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Old Mar 20, 17, 8:15 am   #1
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Detained on Suspicion of Human Trafficking at SAT Airport

I flew to London for Spring Break with my family & upon returning to our home airport, I managed to get sucked into an absolutely ridiculous situation. My goodness.

I was traveling with my Asian stepdad, my Russian mother & grandmother and my half-Asian, half-Russian little sister & little brother. (I am ethnically full Russian) We landed at SAT after our flight from EWR & we made a beeline for the baggage claim. Staked out a bench in the back to let Babushka sit and relax and surrounded her with our carry-ons. Kids hung around her, as well. I went to the bathroom in Terminal B baggage claim & took a much-needed leak. Come out of the pisser & all heck breaks loose.

As I'm walking back to my family with all the relief of someone who really needed to go to the bathroom, an African-American SAT Airport Police officer comes up to me and begins grilling me. "Who's that guy?" as he pointed at my stepdad. "Who's that?" as he pointed at my little sister. I explained who they were in a calm but absolutely internally bewildered manner. He then asked me what phone I had and if he could see it. I told him it was an iPhone 6 & no, he couldn't see it. I don't give my phones to strangers, let alone cops. If he had the right to see it without my permission, he wouldn't have asked for permission.

A second SAT Airport officer (Latino) comes up and begins to explain the situation, in a somewhat low tone of voice. I'm partially deaf and wear hearing aids. Low tones of voice are not my friends. My automatic reaction is to step forward to hear someone better and then he said "Take a step back." in an equally low voice. So I didn't exactly fluster him, but his reaction was automatic. Geez, you can see my hearing aids, why didn't you just speak up louder in the first place? Sigh. Anyways, their Caucasian Sergeant comes up and I guess he saw my moving towards his officer to hear him better and interpreted that as a threat, so they handcuff me and take me over to their little interrogation room/office that's halfway between the two terminals' baggage claims. This is the first time I've ever been handcuffed outside of the bedroom, so it's kind of surreal.

It's here where I finally get an explanation. Someone had made a complaint of seeing "disturbing images" on my cell phone while I was on the plane & the complainant thought I was involved in human trafficking of my little sister, since we do not look alike. Relief washed over me as I finally understood just WHAT THE #&*( was going on and that it would soon be over.

So I had a few titty pics on my phone. Big deal. My friends are always sending them to me, "Hey, RussianTexan, isn't this Thai chick hot?! Whoa, check out the hooters on this Japanese porn star! Whoooooo!" It's just for giggles, something fun to while the time away sometimes. I don't delete these pics immediately, I don't have time, especially when I'm on a 1-week vacation in one of the most amazing cities in the world. So when I woke up all jet-laggy in the final hour of our flight from EWR to SAT, I decided to flip through my vacation pictures and warmly reminisce. I'd have 40 pictures of family vacation awesomeness followed by 2 or 3 images of naked, adult women. I'd focus on the family pictures and when a titty pic came up I'd just quickly scroll through so as not to offend anyone's sensibilities. After all, no one should be looking at my phone or anything, it's none of their business, right? *rolls eyes*

I'm brought into the interrogation room, patted down, asked what everything is. Tell them my wallet's in my left pants pocket, phone in right pants pocket, passports in inside jacket pocket, camera and can of gum in right jacket pocket, stuff like that. The handcuffs are taken off and I'm asked to take a seat. They look at the passports and start asking questions. "Who is this person to you"? "My grandmother." "Y'all are from Russia, huh?" with a tone that implied it's a hotbed of human trafficking activity and that we were involved. "This guy's Asian & this woman's Russian and they're married, huh?" Really annoying stuff like that. "Why are you nervous?" as they glanced at my right leg bouncing up and down. My leg bounces up and down all the time. It's bouncing right now as I type this. Doesn't mean I'm nervous in the least. That being said, you just handcuffed me in front of my FAMILY, my mom, my little brother and sister and carried me away into an interrogation room? And then have the gall to ask why I'm nervous? I know cops aren't <deleted>, but they have to be able to relate to people at least a LITTLE bit! Cops are not your friends. If they make contact with you, they are doing their job: investigating crimes and punishing people for said crimes. I don't want to interact with cops. Ever. Victim or suspect, either way, something bad happened or was suspected to have happened. So yes, I'm a little nervous, with the nervousness increasing when you ask me "Why are you nervous?"

