U.S. Immigration agents gone wild in Minneapolis

Looks like the men’s restroom isn’t the only place where things are a little out of control at the Minneapolis airport. The U.S. Immigration agents at MSP are also taking a walk on the wild side, in a manner of speaking.

That’s the contention of one frequent flier who contacted me yesterday in the hopes of solving a mystery.

Before getting to his story, it should go without saying that Immigration agents don’t have an easy job. They determine if you can enter the United States or not, and if they happen to let another 9/11 terrorist into the country, let’s just say that could be a career-limiting move.

So they ask tough questions. They have to. But when do those questions – and their treatment of the passengers being processed – cross the line and violate your civil liberties and right to privacy?

Stephen Doggette, an IT manager from Dayton, Ohio, raises these issues in his account of dealing with the MSP officers earlier this week:

Yesterday as I returned from an overseas trip to Hong Kong (where I have been many times), I cleared immigration at Minneapolis-St. Paul. I received what I felt to be an aggressive and accusatory questioning that resulted in me being sent to the “red” line for further interrogation. My form had been marked with a red “B” upon my initial screening. When asked, nobody would explain tome what that red “B” meant.

I was told that it meant I had to stand in the red line and, upon further questioning, was told that I did not need to know what a red “B” indicated. I was asked what I believed to be irrelevant and outright intrusive questions, including my current salary.

I would like to understand my current “status” and results after this questioning. Over the last several years I have logged between 75,000 to 100,000 miles per year and am no novice to travel. To whom can I explain my version of the situation and file a complaint? Thank you for any help or direction you can provide.

The short answer is: the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services doesn’t accept e-mails from its site. You have to call (800) 375-5283 with a complaint. But I did a little more digging, and found an e-mail address — USCIS-COMPLAINT@DHS.GOV — that might work.

The more interesting question, to me, is: Why would they send Doggette to the red line? I asked him if he had anything to declare (that’s what the red line is for) and he didn’t.

Also, why would you ask a U.S. citizen for his salary? What does that have to do with anyone’s immigration status?

More importantly, what does a red “B” stand for? Is this the equivalent of the dreaded “SSSSS” that directs the TSA to give someone additional screening – or something else?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Chip Council

    What I have read on this site is a disgrace to the United States and to the hard working people of Homeland Security. I cross the border frequently and have never had these kinds of problems. However, I have heard they occur despite the fact that most CBP agents are good people (although they do not always treat everyone like they are in a 5 star restaurant). Anyone who goes through any port of entry, especially if they are a foreign national visiting a loved one, should read this before coming.  It could prevent a lot of the sad circumstances I have read about. I hope this helps some people.

  • I had a similar expeience with customs years ago when coming back form my sisters wedding in Jamaca. Telling the agent i went to jamaca was never enough! I could not remember the exact number of my flight without looking at the ticket, and that was a BIG PROBLEM! I told them many times where i had been but i was stiill questioned again and again. There was one other black man on there too and NO whites at all. Long story short I lost my lunch i planed to eat on the Plane.

  • Nitin

    Has anyone experienced rude behavior of the custom officer at MSP airport especially to Indians? What I have heard is that since there are very few Indians traveling to MSP the officers are misbehaving with the Indian family’s and the stuff which is allowed in Newark and Chicago airports are been rejected and thrown away at MSP airport and moreover to that they do fine of about 300 USD, never understood the difference of behaviors in US itself at different airports, does any one have such experience?

  • Lee

    My wife and kids just had a huge problem there as well. She was bringing her kids back on a tourist visa and she is a legal resident here. They were denied entry and sent back to Indonesia. The really bad part is they would not let her talk to me until she was on the plane and only got 2 mins to talk to her. I could not get any information about anything. I couldn’t even get the flight information to send back to her family so someone could be at the airport to get her when they got there. I think that these agents and the whole system needs to be completely reworked. If their was something wrong they could done something besides making them sit there for 6 hours and then put them on a plane back. Maybe if they would talk with people a bit more and find out what the situation is this would not happen anymore. The least they could do is let them talk to someone to see what is the best way for things to be handled. This is a huge finical setback for us and all they do is say oh well sorry about your luck. This issue is far from over and the main point I would like to make everyone wants to point a finger at someone else but nobody is willing to tell you how to do the correct thing they just push you off to someone else. I think these agents need to be changed into parking lot attendants so they can learn some respect and manors in how to respond to this type of issue in a professional manor instead putting off on someone else. The last time I called they hung up on me.

  • FEDUP Flyer

    Minneapolis immigration sucks! I’m a frequent flyer logging 50-75k miles annually. I don’t like being barked at like some subordinate private in boot camp; nor restricted from using my phone while waiting in innappropriately long lines. Singapore has all their immigration lanes open at 2:00 AM, yet Minneapolis has theirs half shut down at noon? Give me a break and another port of entry. I’ll take San Diego, LAX over Minneapolis. My new route home. What’s the deal with the phones? We’ve been on an 11 hour flight, need to make arrangements to get picked up and have been secruity screened up to three times already. Gimme a break

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