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Washington DC Immigration ; Is It Fair?  
User currently offlineOjas From India, joined Mar 2008, 2919 posts, RR: 24
Posted (5 years 7 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 1641 times:

Recently when I flew into Washington DC from Doha, at the immigration there was a cop shouting, US citizens and Green card holders first!!!. That is these guys were allowed to stand in line before us, and there was a simultaneous arrival of an AF flight from Paris having a nice population of Indians as well. Collectively all the Non US citizens and the line was specifically meant for Indians as I saw no European there was well, just Indians and few Arabs. It was not even a line it was like a separate enclosure. At that time I guess 17 of the 24 or 25 counters were open, but still we had to wait while all other US citizens who arrived later were allowed to go before us. Is this fair?

On the other side the Immigration officer was "normal" with a straight face, and on my departure next day, the TSA officials were so very nice and well spoken even when I had an "SSSS" on my boarding pass ( At that point I thought I'm gonna get grilled like a steak")

The point is the whole episode made me felt humiliated to the core and never had I been treated like a refugee or an illegal immigrant till date. That is the reason I share this episode with you guys.

To clarify things I do not hate or dislike the people in America, and in fact in just one week I have had so many pleasant experiences with the people around. I really feel good when I interact with the people around. They are all very wonderful people. But a lousy welcome at Washington is not going to be erased from my mind easily.

I hope I have able to convey my thoughts properly, and that there is no ire or hatred feeling being transmitted through my post.


A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep
35 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineN867DA From United States of America, joined May 2008, 985 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (5 years 7 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 1635 times:

I've always seen separate lines for US citizens and non-US citizens. I've stood in both, and its pretty hard to say which line moves faster. Sometimes the non-US citizen line is packed with people who hardly know what a visa is. And sometimes the US citizen line has a lot of people who get to the counter and start digging through the laundry in their roll-on for a passport.

I've seen that generally, if a US citizen gets in a non-US citizen line there won't be any objection (and vice-versa), but I have never heard of US citizens being allowed to cut in a general line!



A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
User currently offlineLowrider From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 3220 posts, RR: 10
Reply 2, posted (5 years 7 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 1629 times:



Quoting N867DA (Reply 1):
but I have never heard of US citizens being allowed to cut in a general line!

Nor have I, but it may be a matter of simple expediency. That is, they can process the citizens and green card holders faster, and thereby reduce the number of people in line more rapidly. A consideration if there are additional international flights arriving in the near future.



Proud OOTSK member
User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21102 posts, RR: 56
Reply 3, posted (5 years 7 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1594 times:



Quoting N867DA (Reply 1):
I've always seen separate lines for US citizens and non-US citizens.

So have I. And that's the proper way to do it. Unless you have only one person working, you should have seperate lines.

Quoting Lowrider (Reply 2):
it may be a matter of simple expediency.

Perhaps, but it still looks very bad, and as the OP said is a horrible way of welcoming someone to the country. And where does it stop? More international flights arrive, with more US citizens, and they keep going first?

Quoting Lowrider (Reply 2):
they can process the citizens and green card holders faster, and thereby reduce the number of people in line more rapidly. A consideration if there are additional international flights arriving in the near future.

With 17 counters open? I've seen immigration run smoothly with two lines with as few as 10 counters open.

Either one of two things happened: whoever was running IAD screwed up big time, or there was some situation that meant that non-US citizens couldn't be cleared, and the OP, unfortunately, got caught in it.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineLowrider From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 3220 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (5 years 7 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1572 times:



Quoting Mir (Reply 3):
Either one of two things happened: whoever was running IAD screwed up big time, or there was some situation that meant that non-US citizens couldn't be cleared, and the OP, unfortunately, got caught in it.

I could very easily believe the first one, but I was trying to think of what the simplest explanation might be.

Quoting Mir (Reply 3):
Perhaps, but it still looks very bad, and as the OP said is a horrible way of welcoming someone to the country. And where does it stop?