Anyways, I told them that they could cross-reference the passports and see that the port of entry stamps on every single passport matched by location and date. Isn't it more likely that matched stamps across a period of 5 years (the length of validity of the kids' passports) are indicative of a family rather than a human trafficking ring? "I don't have the qualifications to make that assessment, Sir." said the officer guarding me. I laughed on the inside.

Look, I get it. Cops need to investigate every single allegation that they come across. Human trafficking is a very real thing and sad to say, it is present in our very own home airports. I see tales of rescued girls every other week here in San Antonio. And yes, I guess it's better to investigate and be wrong than to not investigate at all and miss an opportunity to save someone. But anything heinous was not the case at all here. We were all a family that just wanted to go home and sleep.

Outside, unbeknownst to me, my parents are freaking out. My mom's calling all our attorney friends, calling the guy who was picking us up, an ex-US Army MP, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. She felt that handcuffs were uncalled for on me, that they needed a warrant to put handcuffs on me. I understood that was not the case, that they were investigating me on suspicion of human trafficking, but my mom isn't exactly schooled in the American legal system and her experience of law enforcement is, quite frankly, the system in the Soviet Union, not even modern-day Russia. All the news stories of people being tazed and shot by police officers in the USA aren't exactly helping her image of American cops, either.

The sergeant is talking to my parents, ascertains identities and manages to corroborate the information eventually. One of his underlings (the African-American officer) keeps asking me questions while we're back in the interrogation room. "What's your zip code? 78XXX or 78YYY?" It was glaringly obvious what they were doing, trying to trip me up in case I was a human trafficker who just memorized data earlier that day, but it was annoying as all hell. 78XXX was right and 78YYY was wrong and he absolutely had a tell: the left side of his lip curved upward as he said 78YYY. I'm deaf, not blind. Would've been funny if they weren't wasting my damn time.

Low tone-of-voice guy comes up and explains to me that the situation has been resolved and he'd fill out a report. Evidently they have to make a report of any and all contacts, even if no criminal activity was found. I really hope that report stays internal and isn't distributed to other law enforcement agencies, because I drive my little sister and her friends around a lot for school events as a volunteer and if I'm ever pulled over with six 13-year-old girls in my van and "detained at San Antonio International Airport on suspicion of human trafficking. No criminal activity found." popped up on the computer. Wouldn't matter if no criminal activity was found! Perception is everything. On an aside, does anyone here know if that sort of document will remain internal or will it be shared with other law enforcement agencies? Not cool, man. Not cool at all.

They fill it out, return the family passports and I'm free to go. I thank low-tone-of-voice guy (with whom I had a pleasant conversation considering the circumstances) and the Sergeant and we depart, whereupon I have a whole lotta 'splainin' to do in the car! My mom eventually tells me that she had seen the African-American officer speaking to a man in Muslim garb as we walked through baggage claim. I finally remembered that he was sitting behind my stepdad. I was sitting next to my stepdad. So he saw some titty pics and like most idiots, has no idea how to tell the difference between Asian people and confused the 32G-breasted Japanese porn star Sakura Sena for my 13-year-old, half-Asian, half-Russian little sister. Oh, yeah, yeah, that's not a stretch at all. Great job shutting down an international human trafficking ring consisting of my family members, Sherlock Freaking Holmes. Gah.

We asked if he will be told that he was dead freaking wrong and that we were pissed for wasting our time, but the officers said they don't share that information and that while they take down informants' information, they don't tell them about cases unless there is an actual crime found and they need to come testify as witnesses. Of course, they didn't give us any of this genius' information. Made us miss SNL. ........ Oh, well. Like I said, better to investigate and be wrong than to fail to investigate and let something horrible slip through your fingers. I do have to say that the officers were polite and extremely professional, albeit a little clueless and very, very slow. Of course, that's merely my opinion, and I am not a law enforcement professional. Nor would I ever want to be.

