It is sad, but not surprising. I am really sorry for the cruisers who this happened to, you didn't deserve this and I hope it gets sorted out soon.
For all the you should have known types, if you haven't been on the receiving of it when the rules get changed, or suddenly enforced differently, you can't really know. Especially when someone has an agenda.
The last time I crossed on a land border into Mexico
, I followed the exact directions from my friend who had crossed only a couple of months before and rode
there regularly. It took several hours, the first crossing as suggested by my friend the guard told me "no, we can't process vehicles anymore, go to crossing X"
The guard at crossing X said sure! Come on through, park your bike and walk into the building over there. At this point I was across the border into Mexico
. Walked into the building, the person at the desk said sorry, we can't do that, you are passing through, not returning to the US. No papers available for vehicles doing that. This was more serious than it seemed, because to return to US soil from that point I would have had to return through a different gate, without having been stamped into Mexico. Riders have been permanently banned from or lost
bikes for getting caught in this trap.
At this border after my pleading with them to help me figure out what to do, gave me a hand drawn map to border crossing Y and told me to ride there, on the Mexican side, without papers. If I had been caught, it would have ended very badly. To top it off, crossing Y wasn't possible to get to, as the roads had been closed for entry into Mexico, so being processed was impossible, I ended up entering the queues to go to the states, and then stopped at a guard post and refused to go farther, the guy took pity on me there, and with aid of his blackberry I translated my issue. Being a kind person he then started flagging down passing cars until he found someone who spoke both Spanish and English
That person agreed to take me to crossing Z which did have the ability to issue papers. Once traffic slowed(about an hour) he reversed up the entry with the help of the guard, and I turned around as well and followed him back. Another hour of riding illegally and we got to crossing Z. After another couples hours in line I was able to get insurance
for Mexico for my bike(at 140$/month for liability) This took several hours, as they didn't have my type of motorcycle in their system. After several tries, the guy had me walk through the customs
area and come in to his armoured booth to enter the info myself. It took me another hour, then his printer broke. Finally he got it printed, I paid him and got to go to the vehicle paper issuing desk.
That desk, told me no papers as I was passing through the country as well, which was no longer allowed. The guy behind me in line exploded, as he traveled for work, and had crossed at the same crossing, in the same direction in the same car he was in, with the same destination
two days earlier.
He was quickly told to take a hike, but I stayed polite and hopeful as I didn't even have the chance to go back to the USA, and no idea what to do. Finally the guy at the desk took pity on me, and he said "We can only issue this permit
if you are coming back through this exact crossing, as the new rules won't allow passage
through the country south. You are coming back this way, right?"
He knew I wasn't, but was willing to concede the point so long as I said I was.
If he hadn't I would have been crossing back through a border without the correct papers, and at a crossing hours from where I'd started.
When the rules can change in only a few days, and change completely from the rules before, which everyone knows and abides by, with years of experience backing them up, it isn't fair to place the blame on the person who gets caught by the change. I was one official having a bad day, or liking the look of my motorcycle from ending up losing my bike(which was my home at the time).
EDIT: I had worse experiences later, doing my best to follow all the rules, when someone decided to screw me over at another border. Took every dollar I had to pay bribe after bribe to get let through.
Following the rules only means you are OK when they follow the rules, and have nothing to gain by screwing you over.