Sure it does, but that does not mean it was intentional or malicious. I didn't mean that they would bump US citizens ahead from an following flight, merely that they were making room in the customs area to accomodate the next flight. The US is not alone in unpleasent customs experience either. Pretty much the only time I have a pleasent experience entering any country, my own included, is when I am working, and not always then. The rest of the time I am looked at as if I have come for the express purpose of bringing down their civilization. Or at least that is the perception I get. Canada is the exception. They have always been friendly.



Proud OOTSK member
User currently offlineMisbeehavin From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 914 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (5 years 7 months 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1560 times:



Quoting Ojas (Thread starter):

I've entered the country over a hundred times through a dozen airports and have never seen anything like that. I think you got stuck in a one off situation. Doesn't make it right or excusable, but it's not the norm.

Quoting Lowrider (Reply 4):
Canada is the exception. They have always been friendly.

Canada's the worst in my experience! They've always looked at me and everyone else like we're there to steal jobs from Canadians. We even had a companywide email sent out a couple of years ago that instructed all employees travelling to Canada on business to tell immigration that we were there for a "meeting". Not "business" and not to "meet with a client".

But that's at the airports. The officials when crossing into Canada by road have always been real friendly (and pretty!).

My easiest experience has always been in France, but that's because most of the time they haven't bothered to even look at my face!


User currently offlineN867DA From United States of America, joined May 2008, 985 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (5 years 7 months 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1551 times:



Quoting Lowrider (Reply 4):
Canada is the exception. They have always been friendly

I LOVE Canadian immigration and customs. Ordering at Burger King is more complicated than dealing with Canadian immigration!

I would bet that IAD just messed up. It may even be a technical glitch...did IAD lose internet for a while?  Silly



A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
User currently offlineCPDC10-30 From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2000, 4773 posts, RR: 24
Reply 7, posted (5 years 7 months 4 days ago) and read 1503 times:



Quoting Lowrider (Reply 4):
Canada is the exception. They have always been friendly.

I've found it completely the opositte - Canadian customs constantly give me attitude and ask tons and tons of nosy questions (even though I am a Canadian citizen!). They just don't seem to understand that it is possible for a Canadian citizen to move to another country and come back to visit - and not to live! I have had to explain this every time I come to visit from the UK.

USA customs have always been very good, whether in Buffalo, Lewiston, Orlando, Toronto (pre clearance), or Detroit.

UK Customs have never asked me any questions, and they always allow my partner to use the EU line (even though he is Canadian with UK premanent residency).


User currently offlineCV990A From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 1402 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 1477 times:

The immigration hall at IAD is fairly small, and every time I've used it, the non-citizen line has been packed. A few times, the INS Agents/Cops haven't let anyone off the mobile lounge once it arrives at the building becasue the hall is simply too full. I wonder if the OP means to say non-citizens weren't allowed into the building as their line was too long, but US citizens were allowed off, as in my experience that line is almost always much shorter, and the agent at the door of the mobile lounge didn't explain why.


Kittens Give Morbo Gas
User currently offlineOjas From India, joined Mar 2008, 2919 posts, RR: 24
Reply 9, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 1451 times:



Quoting CV990A (Reply 8):
I wonder if the OP means to say non-citizens weren't allowed into the building as their line was too long,

Yes this too had happened, but I knew that the hall was packed hence we were kept in the mobile lounge.

After we entered the hall we were directed to the left hand side and then after we non US citizens formed a queue, we were kinda locked in an enclosure till all the US citizens and green card holders were given the chance to go first.



A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep
User currently offlineDougloid From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 1428 times:



Quoting Ojas (Reply 9):
Yes this too had happened, but I knew that the hall was packed hence we were kept in the mobile lounge.

Don't let it get you down.

Try and keep in mind what happened here and its connection to air travel.

As it happens if it cost you a couple hours out of your life I'd be perfectly happy to buy you lunch on behalf of my fellow yanquis.

If you ever get to Iowa look me up.


 coffee   coffee   coffee 


User currently offlineIAirAllie From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 1423 times:



Quoting Lowrider (Reply 2):
but it may be a matter of simple expediency. That is, they can process the citizens and green card holders faster, and thereby reduce the number of people in line more rapidly.

