more confused then ever now!
What did I learn? Destination Innovation is a scary place full of excitement and wonder, apparently this is too much for a Canadian to handle and warrants banning him from the whole country until it’s over! This is beyond ridiculous!
Ironically, there was a pastor from Canada in the next cubicle that was welcomed with open arms, I’m trying not to pull too many parallels but I’m still mad to say the least.
If I was made the president of the United States, the first thing I’d do is give myself a lifelong entry passport to any country to promote CNC machines, the innovators behind them and the creative spirit that resides in all of us to make awesome CUSTOM stuff!
I have no idea why I’m being treated like a common criminal for promoting CNCs. Please pass this along and forward this page to your friends and family.