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CBP officer to citizen - "“How much does the pilot pay you…?”

CBP officer to citizen - "“How much does the pilot pay you…?”

Old Nov 10, 07, 9:51 am
  #1  
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CBP officer to citizen - "“How much does the pilot pay you…?”

I was in shock that a US Border Patrol would make inferences that I was a male prostitute rather than doing his duties of clearing me (a US Citizen) back into the country.

I have a very common name and it has a match in the CBP’s systems. I’m accustomed to the second level screening as I travel in and out of the country frequently. Most of the time this process adds about 20 minutes to my entering the country so now I know to plan accordingly. I’ve followed their recommendations to clear my name but after five years nothing has changed, no real surprise.

I arrived at IAH from a quick trip to South America with my partner of nine years who was a working pilot on the flight; we were gone for two days. This time, as well as the others I’ve traveled with him, I purchased my own ticket because I’m fortunate enough to be able to do so, and to me it is not a big price to pay to avoid going through the non-rev/pass rider nightmare. When I got to IAH I went through the now very familiar process of second level screening with the exception that when it came time to “clear” my name in front of the officer, it was immediately obvious by his tone and demeanor that this was not going to be an ordinary experience with CBP.

His first questions were ordinary, amount of time spent outside the country, had I been arrested (never), and purpose of the trip to which I answered “personal”. He wanted more clarification as to my “personal” response so I told him what I described above. He asked how often I did this and I answered “very often” and he proceeded to say “Well, I just don’t get up and go to other countries any time I please” to which I replied “I do”. His third question set the tone for the rest of the time I was there (one hour), he asked “How much does the pilot pay you for your services?” given his facial expression and tone we all knew what he was asking, the two officers sitting next to him looked at him and briefly left their posts to the room behind them. I didn’t know what to do or say, I replied that I paid my way. He demanded proof of this or else I “would not be able to leave”. I materialized his request with a boarding pass and flight confirmation. He threatened a number of times to detain me and I really wanted out of there and I was very upset so I tried to stay calm and comply with his requests. I left and gathered my thoughts and called his supervisor once I was in the cell phone lot of the airport. I explained the situation and asked him to speak to the officer, he asked me to fill out their comment card.

I’m amazed at what some of these people can get away with. If he’s treating a working, law abiding U.S. Citizen this way can you imagine how he treats our visitors? How embarrassing for us! There are other remarks he made but none of those really crossed the line as the one above. I have his name, his supervisor’s name etc. Does anyone have any advice as to how I can keep this person from doing this again to me or anyone else he feels like humiliating?

Thanks
bluetim is offline  
Old Nov 10, 07, 10:04 am
  #2  
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Just to clarify, the CBP has nothing to do with the TSA.

That aside, I have a lot of sympathy for you. The CBP is known to be abusive, and alienate a lot of visitors to the US, on top of mistreating US citizens as well.

Unfortunately there's very little you can do, because the CBP has special powers to detain you for as long as they like, without much repercussions.

You need to to take notes, and with abusive treatment, send complaints up the chain, notify your congress critter, notify the media, etc. That's the best you can hope for.

Best of luck.
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Old Nov 10, 07, 10:20 am
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Well, if your name is in the database (albeit not YOUR name), it doesn't surprise me they would do something like that.

They do it to others all the time....a mechanism to trip you up in the line of questioning.

I respect the job CBP does, because they actually are an essential government agency. And they are held much more accountable than the TSA.
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Old Nov 10, 07, 10:46 am
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Originally Posted by UALOneKPlus View Post
Just to clarify, the CBP has nothing to do with the TSA.

That aside, I have a lot of sympathy for you. The CBP is known to be abusive, and alienate a lot of visitors to the US, on top of mistreating US citizens as well.

Unfortunately there's very little you can do, because the CBP has special powers to detain you for as long as they like, without much repercussions.

You need to to take notes, and with abusive treatment, send complaints up the chain, notify your congress critter, notify the media, etc. That's the best you can hope for.

Best of luck.
I wold have asked for a supervisor on site. You have that right as a traveller applying for entry into the US. The supervisor would have taken a statement immediately or had gotten you the supervisor or Chief that was the primary responsible for taking complaints.

Both the officer and the supervisor are required to hand over their last name and badge number when requested.

Use the comment card. Or better yet write a formal letter to accompany the comment card. You can also find the port director's information on the website and lodge a complaint with his or her office.

CBP does not have limitless power and cannot detain you for long periods of time without reason.