This is the reason why that happened pure and simple. It was not some sinister racist plot to make you feel unwelcome. Get over it. You yourself pointed out that the immigration hall was very crowded. It makes sense to clear out as many people in the shortest amount of time possible so that they can fit everyone in the room and not have people stranded in mobile lounges. US-Citizens are generally quicker to process as there are no visa or immigration issues.

I've gone through many times in my life as a Non-US citizen and as a US citizen I have not noticed any difference in how I am treated. I've been treated rudely as both and kindly as both.


User currently offlineOjas From India, joined Mar 2008, 2919 posts, RR: 24
Reply 12, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 1419 times:



Quoting Dougloid (Reply 10):
Don't let it get you down.

Try and keep in mind what happened here and its connection to air travel.

As it happens if it cost you a couple hours out of your life I'd be perfectly happy to buy you lunch on behalf of my fellow yanquis.

If you ever get to Iowa look me up.

I did not complain about that. If you read my opening post, it is the way we were held back as some refugees that irked me and made me feel humiliated. Not the time I lost or that I missed a connecting flight.



A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep
User currently offlineOjas From India, joined Mar 2008, 2919 posts, RR: 24
Reply 13, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 1415 times:



Quoting IAirAllie (Reply 11):
This is the reason why that happened pure and simple. It was not some sinister racist plot to make you feel unwelcome. Get over it. You yourself pointed out that the immigration hall was very crowded. It makes sense to clear out as many people in the shortest amount of time possible so that they can fit everyone in the room and not have people stranded in mobile lounges. US-Citizens are generally quicker to process as there are no visa or immigration issues.

To tell you, the US citizens and green card holders were MORE in number. Plus why did they make us wait in a separate line and let the US citizens and green card holders of the flight arriving around 15 minutes after us go before us?

Non immigrants on that particular day were less, and like everyone here pointed out having separate counters for both US and non US citizens is the best thing to do.

The hall was crowded, but it had more to do with the small hall of Dulles airport. If it cannot handle 2 wide body arrivals at the same time, it is a bad thing.



A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep
User currently offlineIAirAllie From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 1406 times:



Quoting Ojas (Reply 13):
To tell you, the US citizens and green card holders were MORE in number.

Yes they generally are.

Quoting Ojas (Reply 13):
The hall was crowded, but it had more to do with the small hall of Dulles airport.

The two above quotes only make it more obvious why this was done.

Let me try explaining more clearly.

Lets say the hall fits 500 people but you have 800 people who need to go through.

500 are US citizens the rest of the 300 are foreign nationals.

US citizens on average take under a minute to process (in my experience much less than that even). Non-resident foreign nationals take much longer.

You need to make room for 300 people who are waiting uncomfortably in mobile lounges.

The fastest way to do this to clear a large chunk of US citizens in a short period of time.

By clearing US Citizens first you decrease the wait time for the entire group at large thus decreasing the possiblity of missconnections from a larger percentage of the group.

It would be much slower and increase the mobile lounge waiting time to process on a random first come first serve basis.

In larger immigration halls this is not an issue.


User currently offlineOjas From India, joined Mar 2008, 2919 posts, RR: 24
Reply 15, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1387 times:

I take your explanation. It is convincing, this could be the way IAD organize things.


A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep
User currently offlineN1120A From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 26196 posts, RR: 76
Reply 16, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1379 times:



Quoting Lowrider (Reply 4):
Canada is the exception. They have always been friendly.

Actually, I have had more difficulty and rude treatment from Canada Customs than anywhere else in the world. After that, the UK.



Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
User currently offlineN867DA From United States of America, joined May 2008, 985 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1379 times:



Quoting IAirAllie (Reply 11):
I've gone through many times in my life as a Non-US citizen and as a US citizen I have not noticed any difference in how I am treated. I've been treated rudely as both and kindly as both.

Not always. The first time I returned to the United States after getting citizenship, the officer noticed that my passport was issued just 3 week earlier, smiled at me and said, "welcome home". What a feeling!

Your explanation has been the best one so far. I've never been through IAD's immigration but it sounds like great fun.



