Belinda is new to being interrogated by Homeland Security. I, Kyle, was rather used to it. I haven’t gone through US border control without having my bag searched in many years. Still, my first homecoming of 2017 was accompanied by a more thorough rogering than ever before. We went through the Global Entry kiosk with bright hopes that this time we’d be promptly waved into the land of our birth, home of the free, Uncle Sam’s Wonder Emporium, the star-spangled United States of America.
Sadly it was not to be. The machine spit out our receipts with big black Xes and instructions to report for further screening, where, over the course of two hours, we were alternately called in to be questioned by a DHS agent (no need to give his name).
We started with the usual wheres and whys. This part was pretty much the same as always. He was very interested in my trips to Iran, Turkey, and North Korea of course. DHS is also intrigued by my trip to Rwanda for some reason. The US didn’t care much when outright genocide was happening, but now that I’ve visited it’s apparently a big freakin’ deal. Our most recent trip to Liechtenstein went unremarked-upon.
He had me recount various flights and layovers dating back to 2012. I did the best I could. These were all legal and commercial flights mind you. Was everyone on all these flights being flagged?
He asked me what I thought of Trump, then immediately followed with “You don’t have to answer that. I’m supposed to stay apolitical.”
He asked me how much money I make. He asked what all of my tattoos meant. He asked if I did drugs. This felt like desperate fishing. My friend Gary said it sounded like a bad date. My interviewer was cute in an Adam Goldberg way, but I think I blew my chances on the money question. He was not impressed with my salary and said as much to Belinda.
He asked why I thought I was under scrutiny. I told him it was racial profiling. He vigorously protested. “Why would I do that? You’re not even…” He trailed off. What? Not the race that we profile? “I mean you’re a white guy.” That was nice. After being taken at various times for Arab, Hispanic, Japanese, Italian, Indian…pretty much whatever the next country over was…it felt good to be called white. The agent was sheepish at this point, realizing the implication of what he said, and muttered “I mean I guess there’s all kinds of racism, but that’s not what we do here.”
He wanted to look through my phone. I hesitated. He explained that he didn’t need a warrant or even probable cause because this was a border crossing. I still wasn’t comfortable handing over my phone. He said, “I could get you the paper explaining it. I’d have to go downstairs. I’ll get it if you want.” Meaning this might take even longer and we’d miss our connecting flight. I relented. As my later research showed, the courts agreed that he didn’t need cause. See United States v. Arnold.
He looked through my pictures. Nothing too exciting there. He kept asking me if this was a new phone or if I had another phone. Nope, it’s my old and only. Surely I had more incriminating pictures somewhere.
He went through my contact list and asked me who everyone was. He wrote down phone numbers of my friends and family. He checked my Facebook. He especially wanted to know if I had WhatsApp. I didn’t.
He finished with a quick rifle through our bag. Liquor, cigars, dirty underwear…the usual denouement to an evening of violation.
Inevitably, this tale will be taken as anti-Trump propaganda by people who don’t know me. I wasn’t allowed to then, but I must say here that I’m not particularly anti-Trump. This kind of harassment happened under Obama. I’m vexed certainly, but not really angry. As a libertarian I have the serenity of knowing I’m not going to get my way no matter what.