A few days ago, I made a trip to Piedras Negras, Mexico, which is a border town right across Eagle Pass, Texas. This is a trip that I’ve made many times over the years, and I have noticed that security is getting tighter and tighter.
Today, for example, we are required to show our U.S. passport before we are allowed to return to the States. In one case in which I forgot my passport, the Border Patrol agent looked at me funny and allowed me to re-enter with just my driver’s license. He wasn’t too happy with me, so I now make it a habit to have the proper credentials.
I forgot to mention that I once used a photocopy of my passport, and that also caused the agent to question who I was, where I was born, and what I was doing in Mexico. I showed him my driver’s license, and he put me on the spot by asking if I knew my passport number. I’ve made it a habit to memorize both my driver’s license and passport numbers, so I was able to get out of this pickle.
Crossing Into Mexico
After paying the $2.75 toll to allow me the rights to enter Piedras Negras, I was greeted by US Border Patrol agents. They have the right to pull you over randomly, and search your car.
[We carried the following conversation in Spanish.]
BP AGENT: How are you doing, sir?
ME: I’m doing good … just here to visit a few friends.
BP AGENT: Is this your car?
ME: Yes. I’ve owned it for a couple years.
BP AGENT: We need to check the VIN # … please open this door.
ME: Sure. No problem.
BP AGENT: Please unlock the doors so that we can take a look in the backseat.
ME: Sure … not much back there.
BP AGENT: What is that book in the back?
ME: Oh … that is my project management book that I used to teach classes back in San Antonio.
BP AGENT: I know one thing. We need our managers here to take your class. They know nothing about management.
ME: I guess that can be arranged. [Jokingly.]
BP AGENT: Okay, sir. Have a good day.
Many cars are stolen in the United States and taken to Mexico where they are disassembled, resulting in the sale of parts. Therefore, the checkpoint by the Border Patrol agents serves an important purpose.
However, I thought about possible responses that could have caused me some problems, such as:
“This car belongs to my brother.”
“A friend let me use it.”
“I found it on the side of the road, and the keys were in it.”
“Not sure, sir.”
“Is that really your business, sir?”
“I guess we’re about to find out!”
Of course, I did not use any of these silly responses, but thinking about it gave me a chuckle. I was able to have lunch with my friends, and we laughed about the situation. Upon my return through the US checkpoint, I had my official United States passport ready to present to the agent.