A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
User currently offlineIAirAllie From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1351 times:

It sure was a thrill using that US passport the first time! It's always nice to hear a welcome home after you've been overseas a while.

User currently offlineLowrider From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 3220 posts, RR: 10
Reply 19, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1351 times:



Quoting Misbeehavin (Reply 5):
Canada's the worst in my experience!



Quoting CPDC10-30 (Reply 7):
I've found it completely the opositte



Quoting N1120A (Reply 16):
I have had more difficulty and rude treatment from Canada Customs than anywhere else in the world.

You all have me stumped. I have entered through Thunder Bay, Dryden, Toronto, Hamilton, Oshwa, London, Montreal (both airports), Fredricton, Moncton, Halifax, and Gander, and have always been treated well, often better than on the return to the US. I just always try to be respectful, have the necessary paperwork in order, and generally do my part to make the process as easy as possible.



Proud OOTSK member
User currently offlineOjas From India, joined Mar 2008, 2919 posts, RR: 24
Reply 20, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 1343 times:



Quoting Lowrider (Reply 19):
I just always try to be respectful, have the necessary paperwork in order, and generally do my part to make the process as easy as possible.

because of which my immigration process took barely a minute. After that it took not more than 2 minutes to get out of the airport. I had bypassed the customs as I had nothing to declare.



A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep
User currently offlineN1120A From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 26196 posts, RR: 76
Reply 21, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 1332 times:



Quoting Lowrider (Reply 19):
I just always try to be respectful, have the necessary paperwork in order, and generally do my part to make the process as easy as possible.

By that you insinuate we were not. For my part, I have always been courteous, even speaking French to the agent at St. Armand/Phillipsburg who had me sent in with the little yellow slip for an immigration questioning with a guy who made idiotic attempts to catch me saying something contradictory ("How long you staying in Montreal?" "Only as long as it takes to drive through, I am on my way to Ottawa, remember?"). While not going to that extreme, twice at YYZ did I have extremely brusque and discourteous agents.



Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
User currently offlineFbgdavidson From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 3697 posts, RR: 28
Reply 22, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 1327 times:



Quoting Lowrider (Reply 4):
The US is not alone in unpleasent customs experience either.

I thought we were talking about immigration? The only time someone at customs has ever muttered anything more than 'OK, you're free to go' is when I was coming into the country using advance parole documents. Why customs and not immigration processed me on that I'm not sure...

Quoting CPDC10-30 (Reply 7):
UK Customs have never asked me any questions, and they always allow my partner to use the EU line (even though he is Canadian with UK premanent residency).

Customs upon entry into the UK isn't split up depending upon residencies/passport.

Quoting CV990A (Reply 8):
I wonder if the OP means to say non-citizens weren't allowed into the building as their line was too long, but US citizens were allowed off, as in my experience that line is almost always much shorter, and the agent at the door of the mobile lounge didn't explain why.

Thank you for the most logical explanation!  thumbsup  Like you I've arrived at IAD off international flights more times than I care to remember. Fortunately I pick my flights so I tend to avoid the most congested times but I have been in the immigration hall when it is full and more busses with passengers have arrived.

Quoting Ojas (Reply 13):
To tell you, the US citizens and green card holders were MORE in number. Plus why did they make us wait in a separate line and let the US citizens and green card holders of the flight arriving around 15 minutes after us go before us?

To say you were humiliated to the core is frankly ridiculous and I say grow a pair!

All airports I've flown into internationally that I can recall at this moment separate passengers for immigration purposes. It isn't some form of racism anything as absurd as you suggest it is for simple logistical purposes. As someone who has used both the visitors and US Citizens/Green card line many times they never move to accommodate more people in one line versus the other. If there's no more room in the visitors line they aren't going to start sending people through the US citizens line.

It makes sense doesn't it to call the US citizens forward from the mobile lounge if there is room to process them, then everyone wins. They're happy to get through to baggage claim faster and you have more room to sit down and wait until there is room, rather than stand in the perpetual maze of tensa barriers shuffling along.



