Help settle debate regarding US customs "red flags"
I feel funny about asking this question but a recent debate with my brother and friends forces me to solicit outside opinions to settle the debate. FYI we are all US born citizens and had no prohibited items or excess dutiable items. Flights were from Cozumel, MX and we were reentering the US through IAH.
This past weekend I was traveling with my wife, 2 y.o. son and my brother (35 y.o.). My brother wanted me to put him on my customs form as part of my family. I didn't think that is what 'family' meant so I told him to fill out his own form. I thought he was just being lazy but he told me afterwards that he wanted me to do this because a single man traveling from Mexico would be a "red flag" and make him more likely to be searched which I said was ridiculous.
Can anyone with the same last name be put on one customs form or is it more appropriate for him to travel as a single traveler and fill out his own form?
Is traveling as a solo traveler really a red flag? I can't believe this because that would mean that about half of the people I see in the customs hall would be under suspicion. It would seem to me to be a very unreliable indicator.
Need to be living at the same address to be classed as family.
I have not noticed any difference in treatment arriving at USA by myself or travelling with others.
But does anyone care?
My personal experience from US customs pre/after 11.9. is that they wave everyone to proceed and just take a glance at the white coupon. I assume they're working smarter, not harder; they probably do a profilation of arriving passengers based on the information they get from airlines and stop those they profile as potential smugglers. And they really don't bother stopping odd low-risk passengers like us.
I used to work with the wife of a Immigration inspector (Sarnia MI). One flag he told me about was declaring nothing after a long vacation. Story - elderly couple returning from Toronto said they had not bought anything. Sent them for search, and found 200 beanie babies (collectable stuffed animals) under the spare tire. Confiscated and fined. They will also ask stupid questions or ones they have no idea the correct answer for to try and fluster you, and entertain themselves.
Very funny related story. Had a supplier in Sarnia coming across to visit one day.
Immigration Guy(IG): Where are you going?
Supplier (S): Acme company for a meeting
IG: Who are you going to see?
IG: Debbie's not in today. She's at a supplier in Ohio.
S: (Very confused) OK. I'll see tev9999.
IG: He's not in either - they are both in Ohio.
S: (Dumbfounded) Ummm?
IG: You can go. And by the way, Debbie's my wife.
Even better - a couple months later:
IG: Where are you going?
S: To see your wife
IG: (About to pull gun) - Oh, its you. Go ahead.
So maybe they do know the answers to dumb questions.
I used to work with the wife of a Immigration inspector (Sarnia MI). One flag he told me about was declaring nothing after a long vacation. ....
The only time I was ever sent for a search was when I declared nothing after a weekend in Mexico. I really didn't buy anything, was just there for some diving. That opened up a long line of questioning that went something like this:
C: You were in Mexico and didn't buy anything?
C: Not even a t-shirt?
Me: I go to Mexico a lot and did not need to buy anything
C: What do you do that you go to Mexico so much?
Blah, Blah, Blah. You can see where that line of questioning was going. Anyway, I got to the table and started ripping everything apart before an inspector even came over. Once he came over he asked what I was doing. I explained that I had a tight connection and wanted to get the search over as quick as possible. He looked at me for a second and told me to pack my bags and go catch my flight.
To this day I always put a few t-shirts down even if I didn't buy anything.