I stood silently as the customs official swiped my passport through the card reader at his station. He swiped it again then lifted his head and stared at me judgmentally. Turning to his terminal, he began typing frantically. “Is something wrong?” I asked, knowing that something indeed was wrong. “Is it the magnetic strip?”
“No,” he stated tersely. “The computer has flagged you as a sex offender.” He called out something like, “I need an assist,” and a rather large agent quickly approached. “Sir, you need to go to secondary. Follow me.” I did. His imposing size left few options. Plus, where was I to go?
As we walked to a room off the main inspection area — “secondary,” I assumed — I saw a Latino man, perhaps Mexican, tackled to the floor by two or three other agents. I watched as a pair of legs and arms struggled beneath blue jackets. I believe “runner” was the term bantered about.
I should probably make clear at this point that I am not a sex offender. I have never been accused of, tried for, plead to, or convicted of any criminal offense (a few speeding tickets aside), much less a sex offense. What, then, was happening? Perhaps I would find out in the small backroom called “secondary,” a room littered with occupied, plastic chairs, fluorescent lamps and flanked at one end by a raised platform, a dais, manned by several agents, each either flipping through a file; typing, eyes fixed on a terminal; or phone in hand, on hold, waiting to speak with some unseen, unnamed superior, whose word was likely final. In the back, I noticed two other rooms, interview rooms, with their doors cracked. A crying woman sat in one. In the other, an agent walked past the door before pushing it closed. Full Article