"My first job was selling doors, door to door, that's a tough job innit" - Bill Bailey
User currently offlineLowrider From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 3220 posts, RR: 10
Reply 23, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 1308 times:



Quoting N1120A (Reply 21):
By that you insinuate we were not.

I don't know what you do. I am just stating what I do and the results I get. I have entered at various times for work and pleasure. Even when I landed carrying 6000lbs of explosive material, I was treated with a high degree of courtesy and respect. That time I expected them to be more circumspect, but they were not.



Proud OOTSK member
User currently offlineComorin From United States of America, joined May 2005, 4869 posts, RR: 16
Reply 24, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 1285 times:

Ojas,

I'm sorry that you had an uncomfortable experience with immigration. I've heard similar complaints before, and can offer some thoughts:

In your specific situation, I think the pragmatic explanation by IAirAllie makes the most sense, even though it wasn't the most tactful or welcoming thing to do. Coming from a culture where your guest is always more important than yourself, you must have felt this 'welcome' a bit of a slap in the face. Just don't take it personally, they are just civil servants trying to do their job.

I think the Indian traveler tends to have this type of hypersensitivity, be it US Immigration or flying on a Western carrier (not to lump you in this group!). As a passenger, you will be better treated if you act in a Westernized way. This, of course, implies that there is something inferior about acting like an Indian. Question is, as a fare-paying pax, should you have to adjust to them, or should they adjust to you?

The Indian traveler has also gone through the wringer trying to get a visa to visit the US - the journey starts off on a humiliating, inquisitional note before the first step. Finally, as ex-colonials, Indians will always be sensitive about how they are treated in the West. Point is, nobody in the West really cares. A friend, nominated a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study by J.R. Oppenheimer, gets no respect either when he visits...

If you look at the other side of the coin, The US has been flooded with foreigners trying to get in as immigrants. Immigrants are seen as evil people that take away jobs. The H-1 flood certainly hasn't helped. Every non-European visitor is given the eagle eye on landing.

Fortunately, I see a macho tradition at Immigartion giving way to a more professional and multi-cultured generation at JFK and EWR. It's not like they are going to greet you with leis someday, but change is in the air. The US is a great country because things are always improving!

As a US citizen myself, I would like the Department of State to apply even humanitarian standards to all visitors, regardless of nationality. CIS agents should be trained to reflect America's great tradition of customer service, and less so as hard-core cops. Hopefully these agents will someday be the best in the world, even better than the UK (My personal world standard).

Just remember that anywhere in the world, there are good and bad folks. Once you get past the gauntlet, it really is a decent country, full of generous people like Dougloid.

One final word - it takes more guts to be sensitive than to be a thick-skinned person, but when in Rome...  Smile


25 Ojas : Comorin, I agree to every word you said. I'm aware that I belong to a culture which is way different. As you know the whole process of getting a VISA
26 IAirAllie : It was somewhat implied by... and your subsequent commentary about how this "treatment" made you feel.
27 Ojas : urm yes, it can be implied like that, but I would like to clarify my intentions were not. It is just a narration of facts. The discrimination part wa
28 Comorin : Let me try and explain that too North America was built by an amazing race of people - super tough, able to survive the harshest weather in the world
29 Legacyins : More than likely, the reason for the delay was due to the US Visit system being down. For those of you not familiar, US Visit is the requirement of ha
30 SR117 : I had a similar experience at IAD a few months ago when arriving from BRU.., the number of agents asigned to US citizens was split evenly half and hal
31 Ojas : Partially convinced, but I take your word. I will inform you once I get an official reply from the airline and the reason for that.
32 IAirAllie : The airline has nothing to do with the immigration process. They aren't likely to have any answers for you as the airline very little knowledge of ho
33 Ojas : I know but fortunately when I mentioned this to my friend he suggested me to write to the airline. Having a degree of influence does help there.
34 Dougloid : I think it depends on which person you draw. My experiences with crossing into Canada at Windsor and other places have been good. People were courteo
35 Arrow : Gimmee a break! There's already enough arrogance on this continent without you stoking the flames. And benign? The history of conquest in the last 20
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