CBP: How Dare You Question Our Authority To Question You?
Sherman Oaks, California
One or two people objected strongly enough to my post yesterday about U.S. citizens’ answering questions at Passport Control to leave comments which are examples of the authoritarian mind frame of petit law enforcement.
“Typical American,” posted Anonymous at 6:09 a.m., “thinks you can just waltz back into the U.S. without any questions being asked.”
No, as my post makes clear, I am not objecting to questions which bear upon the issue of citizenship, since Customs and Border Protection officers are expressly empowered to ask such questions.
But CBP officers are operating outside their authority when they ask returning U.S. citizens about the countries they visited or other irrelevant issues.
Potentially acceptable questions: “Where did you obtain your passport?” “Where were you born?” “How old were you when this picture was taken?”
Unacceptable questions: “Why did you travel to that country?” “Who did you travel with?” “What did you do while you were in that country?” "What is your occupation?"
The second comment (which was probably made by the person who made the first comment) states that CBP officers ask questions to determine if the traveller is using a phony document. I don’t have a problem with that. But “You travel a lot. Why?” is not a question which bears on that point.
The first comment claims its author works for CBP. Both comments reveal that the writer(s) are appalled that a citizen would do anything other than meekly submit to CBP's demands.
These are the fascists, United States of America, 2007.
(Note: Before I am accused of a visual misrepresentation, the government photograph above depicts a non-citizen being electronically fingerprinted. U.S. citizens do not have to provide a fingerprint as a condition of re-entry -- yet.)