Homeless in Vancouver: U.S. Customs and Border Protection uniform patches turn up among donated clothing

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      What are the chances that the United States government will take a relaxed attitude toward uniform elements belonging to its Customs and Border Protection agency (USCBP) falling into the hands of a Vancouver homeless person?

      It’s true that the Canadian government got a little shirty when I blogged in 2014 about Dumpster-diving actual uniform shirts belonging to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

      But that may have been partly due to the fact that my little post received some mainstream media coverage.

      Mostly it was because what I dug out of a residential Dumpster in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood were a great many perfectly intact, ready-to-wear, CBSA uniform shirts (albeit of short-sleeved variety, complete with all their embroidered patches).

      Doing my bit to help patch up Canada-U.S. relations

      One example of the second style of patch that explicitly refers to Border and Customs as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      What my homeless peer (who prefers to remain anonymous) found on Saturday (March 7) were just the embroidered patches—14 of them—roughly cut out of navy blue USCBP uniform shirts, plus two shoulder epaulettes.

      He told me Monday (March 9) that he found the patches and epaulettes at the Vancouver Regional Recycling Return-It depot at 960 Evans Street. They were stashed in a little bag, inside of a backpack, among clothing piled on one of the recycling depot’s large, stainless-steel bottle sorting tables.

      The backpack and the rest of the table’s worth of clothing were donations to one of the Return-It system’s regular B.C.-wide “Gift of Warmth” clothing drives, intended to benefit hard-working binners—homeless or otherwise.

      There were two styles of patches among the 14 found: one of them round and the other tombstone-shaped.

      The round patch features the white text “U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION” and “FIELD OPERATIONS”, respectively curving against a black background, around the top and bottom of a circular globe of the Earth; this is surmounted by the eagle crest of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

      Another tombstone-style patch—this one has either been bleached out a bit, or actually uses a slightly softer light blue than the first example.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      The light blue bordered tombstone patch encloses a lighter blue circle containing the eagle crest and the encircling text “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY” in dark blue. Curving around the top of the circle is the white text “U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION” against a black background.

      The first decent online photographs I found of a USCBP Field Operations uniform shirt are at a collectibles website called RonSusser.com.

      They show a tombstone patch on the right shoulder and a round patch on the left shoulder.

      The shirt on the website, which bears patches more or less identical to the ones my homeless friend found, is listed as having sold for US$44.

      There is nothing to indicate that it is a style currently in use by the USCBP. At the same time, there is nothing saying that it isn’t.

      One has to wonder though, given the U.S. president’s mania for keeping all things all things Mexican out of the United States.

      Among the photos of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection shirt is one of its clothing label, showing that it was made by VF Imagewear, in Mexico of all places.