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Customs annoyance - can any one else relate?

Customs annoyance - can any one else relate?

Old Jan 7th, 2003, 08:49 PM
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Customs annoyance - can any one else relate?

Greetings. I just returned from a trip to Europe. Going through customs in Detroit, a guy in a uniform pulled me out of a line and started asking me about my trip, what was the purpose, what did I buy, where do I work, what is my profession, how much money do I have in my possession, etc. I felt like I was suspected of spying, terrorism, etc. I wouldn't have been suprised if he had asked me who won the 69 world series.

Does anyone else thing that this security thing might be going too far? (I have traveled extensively in Europe and never have I had any troubles going through customs in any other country.) I would be interested in hearing any other experiences or concerns.
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 09:23 PM
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I have been to Europe twice since Sep 11 (2001), and I have not noticed any changes in customs.

But I always had the feeling that the only place I experienced rudeness from any customs or immigrations officials was upon return to my own country.

I was threatened with confiscation for some alleged paperwork "irregularities" for bringing a computer back INTO the country from Acapulco over 10 years ago - - long before laptops became ubiquitous as they are today. I was told "hey, this computer is more than enough to control a nuclear plant in Libya".

As if it did any good to tell me this as I was RETURNing to the country!

Go figure.

Best wishes,

Old Jan 7th, 2003, 09:25 PM
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Every American knows that the Mets won the 69 World Series. Even I know that, though I couldn't tell you who won in 74 or 92, etc.

Either it was at random or some minor detail got the inspector's attention. Better not to become defensive or risk being sent to Attu, Alaska!
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 09:29 PM
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I can relate. When my husband, son, and myself returned to San Francisco's immigration, the officer questioned us indirectly, asking about the trip, etc.-but not as detailed as what occurred to you. The thing I didn't like-and I know it's to protect children-is that she questioned our son by asking him where he lives, what grade he's in, what school he attends. I guess she wanted to be sure he really is our son and we didn't kidnap him? Gee, he really looked like our son so I don't know why the 3rd degree. It is pretty irritating, I agree.
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 09:33 PM
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What on earth is "irritating" about answering normal customs and immigration questions? I have been answering those type of questions for 40+ years. What is the big deal? They are just doing their job.
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 09:35 PM
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A thought occurred to me while reading these posts. What, if any, are the limits of the questions customs workers are permitted to ask US citizens? Is the returning traveler required by law to answer whatever question is asked? Anyone know?
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 09:41 PM
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Never had a problem coming back in but did have a problem getting into Spain a year ago.
Probably my fault because I stepped over the yellow line before the official told me too.He must have had a bad day because he came out of his little booth, started to yell at me in Spanish spitting at me as he did.
Had no idea what was going on and as I was trying to find out what was wrong he put his hand on his gun holster,albeit casually, but scared the living hell out of me.
Another official came over and said something to him and he immediately left-----At which time everyone in line had tomove to another line.
I was not the most popular person that morning.
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 10:32 PM
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Ron- How were you dressed and what do you look like-??

You may have fit a profile they were looking for--

Happened to me in London years ago when terrorism first started..I happend to be dressed in comfortable Morrocan clothing ( I am American- but these clothes were all the rage back them) and the clothes happened to be black....

I had to ask so many questions that it got to be a joke with my hubs that they thought I was Arabic...( am not)...but it didn't bother me at all---- In fact , felt really safe that someone was on the ball--

By the way-this was in HEATHROW...
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 10:59 PM
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Ron, I was asked almost exactly those same questions when I arrived in Detroit in November. I agree some of the questions are absolutely unnecessary (I laughed when he asked me how much money I was bringing into the country-about $20) and none of their business. My impression was that the guy was in training. My luggage was also searched at Gatwick before check-in and upon arrival.

By the way I'm a white, American female in her early 30's and dress "smart-casual".
Old Jan 7th, 2003, 11:32 PM
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A few years ago when my husband and I returned home from a trip abroad. We live in a suburb of the major hub we returned to. The customs agent was asking me questions in a statement sort of way and began to reveal facts about me that were nowhere on any documents I had with me. He told me what subdivision I live in, that I had a son named X, etc. I looked rather surprised at him when he finally laughed and told me that he was the father of my son's friend. I had probably spoken to him on the phone before, but since he worked various shifts, I had never had the occassion to meet him in person like I had the mom. I didn't even know he was a customs agent.
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 03:35 AM
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Three years ago, on my way home from a business trip, I was pulled aside and asked all those same questions and more. They do it completely at random as well as to 'suspicious' characters. It did take me a bit off guard, but as I didn't have anything to hide, I wasn't too concerned.
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 04:01 AM
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5 years ago, i was 14 and going to Boston to meet a pen friend and spend 4 weeks vacation in the US with her family. I'm french and I spoke very little english and I really looked like a shy little girl (first time abroad alone). That horrible custom or immigration guy was really rude to me. It was as if he thought i was coming to the US to work illegally or God knows what. I really felt i was not welcome at all in your country.
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 05:12 AM
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I guess I feel just the opposite. What's the big deal? Recently I've been pulled out of line while waiting to board and been almost strip searched, take off my shoes, etc., but so what? I'm not going anywhere any quicker without it, and who knows, such activity may prevent a hijacking.
When I return and am questioned at length, so what? It takes maybe an extra minute of my valuable time? I personally don't have an answer for the quickest and easiest method for customs finding people who are trying to smuggle in goods, kidnap children, or just avoid paying duty, and until I do, I just figure this is the best way they know how to do it.

