Sitting on ICE

I just returned from a ten-day trip overseas. Where? Doesn’t matter. What does matter is the great interest one U.S. immigration official had upon my return, as to why I’d been there. “Not a lot of people go to [redacted] for vacation, do they?” he asked.

How would I know? But since the man had my passport in his hands, I humored him.

“No, but they should,” I said. “They’ve got a lot of great museums.”

Then he proceeded to question me on

  1. The local cuisine – did I like it?
  2. Price of hotel rooms.
  3. The weather.
  4. What time of year should people go there?

What was up with all the questions? Did he think I’d just returned from delivering nuclear missile fuses to a nation that isn’t recognized by the United Nations? I generally leave that kind of foolishness to my guv’mint. Anyway, if I’d been up to such nefarious deeds, I wouldn’t be so stupid as to tell immigration.

As I waited for my luggage, I started to wonder why immigration cared so much about why I’d been abroad. Was this just some power trip by an emasculated retired cop, or more than that? I understand that countries like China and Cuba keep tabs on their citizens’ activities overseas, but I thought we were different from them.

We are, aren’t we?

At what point do we reach the tipping point between our traditional democratic values and totalitarian state surveillance of citizens? That’s another cataclysm I hope I don’t live to see.


6 Responses to Sitting on ICE

  1. CJ says:

    Don’t get me started on this subject–I seem to be a magnet for these people whenever I return to the US.

    I know my response to these particular questions would only make me a stronger magnet because I’d repeat over and over again “You mistake me for a tour guide, sir.” or “If you can’t afford to purchase a tour book, ma’am, the public library has a wide selection available to checkout”.

    If your passport is being held captive, you’re being interrogated. Polite small talk is only possible AFTER you have your passport back in your own hands.

  2. blog52 says:

    Yeah, but the public library’s guidebooks tend to be a year or two past the sell-by date.

    Kind of like American immigration clerks.

  3. Cheryl says:

    That’s the weird thing about so many security measures–they’ll never catch a halfway intelligent terrorist/missile seller. Of course, I do think it’s important to catch stupid terrorists/missile sellers, but a lot of innocent people’s rights and/or time are violated in the process.

  4. Mr. Anderson says:

    Usually this is not about your answers but HOW you answer. A minute of “small talk” is a way to size you up, see if there’s anything suspicious in your demeanour.

  5. blog52 says:

    Interesting point, Mr. Anderson. Do you think “perky and smiling” was the wrong demeanor right after a 10+ hour flight in economy? I made the effort despite feeling like hell. Should I have gone with a more natural “exhausted and cranky?”

  6. Maurice says:

    Accept it as you did the adventure you had in another land and know that questions will be asked for many reasons, both business and pleasure. Another reason for asking about the food might be to inform you as to anything that might have been found wrong, now only being reported to the State Department who sends the info to the Department of Homeland Security, who oversee Immigration. Better information may have helped many in Canada during the SARS outbreak a few years back, hence the reasoning for where and when. Allowance is always made for the long flights, so you need not worry about being perky or even smiling. Just be yourself, know that the system has to work itself out and if you have ideas on how to make it better, write it in this blog or forward to your local DHS. I hope you enjoyed your vacation!

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