Finally managed to get home just before midnight and slowly unpacking all our stuff. It was a damn good trip. Save for that final hour.

Anyone else had a situation like this sometime? Did I handle myself the right way? I tried to stay as calm yet alert as I could. Did the officers handle themselves correctly? Any breaches in procedure or unprofessional behavior that I missed? What did y'all think of this tale of woe and a missed SNL episode?

Last edited by TWA884; Mar 22, 17 at 3:28 pm Reason: Pejorative generalization
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Old Mar 20, 17, 8:45 am   #2
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Welcome to people who still can't come to grasp with the modern reality that there are a large number of multi-ethnic (and even multicultural) families where not all relatives share the exact same ethnic relationship backgrounds and even direct genetic or bodily fluid-exchanging relationships are not necessarily connecting all the relatives.

I can't wait to see how they are going to react when people start showing birth certificates listing three parents. Will they then start asking everyone without a birth certificate to prove they don't have three parents and that the two parents of the child aren't trafficking/kidnapping their own child?

The national paranoia knows few/no bounds, and its oxygen is ignorance.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 9:17 am   #3
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Please continue to follow this discussion in the Travel Safety and Security Forum
Thank you...
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Old Mar 20, 17, 9:21 am   #4
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When I saw the thread title, I figured it would be a story about aggressive DHS agents. (Not that I've ever flown internationally into SAT...or even know if any airline does...) I can see how investigating suspected human trafficking would be in their domain, obviously with guidelines to ensure it's done professionally.

But local cops just <deleted> with people at baggage claim on a domestic arrival? That doesn't seem right at all. Whether completely random or picking out people who they don't think look enough alike...

Last edited by TWA884; Mar 22, 17 at 3:30 pm Reason: Using symbols, spaces or other methods to mask vulgarities is not allowed.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 9:33 am   #5
  
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I Am sorry that the OP was caught up in this particular situation. Yet, the one glaring fact that some posters here have overlooked is, that a passenger on his flight had made the allegations and TSA/HLS/FBI and whoever else had to follow up.

I would be pissed too, but to open your phone to look at pictures texted by friends while in such a public space would conjure the wild imagination of those who do not know or understand human dynamics and interaction.

Then again, if the OP was a human trafficker, then Law Enforcement would be remiss in terms of not investigating fully and a black eye.

Often, we read about similar situations happening such as the time when a Nobel Prize winner was working on some equations during his flight to SFO and was arrested at the airport because a fellow passenger did not understand equations or what he was working on and thought that it was in Arabic and needed to be addressed ASAP.

This fits right in this category or so I believe.

I trust the OP will have less eventful flights going forward...

Safe travels to all.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 9:44 am   #6
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This fits right in this category or so I believe.
Agreed, they're both in the same category: blatant poor judgment (at best) by law enforcement.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 11:11 am   #7
  
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Old Mar 20, 17, 2:21 pm   #8
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Originally Posted by RussianTexan View Post
My mom eventually tells me that she had seen the African-American officer speaking to a man in Muslim garb as we walked through baggage claim. I finally remembered that he was sitting behind my stepdad. I was sitting next to my stepdad. So he saw some titty pics and like most idiots, has no idea how to tell the difference between Asian people and confused the 32G-breasted Japanese porn star Sakura Sena for my 13-year-old, half-Asian, half-Russian little sister. Oh, yeah, yeah, that's not a stretch at all. Great job shutting down an international human trafficking ring consisting of my family members, Sherlock Freaking Holmes. Gah.
I was going to suggest the problem was how young looking many Asians, especially Japanese, are. Sakura Sena doesn't look remotely underage to me, though. The 32G is meaningless--that's implants.

Quote:
Anyone else had a situation like this sometime? Did I handle myself the right way? I tried to stay as calm yet alert as I could. Did the officers handle themselves correctly? Any breaches in procedure or unprofessional behavior that I missed? What did y'all think of this tale of woe and a missed SNL episode?
Never happened to me but my parents got arrested as spies once. The guy's supervisor realizes it's nuts but they have to do a bit of confirming before they're kicked loose. (Their "crime" was being in a crowd trying to see what was of interest. Moron cop didn't realize a white person {this was Zambia} could be a simple tourist and figured the only reason for them to be there was to hide passing something. It was only later that they found out that there had been a snake charmer performing.)
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Old Mar 20, 17, 2:39 pm   #9
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Hold on.

