Trouble in Miami...

Miami Travel Blog

 › entry 10 of 12 › view all entries

Where do I begin... what a nightmare! 

So, we touch down in Miami, and head to customs, and get in line.  I see Brendan and Jon for a second and we say that we'll see each other and say goodbye on the other side.  Cool. 

So, I get to the front of the line, and guy flips through my passport for like 5 minutes, then says, "Where were you born?"

OK weird, ... "Hayward, California".

"..and where were your parents born?", he says.   I'm thinking, where the hell is this going???  great...

"Jordan and Syria". 

--- PAUSE ---   

Then:  "One moment", and he takes off, walks over to someone, talks to him while pointing at me, and then at my passport.

[I AM PISSED]  The look on my face at this point is one of confusion, anger, annoyance - I look back at Brendan and Jon, and shrug a big "WTF?"  They give me the same look back, pass through customs without a hitch, and I shrug again.  The guy comes back and says:

"I'm sorry sir, I cannot process you here".

"WHAT?  What do yo mean you can't process me here??"

"I'm sorry sir - "

"No, tell me why you can't process me here!!"

"The man over there will tell you that, go with him"

By this time, I am creating A SCENE.

"I am a US CITIZEN!!!  I was born HERE - why can't you let me in to my OWN country!?!"

I am practically yelling, and seething with anger.  OMG i am ANGRY.  I slammed my hand down on the table while saying that, and then realized there was nothing else I could do but go with the other guy.  I don't know if I've ever been this truly angry before!  I'm being detained in my own country!  Now, let me be clear, I've been detained in MANY other countries on my travels, and while annoying, it's acceptable to a degree - but MY country??  I AM A CITIZEN!?!?

What made the whole ordeal worse for me was that after any trip abroad, I always look forward to going through customs, because EVERY TIME I go through, the customs officer, or passport control person would look at my passport and say, EVERY TIME, "Welcome Home".  And I smile and get warm fuzzies - how nice to hear that after being away for so long, that "welcome home".  So, of course, expecting a heartfelt "welcome home" - instead I get an "I'm sorry sir, I cannot process you here" ????  ARRGHHHH the anger and frustration and disappointment can't be expressed in mere words!!!  (but I have no pictures!!!  haha)

So I'm taken to a 'holding room' - a carpeted jail cell with seats in it as far as I'm concerned.. and told to wait for my name to be called.  I end up waiting for an hour and a half until they finally call me up there.  I proceed to be interrogated hardcore - asked everything from my income to my sister's occupation, my parents and family's names, my reasons for traveling, etc.  I was extremely defensive, but the guy was being nice so I softened up a bit.  Eventually, I asked him to honestly tell me why they detained me:

"With all the stamps in your passport at your age, it looks suspicious - it gives us a red flag"

"So next time I travel, I should get a new passport so this doesn't happen again?"

"No, you should be proud of all your travels".

OMG really?  Did he just say that to me?  This is crazy.  Yeah, I AM proud, thank you - but if it's gonna get me stopped and detained every time I come back home, that's not cool!  I told the guy that it had to do with my name, and the fact that my parents were born in Syria and Jordan.  He didn't respond to that - I assume they're trained to not deliberately bring race, religion, or any type of discrimination into it at all.

I obviously have now missed my flight, so I asked the officer if he could give me some kind of official note, saying that I was detained at customs at the airport.  "No, sorry sir, we don't do that" was his reply.  Uh why not??  So finally, he lets me go, I go through customs and then to the airline counter to see what to do.  They put me on the next flight to San Diego in the morning.  Two problems:

1.  Why am I going to San Diego?  I've already missed my INTERVIEW by the time I get there!!!  I want to go HOME to San Jose.  Sorry sir, we can't reroute you - muse be the same destination - GREAT.  So anyway, OK, I have to stay the night in Miami.

2.  You're gonna pay for my hotel right?  No sir, we have no control over what border control/customs does (basically, it's not their fault.)  So I have to pay for this horrible inconvenience out of my own pocket???  NICE.   Thanks USA, welcome home huh? 

So I take my voucher, grab some food, and catch a shuttle to Miami hotel.  Once my phone gets recharged, I call home and work, and tell them what happened to me.  I felt so bad about missing the interview.  Paul was cool though, and he understood.  So I'll at least be home to San Jose in time to drive down to the meeting in Gilroy I have in the afternoon.  UGH... what a day.  Hopefully tomorrow is better...  ?

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photo by: ellieperla