Border Security: America’s Front Line – Season 1, Episode 7

At JFK a traveler from the Dominican Republic was questioned about his “criminal history.” During secondary inspection, inspecting officers learned that he “got picked up by DEA” the last time he was in the US. According to the traveler, they let him go after two hours. The officer then looks at the camera and says “If he’s been convicted of anything… he’s not admissible.”

When the show returns to this segment, the narrator points out that “if the traveler was convicted he may be on the next flight home.” Next, we see more footage of secondary inspection, including a search of his bag. Then, after a phone call with DEA, the inspecting officer again looks in to the camera and says

He has no warrants, I don’t see no convictions. He’s admissible so he’s going to be let into the United States. We didn’t find anything derogatory when it comes to the narcotics side of it, or the immigration side.

And that’s it. The entire segment lasts maybe 5 minutes.

At least two critically important factors are not revealed to the viewer in this segment. First, conviction of a drug-related offense is not necessary for a finding of inadmissibility.

…any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of

a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)), is inadmissible.

Second, the questioning probably lasted several hours and focused on trying to get the traveler to admit to violating the Controlled Substances Act. A memo from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center instructs immigration officers to always question in a confident, presumptive manner.

For example, an officer encounters an alien with an arrest for cocaine possession but no conviction. He should not ask: “Have you ever knowingly possessed a controlled substance?” Rather, he should assert: “I see you’ve been involved with cocaine. Are you still dealing drugs?” When confronted with the very serious offense of trafficking in cocaine, many criminal drug users will immediately deny this offense while equivocating on the lesser offense of cocaine possession.

As a result of admitting to cocaine possession, this hypothetical traveler would be inadmissible to the United States.

None of these investigative techniques were shown, or even mentioned on TV. It’s not clear whether this program makes any deliberate attempt to mislead, but key omissions have been noted here before. Innocent travelers, of course, may fall for the same investigative tricks quoted above. By preparing to address this type of questioning, travelers can avoid an incorrect finding of inadmissibility.

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