Any trouble at the border?
March 13, 2017 12:48 AM   Subscribe

Are U.S. citizens (by birth or naturalized) experiencing any difficulty with Customs at the present time? First- or second-hand experience, please, no hearsay. I am also interested in typical experiences rather than anomalies.

You are a U.S. citizens traveling internationally on business, for professional reasons, or for tourism. Your passport and other identifying documents are in order. Have you experienced any unusual difficulty recently with Customs and Border Patrol or other authorities questioning your U.S. citizenship and right to return to the USA?

I'd like to hear first or second hand stories (from you or someone you know personally) because I'm trying to ascertain whether it is in fact dangerous for US citizens to travel outside the US and return. I'm also interested in typical experiences rather than anomalies, so if any of you work in the travel industry, your views are welcome.

I am having difficulty filtering hearsay (including MeFi political discussions, where members refuse to travel internationally while Trump reigns) and Twitter rumors of US citizens (usually Muslim or Latinx) being detained.

Yet on AskMetafilter itself I see numerous members (I assume US citizens) making international travel plans blithely without apparent worries. I also assume that US citizens who must travel on business or for professional reasons are still doing so.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've done two international trips since the election, but I have global entry. Absolutely no changes.

I'm leaving in about an hour for my third of the year so I'll post back if there is any weirdness.

I expect the main impact for me will be increased Visa requirements as foreign countries reciprocate what ever stupidity trump and the boys come up with.
posted by JPD at 1:21 AM on March 13, 2017

The thing I'm keeping an eye on is the Visa waiver program for EU citizens. If that goes away exit to see US citizens needing a Visa for Europe, which will materially impact leisure travel
posted by JPD at 1:24 AM on March 13, 2017

Myself and people in my family have left and reentered multiple times with no issues. But we are white, native-born, and middle class; people I know who are immigrants or otherwise profiled as "different" are mostly choosing not to travel for the moment.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:52 AM on March 13, 2017

Just returned from the US a couple weeks ago. I'm a Mexican-American who lives in Europe.

I landed there the day the first executive order was revealed with all the chaos that ensued at airports. I returned a couple weeks later.

I usually get 'randomly pulled aside' because of my brown skin color anyways, but this has been going on for years, long preceding the Trump administration. If anything, not enough attention was paid to these issues in the past. Now, everyone seems to suddenly care more.

Given all that, nothing seemed different to me. Lots of people entering and exiting with me. Europeans on holiday, Americans doing international travel. The plane to/from London was packed as it always is. Idle chit-chat among passengers was about food, uncomfortable seats, delayed planes - nobody remarking that the border has changed in any way.
I have another trip planned to the US, probably in May.

That there are new egregious incidents doesn't generally mean you - a random person - will be affected. People want to highlight egregious incidents because they are egregious so it might suddenly feel as if everybody is being stopped and searched at the border.
posted by vacapinta at 3:04 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

US citizen by birth (not white) and married to a naturalized US citizen. Absolutely no change for either of us getting back from a trip to India a few weeks ago.
posted by pravit at 3:11 AM on March 13, 2017

I work in satellite office of US company. My colleagues have not curtailed their travel plans, they routinely enter and exit without issue under all sorts of passports.

We have an all company meeting coming where they fly in everyone from around the world. This is proceeding as scheduled.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:18 AM on March 13, 2017

Reentry at JFK last week, flight only half full (but that is not unusual as most pax disembark at the layover in Frankfurt). No issue at either immigration (via kiosk) or customs. Only question was "how long have you been away?" US citizen, boring white person.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:35 AM on March 13, 2017

Second hand story time: I was at a concert and one of the performers, a musician and elementary school teacher reported that he had just come back from Canada (pretty sure by car.) He said they looked at his phone and asked him he was gay. We were all flabbergasted by this. I don't know this guy at all so I can't vouch for his story, but he seemed pretty shaken up and I believed him. He looks like a white, early 20s, indie-rocker kind of dude. Speaks French, too, but not sure if that had any role in how he was questioned.
posted by prewar lemonade at 4:42 AM on March 13, 2017

Would verified news reports count as secondhand and help offset some of the Twitter rumors?

US-born NASA scientist detained for hours

Also US-born Muhammad Ali Jr. was detained not once, but twice since the ban

There are reports of Muslim US citizens getting their CBP Global Entry cards revoked or having applications otherwise suddenly denied
posted by lesser weasel at 4:58 AM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I (a white male citizen) am regularly detained for secondary screening and interrogation upon entry. I have never been charged with any crime worse than driving without a license, but was involved in a civil action that CBP apparently takes a keen interest in for reasons I cannot fathom. I am asked about my activities, travel locations, internal (US) destination, residence information, and a host of other questions. When I resist at all, I am threatened with continued detention, and have once been threatened with denial to board a flight home (from Montreal). I have not yet been threatened with refusal of entry but I suspect that if I ever refused to submit to interrogation, that I may well be.

It is a point of regular stress and weighs heavily on my decisions to leave the country.

