Posts Tagged ‘Customs’

A funny thing happened to me on my arrival in the US this week.

July 9, 2015

I’m a white guy who lived in America for a few years. Being a foreigner I could maybe see this issues around American racism and/or sexism a bit more clearly than Americans could (in America), or I could (in England), because I was less aware of the things people take for granted (and I was trying to work things out).

One of the more surprising things that me when I was living in the US full time was the number of times I got pulled over by the police. I think it happened maybe three (or sometimes four) times a year, every year. On one occasion I was even pulled over by the FBI, though that was understandable, I was taking a bunch of pictures of the Federal Court Building in Phoenix, AZ (which I can see might be viewed as odd), In my defence, it’s a large glass building (i.e. a greenhouse) in the hottest places in America, so in my head I was thinking “the designers of that building are crazy, the electricity bill to keep that building cool will be enormous” (which one of the FBI officers who came to check my id conceded might be true).

The discussions I had never lasted too long, though the number of stops I had might be viewed as…. excessive given I think I’ve been stopped maybe twice, if I’m generous, by the police in the whole of my the UK, and it always ended up focusing on whether I had ever been to San Antonio (one officer tells me there was a suspect with the same name there), or whether there were illegals in my car.

The other oddity I remember was being spoken to in Spanish (in banks, supermarkets, or other places I queue). It happened at least as much as the the interactions with the police, and usually at the end of summer, when I’d been in the sun a fair bit (I don’t sunbathe, I just tan real easy). I’m guessing this happened because I tanned after long times in the Texas sun, and,have dark hair and eyes, so I’m guessing I can look slightly more Hispanic on occasions. Again, they weren’t being mean about anything, it was just them telling me they spoke Spanish, before they asked me what I’d like to do.

Anyhow I said all that, to say this.,I flew into the US earlier this week, and was “invited” for interview by Customs and Boarder Protection, when I arrived at the place where they take a look at your passport. THIS DOESN’T BOTHER ME, they’ve a job to do, and though it took up 45mins of my time, I KNEW IT’D ALL BE COOL IN THE END. And it WAS cool too, the officer said, someone had been using my first and last name as an alias and they felt they had to follow it up (I’ll be honest, I was surprised that this caused me to be stopped, as my name isn’t uncommon).

What did surprise me was the number of Hispanic individuals they “invited” for interview. There were maybe 20 people who CBP had asked to talk to. One was African-American. Two were non-Hispanic whites, the rest were Hispanic. I’m assuming that that skew was just a coincidence, but I suspect it would look odd to the more naturally dubious.