CBP Officer here...Ask me anything!

Old Jun 12, 19, 7:49 am
  #46  
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Originally Posted by maninblack View Post
It goes back to training, where you question everyone the same.

In theory, it goes back to the basics, of seeing how a traveler can afford this trip, and if not, what shady organization is funding it, and what are they really up to.

Occasionally this will lead to something bigger. I've seen a few USCs referred to our anti-terrorism, narco, and baggage teams based off their answers on Primary; these have led to seizures, penalties, and arrests.

And just human decency.

I generally don't ask much of USCs returning from vacation. But hey, you make my job hard, I'll mix it up and see where I can send you. Play the game, it's not all that hard. Or don't, we don't really care.
It seems you have a great interest in putting people in their place if they ruffle your feathers. I didn't realize this was the definition of "professionalism".

I think you are doing a fine job of validating the complaints that are frequently voice here about citizens returning home and running into agents who act in similar ways that you have described.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 9:41 am
  #47  
 
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Originally Posted by maninblack View Post
On a related note, the majority of questions that we ask, we know the answer to already.
With great respect, then ... what's the point of asking those questions? If you know the answer, you're just wasting your time, as well as the passenger's time.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 10:12 am
  #48  
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Originally Posted by jkhuggins View Post
With great respect, then ... what's the point of asking those questions? If you know the answer, you're just wasting your time, as well as the passenger's time.
To confirm suspicions. To get it on record. To occasionally get a different answer.

If you get someone who is asking a ton of questions, it's likely they don't spend much time on the line, or they're new.

99% of visiting passengers have the answers I'm expecting. I don't ask USCs questions, I went over this before, there's no real reason to. Lines would move much faster if we didn't ask questions to certain people from certain countries coming on certain flights. Unfortunately that'll never happen. I don't need to ask the family of 5 going on a 6 week summer vacation to all the normal tourists places. I don't care what the father does for work. I don't need to know how long they've been saving for this trip, or what the kids learn in school.

I was doing OT recently and blew through a bunch of people without asking a question. None of them spoke English. But as an Officer, you kind of just make a judgement call as to when to ask questions, and when not to.

When I'm on the line, I routinely hear questions being asked by Officers next to me, that in the situation, make absolutely no sense, or are pointless.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 11:56 am
  #49  
 
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Single Parents Traveling with Kids

First of all, THANK YOU for starting this thread and hosting an AMA. I for one greatly appreciate it.

What is the correct way to for a divorced parent to travel outside the country with minor children? I'm asking because I've received conflicting information from CBP officers over the years:

I've traveled with a permission letter from the kids' Mom, but was told by an officer that it's meaningless because it's easily forged and that I should have a notarized letter.
I've traveled with a notarized permission letter from the kids' Mom, but was told by a different officer at a different POE that it's meaningless because notary stamps are easily forged.
If a notarized letter is not good enough, then what is?

nrg
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Old Jun 12, 19, 1:19 pm
  #50  
 
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Originally Posted by chollie View Post
(bolding mine)

You seem very quick to minimize the number of unprofessional agents and to suggest that the blame is always with tired, uncooperative pax who don't grovel. You act like anyone who gets upset is a whiner.

I think it's a lost cause, but I will try to make you see it one more time.

I read the rules. I do my absolute best to follow the rules. I am polite to the point of groveling, even on occasions when health issues have kicked in and I'm standing there gritting my teeth in pain. I admit to being intimidated by people with the absolute and virtually unchallengeable authority to make my future travels miserable.

The rules say declare every food stuff. "Foods" have been defined repeatedly, including face-to-face in GE interviews, as 'anything that goes in your mouth'.

Do you know the effect it has on someone who is exhausted, stressed, not feeling good, just trying to follow the rules to the letter, when he declares 'cookies' and the agent loudly and aggressively demands 'Why are you wasting my time with this? Get out of here"? Do you know the effect it has when the pax knows that his/her travel can be a complete hassle in the future if this agent decides to submit a report claiming the pax was showing 'attitude' by following the rules?