Ron, when you say, "I felt like I was suspected of spying, terrorism, etc.", the answer is simple. Yes, we all are. And as long as security regards the POSSIBILITY than every passenger could be a terrorist, then I feel safer about the whole thing. Why take it personally?

I must admit the silliest thing I find is that questioning before an international flight, "did anybody give you anything to carry for them?" etc. Yea, like if I'm carrying a machine gun for a friend I'm going to tell them! But again, knowing how many people fall for scams, I do understand that some people really would agree to carry a package for someone who told them they were over their limit and "could you help out".
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 05:16 AM
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To chris above, yes, it is their business how much money you are bringing into the country. That is carefully controlled and is a very logical question to ask. To guess that he was a guy in training, shows that you as a traveler apparently have no knowledge of what is and what is not allowed to bring into the country. That's exactly why they have to ask those questions, for people like you who apparently didn't even read the back of the entry card you probably filled out telling you about the money limits.
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 05:23 AM
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Don't they ask those type of questions due to the fact that if you are carrying more than "X" amount of cash or bring into the U.S. more than "X" amount of goods, they will make you pay duty on that amount? Of course, I'm sure a lot of people bring more into the U.S. than is declared. As I have done that myself a time or two. I just answer the questions, it only takes an extra minute. It seems that in this day of airline travel that it's best not to rock the boat or you may be delayed even longer.
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 05:49 AM
Wake Up
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Hey Ron,
Security gone to far? The real question is HAS SECURITY GONE FAR ENOUGH?

Sorry, but you found it annoying to answer a few questions? Come on, you HAVE to realize what's been going on for the last 16 months in this country.

The customs official was doing what is called "random sampling." Is it effective, probably not. But, the politicians and the beauracrats can say "we have increased security at our airports."

I mean, a person intentionally breaking the law would have to be a complete idiot to answer honestly.

The things we REALLY need to do to increase security, such as hire trained law enforcement professionals, institute a national fingerprint system, and increased monitoring of foreign visitors have all been stopped by partisan politics and the terrorism enablers at the ACLU.

Part of the blame also falls on travelers like Ron who complain about any measure that might annoy him, no matter how trivial.
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 06:01 AM
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Two years ago, returning from a trip to Ireland with my wife and two young children, we were stopped. I was totally shot from traveling all around Ireland and couldn't believe we got pulled aside, but after all we'd been through I didn't really care. I was surprised they questioned us, we look like very average American tourists.

One of the customs bosses came out and they were looking things up on the computer, which I thought was very interesting. I really wanted to lean over and see what the computer said, but eventually they just said "Okay, move along."

Old Jan 8th, 2003, 06:09 AM
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"Wake up" seems to be in some kind of coma, in my opinion.

Intensifying the scrutiny by customs officials of US citizens, who travel internationally on an infrequent basis, known to have left the country only 5, or 10, or 20, or 30 days earlier does not seem to be an effective use of "security" resources.

I actually don't know the travel habits of "Ron" or anyone else who has posted on this message. But it seems to me that it is not that difficult to assemble a typical profile of an "ordinary" US citizen, traveling abroad on vacation.

And generally, directing the efforts of customs at OTHERS entering the US.
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 06:25 AM
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If I was plotting a terrorist act, it seems to me that the best person/people to carry it out successfully and get through customs would be a "typical looking average American person/family"!
I guess you just can never please everyone. First, the complaints were "lax security" or "not enough security." Now, it's "too much security" or "misguided secuity"?
Old Jan 8th, 2003, 06:31 AM
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Sorry Ron, but those questions have been asked for years, long before September 11 and the reality of terrorism in America. I've always filled out the customs form when returning to the US and they have always asked if I'm bringing a certain amount of cash in, how much the goods I bought abroad were, etc. They have always pulled people out of line at random to confirm the information, you were just one of the "lucky" ones. Nothing they asked you is "new" to those of us who have traveled for a long time and have been questioned before 9/11/01.

The only different thing I have noticed in my travels post 9/11 is the searches at the boarding gate, which I had never seen before. Otherwise, status quo.

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