When the officer asked "how much does he pay you?" I would have asked, "What do you mean?". Make him explain what exactly he means.
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Old Nov 10, 07, 12:18 pm
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Originally Posted by UALOneKPlus View Post
That aside, I have a lot of sympathy for you. The CBP is known to be abusive, and alienate a lot of visitors to the US, on top of mistreating US citizens as well.

Unfortunately there's very little you can do, because the CBP has special powers to detain you for as long as they like, without much repercussions.
No, they can't. As a U.S. citizen, you have a right to travel which includes the right to return to your own country. If you refuse to answer their questions (which I did on one occasion) their recourse (lacking any other evidence that would warrant more intrusive measures) is limited to inspecting your belongs.

I just told the moron I've already answered that question, so inspect my bags and get it over with.

Originally Posted by LessO2 View Post
They do it to others all the time....a mechanism to trip you up in the line of questioning.
Being a jerk day in & day out doesn't make it right, it just makes the CBP officers bigger jerks.

Originally Posted by LessO2 View Post
They do it to others all the time....a mechanism to trip you up in the line of questioning.

I respect the job CBP does, because they actually are an essential government agency. And they are held much more accountable than the TSA.
I don't. Respect is something that is earned -- CBP doesn't reach that expectation.

Tourism to the U.S. is way down as a direct result of CBP's behavior. With the dollar as weak as it is, we should be swarming with foreign tourists. It isn't happening.

Foreigners, unfortunately, have no options when it comes to CBP. Americans do, and they'd quit cooperating with this B.S. it would quickly come to a halt because CBP simply doesn't have the manpower to inspect everyone's luggage (not that I doubt they're sufficient jerks to undertake it if they could).
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Old Nov 10, 07, 12:37 pm
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What was he going to detain you for, being a kept man? (I realize this is not your situation.) For many in this country, that kind of life is the American Dream!
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Old Nov 10, 07, 2:13 pm
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Originally Posted by MikeMpls View Post
No, they can't. As a U.S. citizen, you have a right to travel which includes the right to return to your own country.
The only two countries which I know that didn't let back their own citizens back in the country sometimes was the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic. And we know what happened to both countries.
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Old Nov 10, 07, 3:42 pm
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I would have immediate asked him if he was homophobic or just suffering from one of the many mental defects that could explain such a rude and disgusting question. And I'd let him know that either way it could be spun as "gay bashing" and did he really want to come under the scruitny of the national press for acting such way to a returning US Citizen.
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Old Nov 10, 07, 6:58 pm
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Just a note that it wasn't the US Border Patrol that the OP had an issue with. The US Border Patrol is part of the CBP but not the part that inspects entries at a POE.
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Old Nov 10, 07, 7:31 pm
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A friend of mine had trouble with a CBP officer one time.

He called his US Senator as he was leaving the Customs area, and through some quick action by the Senatorial office, he met face-to-face with the lead supervisor at the airport. One more reason to carry phone numbers of elected representatives with you.
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Old Nov 10, 07, 9:01 pm
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A lot of good advice has been given here. I would suggest following the advice from Taker Park.

As a US citizen, I've had my share of hassles with secondary US Customs, primarily at DTW.

I've been asked questions demeaning questions like that, but in reference to drugs. I would always ask, "What do you mean?" or respond with a question when a blanket, open ended question like that is asked of me.

To this day I don't know why I was always flagged for secondary on every entry over a one year period of time or so, but I have a strong suspicion. Around the same time I had all the entry problems at DTW, Oakland County Michigan had accessed my credit file (and my fathers) a couple times.

When I discovered this, I put a call into the police department there. The department pulling my report was their child support division. I have a cousin in the DTW area who is a deadbeat parent and from what I understand is still revolving in and out of jail for drug charges, not paying child support, etc.

While our names are completely different, I suspect this may have had something to do with it. I made a complaint with the police department and the Oakland Co court system for accessing my credit file. I also got them to remove the inquiries. The county said it was a "clerk error" that my TU file was pulled, my father got a similar excuse. Neither of us buy the excuses.

Finally one day the US Customs secondary searches ended and I haven't had to deal with it for a few years now, knock on wood. While I have no proof, I suspect my name somehow got referenced with his in some way - or they were on a data mining mission of some type.

After all my bad experiences at DTW, I do get a bit concerned when I have to clear US Customs and Immigrations there -- but thankfully I get through very quickly now. I still try to avoid clearing US Customs & Immigrations at DTW, but when I fly NW international, it is hard to avoid DTW.
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