If I'm having a bad day and did something I would never do, took it out on a CBP agent, at worst, I have had a negative effect on one or a very few agents.

If a CBP agent is having a bad day, s/he may give wrong advice (like saying declaring cookies is wasting his time) or be abusive to dozens of pax.

If I follow the rules and am groveling and polite, there is ZERO excuse for any professional to ever trash me.

Does CBP ever find in favor of the passenger when there's a complaint about mistreatment? Does CBP keep track of complaints submitted per agent?
I don't think OP represents the sentiments, personal or otherwise, of his colleagues or chain of command and may not be differentiating with how he performs his job versus how he's been encouraged to do it.

I've seen a few CBP officers get fired over unprofessional behavior over an extended period of time and a few for actual mistreatment of people. Now, the traveler (Global Entry) that spit in the face of an agriculture officer because he was getting a $300 penalty for undeclared pork, he had a pretty bad attitude.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 1:37 pm
  #51  
 
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Originally Posted by maninblack View Post
It goes back to training, where you question everyone the same.

In theory, it goes back to the basics, of seeing how a traveler can afford this trip, and if not, what shady organization is funding it, and what are they really up to.

Occasionally this will lead to something bigger. I've seen a few USCs referred to our anti-terrorism, narco, and baggage teams based off their answers on Primary; these have led to seizures, penalties, and arrests.

And just human decency.

I generally don't ask much of USCs returning from vacation. But hey, you make my job hard, I'll mix it up and see where I can send you. Play the game, it's not all that hard. Or don't, we don't really care.

Thanks. I would suggest that CBP's training to question everyone the same is inappropriate and that US citizens shouldn't be expected to explain to law enforcement officers "what they are up to" every time they return to the USA.

I'm also quite surprised by your suggestion that "human decency" requires Americans to answer law enforcement officers who ask them personal questions as a way of fishing for evidence of criminality.

If a passenger asks a CBP officer "What's your full name, address, and date of birth" does "human decency" require the officer to answer truthfully? If a telemarketer calls a CBP officer at home during dinner and asks him how high his electric bill is, does "human decency" require that officer to answer? My guess is your answer is no.

Imagine if that telemarketer who calls you says "If you don't 'play the game' and answer me I'll 'mix it up' by repeatedly calling you and tying up your phone line for hours until you answer."

You'd probably think that telemarketer was acting like a dick.

CBP officers should stop acting like dicks when Americans don't want to answer their personal questions.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 2:40 pm
  #52  
 
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Originally Posted by Taker Park View Post
I don't think OP represents the sentiments, personal or otherwise, of his colleagues or chain of command and may not be differentiating with how he performs his job versus how he's been encouraged to do it.

I've seen a few CBP officers get fired over unprofessional behavior over an extended period of time and a few for actual mistreatment of people. Now, the traveler (Global Entry) that spit in the face of an agriculture officer because he was getting a $300 penalty for undeclared pork, he had a pretty bad attitude.
All very true and I am not defending abusive LEOs - all too many of whom bring to the job a bully-like "respect mah authoritay" attitude. But a lot of interactions with LE go bad because pax/civilians have an incorrect understanding of what to expect and how to respond in such interactions. Civilians/pax are almost never taught how to interact with LE. Civilians tend to have the idea that a LEO is supposed to act like a Ritz Carlton concierge and have an indignant "how dare that cop even have a thought that I might be a violator" attitude. Until a cop clears a situation they have no idea who they are interacting with - remember that Tim McVeigh was brought in based on an improperly displayed license plate - and so they are trained to be wary and skeptical of everyone until satisfied otherwise. That approach also significantly helps suss out violators.

One of the best books I ever bought was back in high-school, Eagen's, "A Speeder's Guide to Avoiding Tickets," because it was my first introduction to the reality of LE thinking/approach and I learned how to interact with a LEO.