Edit to add: the recently emboldened CBP has me doubting I am likely to cross the US border in the foreseeable future.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:18 AM on March 13, 2017

Mod note: Just as a quick general note: OP is not asking for "what are the worst stories," but what is traveling out of the country currently typically like for US citizens (your personal experience, or close friends or family), in terms of questioning your U.S. citizenship and right to return to the USA? Having talked with OP, I can say that this isn't about collecting information for some political argument, but a personal concern, if this helps to understand the question.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:50 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Went to Cuba last month and customs just waved us through on return.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:03 AM on March 13, 2017

My white, baby boomer, US citizen parents just went and returned from Mexico with no abnormal delays or problems. They vacation in Mexico a lot so I don't know if that made any difference.
posted by AFABulous at 7:19 AM on March 13, 2017

My parents just went on a ten day trip through Israel and Palestine, including meeting with "peace activists" in both countries and traveling with a mixed group of Christians, Muslims, and Jews from their interfaith council. No one had any issues going or coming back.
posted by meinvt at 8:02 AM on March 13, 2017

White US citizen. Went to Canada twice last month (once by plane and once by car, once for work, once for fun) and answered the routine questions (which did include where I lived and where I was staying) both times. No issues.
posted by jessamyn at 8:41 AM on March 13, 2017

Left the democracy on 1-8 for Japan, returned to the dictatorship on 2-4. Both without incident.

My health insurance requires that I buy a 3 month supply of my prescription from expressscripts and I had read that Japan requires a form for those of more than 30 days. My pcp was on vacation and wasn't able to fill it out.I left the refill with my father and took what I had left every 2 days.

My bags weren't checked at Haneda; all that happened were the mandatory fingerprints and passport stamp.
posted by brujita at 9:55 AM on March 13, 2017

White female, US citizen from birth, from Boston to London and back again in mid-Feburary, traveling with white male US-born citizen husband. No issues at all; was surprised to find that US entry in Boston is very automated, we had to scan passports in a terminal and confirm basic data, machine then took photos of each person in the group, printed out a "receipt" which we then handed to a human (kind of like getting your boarding pass checked at security) and passed through without actually conversing with a human.
posted by aimedwander at 11:00 AM on March 13, 2017

I'm a white female dual US-Canadian citizen (US by birth, Canadian resident) with Global Entry. Last week I flew into and out of the States and had no issues or even questions from CBP.
posted by some chick at 11:40 AM on March 13, 2017

Returned from Costa Rica at LAX this past weekend.

I'm a South Asian green card holder born in the UAE and I was traveling with my US-born husband and son. We were in different lines, and I went through the usual song and dance of being pulled into a room and waiting there for an hour or so while they did whatever they do before letting me leave.

Initially my husband and toddler were pulled aside with me when I told the immigration officer they were with me. When I walked into the room, they let them come with me but didn't ask for any of his documents or ID, but did look at my son's birth certificate.

It didn't look as if any US citizens were being hassled, and certainly my husband was only brought in because we were traveling as a family... and I think overall that's a positive thing, if being detained is at all positive in any way.
posted by Everydayville at 11:57 AM on March 13, 2017

My husband and I took a car trip from the US to Canada in February, and had no issues with border patrol coming back into the US. It was exactly the same for us as it was on previous trips during the Obama administration.

Demographic details for context:

I'm a US citizen by birth, mixed-race. I pass as white for some people; others guess (incorrectly) that I'm Middle Eastern or Mexican. My husband is a US citizen by birth as well, and unambiguously white.
posted by creepygirl at 12:22 PM on March 13, 2017

I personally haven't left the country since the inauguration (although I am going overseas in a couple of weeks), however I work in an office full of frequent international business travelers. None of my colleagues (all US Citizens, most caucasian, all based in the DC area so they usually go through customs at IAD) have reported issues re-entering the country lately.
posted by photo guy at 12:37 PM on March 13, 2017

My coworker just returned to work today! He's a young man who, along with the rest of his family, spent the last month in Iran seeing to his father's estate there.

Coworker is actually born American, his mother and extended family are naturalized.

They traveled to Germany on their American passports, and then used their Iranian passports to get to Tehran.

The only hitch they had was boarding the plane in Germany back to the US. Iranians and another nationality, which I can't remember at this moment, were taken aside and asked extensive questions about their visit and their return. (as far as their US passports showed, they'd been in Germany the whole time.)

According to my coworker, all the vetting was done prior to boarding the plane. When they landed in the US they breezed right through customs.
posted by ezust at 4:51 PM on March 13, 2017

At bit different from your question but: I was the Otay Mesa US/Mexico border crossing last week and dozens and dozens of (presumably) Mexican citizens came into the US through the pedestrian bridge during the hour I was at the SENTRI office doing my interview.

Also, my ex-inlaws are naturalized US citizens of Mexican birth, and they recently drove back into the US at the San Ysidro crossing with no issues.
posted by sideshow at 12:34 PM on March 14, 2017

As I write this, I am sitting in a bar in ATL, near the gate for my connecting domestic flight, having just returned from 10 days in Europe. Immigration and Customs was completely unremarkable, and if anything faster than I've ever gotten through it before. I didn't observe anyone else treated unusually. I am a white, middle-aged, middle class, cis male native-born US citizen traveling alone.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:26 PM on March 14, 2017

Last week I returned from Korea and went through customs at DTW . The process was pretty frictionless although without understanding what was going on it might have looked problematic. I'm white and a U.S. citizen, my spouse is Asian and has a greencard. Since we're married and living in the same household INS wants us to stay together, which meant I joined her in the queue for non-US citizens. That's non-obvious but as long as we kept asking questions we didn't encounter any obstacles. Everybody was chill, we didn't face any bag inspections, and the entry interview was as hands-off and circumspect as either of us had experienced.
posted by ardgedee at 10:45 AM on April 10, 2017

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