Border Security in the Airport
by Chuck Donovan
Imagine this. You have just completed over 18 hours of work. You are tired, uncomfortable, and badly jet lagged. You show up in the United States, a legal, productive, tax paying, law-abiding citizen, wearing a uniform, carrying a Passport, drivers license, corporate ID, Federally issued licenses for flying and radio operation, and certification for a recent medical exam that included a real-time data link of your heartbeat to the Federal Aviation Administration. In your hand is a government form you signed, stating where you have been and what you purchased overseas and are now bringing into the United States. The form has a serial number that Federal employees actually track. Fill out the form incorrectly and someone from The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will confront you. Your employer of the past two decades has electronically forwarded full personal information on you and your crew, along with a full passenger manifest for the flight you just commanded through international airspace across multiple national borders. The government has had the manifest in their system for hours. They still want a paper copy before they allow the first crewmember from each flight to pass through. Forget that copy and you will have wait in line even longer.
With all of this you arrive at the “border” of the United States of America. In an expansive room with hundreds of people waiting to enter, all carrying paperwork and passports, all with their names on the aforementioned passenger manifest, and all of them tired from a long flight, you stand in line and wait. Sometimes the wait is just a few minutes. Sometimes you stand in line for more than an hour. Maybe you are a flight attendant who has already spent hours on your feet. Maybe you have a flight to catch or someone to meet. It doesn’t matter. You never know how long it is going to be.
Oh, and you may not use your cell phone.
Immigrations considers it a privilege for arriving working crews to have a designated line just for them. They have stated they may soon put you in the line with the rest of the arriving passengers who usually have to wait even longer than you do.
Once in a while your luck fails and you find yourself in line behind a full crew from a recently arrived foreign airline, up to 20 uniformed people. Each one of them also carrys layers of government issued identification, and are properly manifested. They may have entered the U.S. many times before. It doesn’t matter. Each one of them gets carefully documented, photographed, and fingerprinted. When it is finally your turn, if you are lucky, you get a smile and a pleasant word from one of many, many armed, uniformed officers. Then you get questioned. Always your passport is run through a computer. Typically your paperwork is handed back to you as the next crewperson in line gets a terse, “Next!”
Then it’s off to Customs and Agriculture where you could have your bags searched for contraband and maybe you are fined (pay a “duty”), for entering with more than your Federally allotted purchases from overseas. Forgot to take that apple out of your handbag. That will be $100 plus fine, thank you very little. Brought something you didn’t know you weren’t supposed to carry into the USA. That will be another fine. You brought the same thing in last week? Yes, but that was when you returned from Brazil, you are now arriving from Nigeria and “we” don’t allow the Nigerian version. That will be another fine.
You are not done yet.
If you are taking a flight home you still might have to go through security. All of the foreign aircrew on their way to a hotel in your home city must go through every time too. Get in line; shoes off; belt off; jacket off; hat off; watch off; pen out of your pocket; laptop or iPad out; suitcases into the machine, nothing in the bag with more than 100ml of fluid or paste; arms out; bag swabbed for explosives; have a nice day – after your 16 hour flight and your wait in lines at Immigrations and Customs.
All through the process you are among large groups of people also trying to make it through. Many of them are frantic to make connecting flights.
You do this every time you go to work.
You are not being paid during this process. Flight crew pay ended when you stopped the aircraft and the door opened.
You still have to wait outside for a randomly arriving bus to take you to the other side of the airport where you have to find the freezing cold or scolding hot car you left behind as long as a week ago. Then you drive home. …on the safe and efficiently run government roads…
Oh, by the way, along with most of my fellow crewmembers, I have been E-Verified. That means that even more tax dollars and Federal resources have gone into checking me.
This is what we call immigrations, customs, and border security. This is how we deploy the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement assets we taxpayers have spent so much money to develop.
Meanwhile, illegal aliens come rushing in across our border from all directions and collect taxpayer funded entitlements.
Can we do better than this?
Why are we so afraid of freedom?