Hanna Jaeckel had made up her mind. After carefully considering the current economic and political situation in the United States, the sixty-seven-year-old Danish–born woman weeded through a lifetime of possessions, packed up her Chevrolet SUV and, accompanied by her Rottweiler, Katinka, took off for the Mexican border.
Jaeckel, who had been residing in the U.S. for over 40 years, punctuated by a couple of years when she and her former husband lived in Indonesia, had already secured a rental in Progreso, a fishing village in the Yucatan Peninsula. Progreso is popular with the American and Canadian “snowbirds.” Snowbirds, as they are called, are retirees who spend the winter months down South, and migrate back up North for the spring and summer.
But Jaeckel is no snowbird. When she closed the doors on her home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, it was to be for good. Her home of twenty-four years had been foreclosed upon and, after several months of reviewing her options, she opted to move to Mexico. She hadn’t counted on overzealous American border officials attempting to block her egress.
It took Jaeckel four days to drive from Connecticut to the Brownsville/Matamoros border crossing. On approaching the border, she reports that she was detained by two American border guards, who told her to turn around and go back. “We can’t let you go,” they told her. She informed them she was intent on going. She states they then adopted an authoritarian manner with her, and began to demand more and more documents.
They initially told her that her Danish passport “wasn’t enough.” They asked for proof of ownership of her car. She provided title and registration. They then asked if she had any other proof of identity. She reports pulling out her Danish driver’s license and an international driver’s license. The guards then told her that these documents weren’t valid. When she informed them that the Bridgeport DMV had told her differently, they switched gears and demanded her Danish birth certificate, which she provided to them.
At that point, she reports they retired to a nearby building. When they returned, she heard one of them informing the other, “I ran her and she is not on any of our lists.” Jaeckel wonders what lists those were and why that would be of any issue.
The guards then began another tack. “Mexico is very violent. We don’t think it is safe for you to travel there. We are only trying to protect you,” one of them offered. When she declared she was going anyway, one of the guards informed her, “We don’t think we are going to let you go.” At that point, Jaeckel reports pulling out her cell phone and stating she was calling the Danish Embassy. The guards relented and let her cross over.
All told, Jaeckel was detained for two hours. She reports making the trip to Progreso in four days without further incident. “The United States has become a police state, “ she declares. “They had no right to try to prevent me from leaving and if I hadn’t threatened to call the Embassy, they would not have let me pass over.”
Jaeckel says she is delighted with her new home in Progreso, which is about a quarter of a mile from the ocean. “I am very impressed with the openness and friendliness of the Mexican people,” she says. “There is an underlying fear I have sensed in America in the last four years and I don’t feel it here.” She says she feels fortunate in having decided to leave when she did.
“If there is another 911-type event,” she says, “they may close the borders. I’m so glad I got out when I did.”
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Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad. You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com