If more civilians understood how to interact with LE while at the same time knowing their rights (we do a VERY piss-poor job of this) then I believe there would be a lot less bad interactions.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 3:17 pm
  #53  
 
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Hypothetical scenario:

You ask a Global Entry passenger, "do you have food?"

They say "no."

You then find a granola bar in their bag.

Do you take any action? I use a granola bar in this example because it is food, but not meat/fruit/vegetables which are explicitly spelled out on the declaration form.

Follow-up to make this question more interesting: What if it's not a granola bar, but a pack of chewing gum?
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Old Jun 12, 19, 3:22 pm
  #54  
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Originally Posted by nrgiii View Post
First of all, THANK YOU for starting this thread and hosting an AMA. I for one greatly appreciate it.

What is the correct way to for a divorced parent to travel outside the country with minor children? I'm asking because I've received conflicting information from CBP officers over the years:

I've traveled with a permission letter from the kids' Mom, but was told by an officer that it's meaningless because it's easily forged and that I should have a notarized letter.
I've traveled with a notarized permission letter from the kids' Mom, but was told by a different officer at a different POE that it's meaningless because notary stamps are easily forged.
If a notarized letter is not good enough, then what is?

nrg
It's generally not a concern for us. And it's quite frequent among certain flights and demographics. Unless there's a court order that says you can't do so, at which point, we'll refer you to local authorities.

This is more of an airline problem. We might ask for a letter, but they never lead to anything.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 3:30 pm
  #55  
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Originally Posted by davie355 View Post
Hypothetical scenario:

You ask a Global Entry passenger, "do you have food?"

They say "no."

You then find a granola bar in their bag.

Do you take any action? I use a granola bar in this example because it is food, but not meat/fruit/vegetables which are explicitly spelled out on the declaration form.

Follow-up to make this question more interesting: What if it's not a granola bar, but a pack of chewing gum?
This is where Officer discretion and passenger behavior come into play.

We go through this scenario a hundred times a day. It never leads to anything.

But if the passenger is being an extraordinary dick, and has GE, "it is recommended that GE status be revoked due to the strict nature of this program, and Mr. Smith's attitude towards Officers when confronted about undeclared items."

I tend to tell GE members to over declare, when I'm doing their initial GE interview.

Some Officers and Supervisors are out to get GE members on things like this. We get lots of older people who don't declare stuff like this, and we're not going after them.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 4:42 pm
  #56  
 
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Why are the links on the Trusted Traveller website to Global Entry dead? My Global Entry pass expired and I want to apply for another one but can't find any government site or link that will successfully lead me to an application.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 5:22 pm
  #57  
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Why does it so often seem immigration officials don't understand that imperfect English isn't an attempt to be evasive? We are usually clearing immigration at what is after midnight by our clocks and my wife learned her first word of English at age 43. When we are asked what food we are bringing if she doesn't instantly snap out a list I feel like they get suspicious. By then the official has scanned our passports, I would assume they can see she's naturalized rather than native born and based on the declared country they should see it's very late at night for us, not bright eyed and bushy tailed time.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 7:00 pm
  #58  
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Exclamation Moderator's Note

Folks,

@maninblack, a CBP officer, was kind enough to give you an opportunity to ask questions about US immigration and customs inspections and provide explanations from his side of the desk.

I have been monitoring this thread since its inception.

I have now received complaints from members that this thread deviated into yet another one debating your favorite grievances with the CBP and/or the TSA; we already have plenty of those.

From this point on, this thread will be strictly limited to questions to and answers by the CBP officer.

Several posts whose focus consisted of rants, commentary and opinion, and which did not ask @maninblack any questions were deleted.

Future posts which do not conform to this directive will be summarily deleted. Repeat offenders will be subject to discipline!

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Old Jun 12, 19, 10:36 pm
  #59  
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Exclamation Moderator's Action

At @maninblack's request this thread is closed.

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