| Wednesday April 16th 2014

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What happens when you refuse to answer a passport control officer’s questions


In April, Paul Karl Lukacs landed at San Francisco International Airport after visiting China, and he refused to tell the passport control officer why he was there. He reports what happened on his blog.U.S. Customs restricted area

“Why were you in China?” asked the passport control officer, a woman with the appearance and disposition of a prison matron.“None of your business,” I said.

Her eyes widened in disbelief.

“Excuse me?” she asked.

“I’m not going to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country,” I said.

This did not go over well. She asked a series of questions, such as how long I had been in China, whether I was there on personal business or commercial business, etc. I stood silently. She said that her questions were mandated by Congress and that I should complain to Congress instead of refusing to cooperate with her.

She asked me to take one of my small bags off her counter. I complied.

She picked up the phone and told someone I “was refusing to cooperate at all.” This was incorrect. I had presented her with proof of citizenship (a U.S. passport) and had moved the bag when she asked. What I was refusing to do was answer her questions.

A male Customs and Border Protection officer appeared to escort me to “Secondary.” He tried the good cop routine, cajoling me to just answer a few questions so that I could be on my way. I repeated that I refused to be interrogated as a pre-condition of re-entering my own country.

“Am I free to go?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

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