There was a complaint by a citizen to law enforcement about OP displaying "disturbing images" in a public location. That drew a series of investigative questions by local law enforcement as it would pretty much anywhere in the US.

What OP thinks about those picture and their appropriateness is not relevant. He displayed them in a public place where others who apparently don't share his views of what is appropriate, were sufficiently concerned that they called the cops.

What followed is pretty standard. This isn't a debate about where to draw the line, it is simply a statement about what one displays in public.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 3:00 pm   #10
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Hold on.

There was a complaint by a citizen to law enforcement about OP displaying "disturbing images" in a public location. That drew a series of investigative questions by local law enforcement as it would pretty much anywhere in the US.

What OP thinks about those picture and their appropriateness is not relevant. He displayed them in a public place where others who apparently don't share his views of what is appropriate, were sufficiently concerned that they called the cops.

What followed is pretty standard. This isn't a debate about where to draw the line, it is simply a statement about what one displays in public.
Apparently it's a debate about where to draw the line about what one "displays in public.

It sounds like this situation was prompted by a nosy busybody passenger on a plane peeking at the cellphone activity of another passenger and getting upset by what he/she saw on the phone (which wasn't his/her phone) and reporting that and the OP to the authorities. Just goes to show that it's so very easy to cause problems for others by directly or indirectly drawing in the police and playing the suspicious character card.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 3:48 pm   #11
  
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Hold on.

There was a complaint by a citizen to law enforcement about OP displaying "disturbing images" in a public location. That drew a series of investigative questions by local law enforcement as it would pretty much anywhere in the US.

What OP thinks about those picture and their appropriateness is not relevant. He displayed them in a public place where others who apparently don't share his views of what is appropriate, were sufficiently concerned that they called the cops.

What followed is pretty standard. This isn't a debate about where to draw the line, it is simply a statement about what one displays in public.
I'd be curious to know what the community standards laws are to pornography in SAT before making assumptions as to what is "disturbing images".
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Old Mar 20, 17, 4:02 pm   #12
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While I don't have those images on my own phone, I can't fathom in a million years summoning the cops because a nearby adult was viewing b00bies on their own phone. That's hardly "disturbing" and hardly a public display.

And no, I don't think cops everywhere would react so stupidly. I think - hope? - some would tell the busybody to MYOFB.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 4:04 pm   #13
  
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So if someone really annoys me on a plane - or even some random sucker who hasn't done a thing - I can just walk up to a CBP and get them to hassle the heck out of him?
Wonder who walked through while these three men tasked with protecting our borders were otherwise occupied.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 5:07 pm   #14
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So if someone really annoys me on a plane - or even some random sucker who hasn't done a thing - I can just walk up to a CBP and get them to hassle the heck out of him?
Wonder who walked through while these three men tasked with protecting our borders were otherwise occupied.
How many times per month does this happen? A passenger "feels nervous" because someone with brown skin is talking in another language across the aisle from them. They could even be a Secret Service agent pulling out a copy of the Koran. They alert the FA and the victim is forceably removed from the plane and interrogated. This is the first time I've heard of someone being harassed after a flight.
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Old Mar 20, 17, 6:09 pm   #15
  
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This is one of those stories where you feel some facts of the story might be bent just a bit to put OP in a better light. Anyone whose job it is to find out what the facts of a situation are knows that this is something extremely common. People misrepresent events to minimize their own fault. I don't know for a fact that the cops cuffed him for nothing, I don't know that he really just quickly browsed past the porn on his phone (or that those really are just random pics sent by friends).

Let's imagine a situation where OP looks at porn on his flight and a person sitting nearby finds it a little creepy that a guy accompanying little kids would be looking at porn in a public setting. Let's imagine that cops following up on the tip find OP to be chippy and giving attitude. They detain OP out of caution as something smells a bit fishy. Let's say they do some checks and figure the story of OP checks out and they let him go thereafter.

Hard to see any wrongdoing on the cops' part.
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