Border Security - True Story

Posted by $ Ben_C 3 years, 11 months ago to Government
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It all started with my search for my passport. Our daughter is accepted to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. She is the youngest person to be accepted in their accelerated college level program given she is sixteen years old and entering her junior year in high school. She will be in Paris for six weeks and not a chance we will let a sixteen year old beautiful young woman alone for that time. My spouse and I will each take a three week shift to be with her. Mine is in the middle of her attendance.

Back to the passport. I searched our home and couldn’t find it. I thought I lost it and had only one week to get a new one. I found a website that could get me a new passport in a day or two. Perfect. I filled out the forms, had passport photos taken, and submitted the package to Expedited Passports and Visa Company. I though all was good until I got an error message from the company stating my application was incomplete. It is now Tuesday and I leave on Saturday. I panicked thinking I was going to run out of time. I then searched my office and found the passport in the bottom drawer in a folder labeled “Global Entry.” Whew, I thought all was good. I emailed the company declaring that I found my passport and to cancel my order. Life is good. Wrong.

The Delta ticket agent accepted my passport as did the TSA screener and I flew to Paris France. Upon arrival I was escorted to the police station for an invalid passport. Apparently when I filled out the paperwork for the passport company the “Lost or Stolen Passport” form is irreversible when submitted. The form is immediately sent to Interpol and my passport number is placed in the invalid data base. Didn’t know that. The State Department acknowledged my submission and implied that my passport would be invalid when sent a confirmation. Didn’t get the confirmation and I assumed I was good to go. Wrong again.

So at the airport I do not pass Go and do not collect $200.00 – I go straight to jail without a get out of jail card. I spent Father’s Day in the police station in the airport. I contacted my spouse that I am not allowed into France and we both tried everything possible to correct the problem. She made at least 20 calls to the US Embassy on Sunday. The on duty emergency officer, Kevin, repeated the same canned speech with the inability to think outside of the box. He showed he was not AmeriCAN but AmeriCAN'T. My spouse asked him to stop repeating the same drivel, think outside the box and MacGyver this situation. Sadly, he was either instructed not to by the powers that be or he was just incapable of this concept. He did share at the 11th hour that the Police Nationale could give the immigrant (me) a Laissez Passé but we needed to speak to a superior officer which we we're not allowed to do until 6:20....jail visitation ends at 6:30. When the opportunity happened she refused to speak to use in English and said she had no idea of what a laissez passé form was contrary to what Kevin at the embassy shared. Our friend Malek was the interpreter. FYI...Police Nationale have the sole discretion to allow passengers to go through immigration or not. While my spouse, daughter and Malek we're assisting me in forging a way to get to the embassy they witnessed the Honduran and African Embassies assist their citizens with these very types of instances IN PERSON!
So, the US Embassy was useless. I could get a new passport but I had to show up in person. The police denied me entry into France. The US Embassy stopped making “house calls” ten years ago. I learned that most other countries support their citizens with direct contact with the police to rectify these situations if at all possible. Not the USA.

Later Father’s Day I was transported to the holding facility aka “hotel”( but really jail) by three armed deputies. I was told the building was like a “hotel” but once inside it was impossible to leave without as jail break. The “hotel” was surrounded by a very high fence with surveillance cameras and armed deputies. Room 21 - my room, has two beds and a sink. I was provided two sheets, no pillow, and a towel plus toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap. The room faces the parking lots and doesn’t have blinds. Inside the room was lit up at night like daylight from the security lights. The bathrooms are down the hall. The toilets are private but do not have toilet seats. I felt sorry for the women – we all shared the toilets. I never took a shower because my checked luggage was still at the airport. Dinner consisted of a piece of fish (I think) and some sort of beans, a salad, and some sort of custard dessert. Water to drink. Yummy. I don’t think there were enough calories to support a ten year old in the dinner.
The detention center does have a support staff called “the Red Cross” that are very helpful. Not the police. The gentleman provided me direct access to my spouse on his office phone as we tried to get me into France. Remember, later that evening my spouse and daughter along with Malek who is an ex cop visited me shortly before visiting hours were over. Both tried to get the police to let me go the Embassy the next day and even talked to a supervisor. All said no. The only way I could get a passport would be to return to the USA.

Monday morning I was placed on the 10:15am flight to Detroit. The only silver lining to this black cloud is that when you are being escorted by two armed police people you go to the front of the line. Better than TSA pre check. And you are the first to board the aircraft. The trick is to hear “who is that guy? Must be someone really important.” FYI, the criminals sit in the last row, last seat on the plane. First Class, Business Class, Economy Comfort, Main Cabin, and Criminal.

While on the aircraft my spouse arrived at the US Embassy first thing Monday and finally spoke with Laura L. Biedebach Consul, and Chief of American Citizen Services
Laura stated the US Embassy has about a half dozen of these types of cases a day. Hmmmm....shouldn't that create even more evidence for the Embassy to set up some sort of on site emergency office near or at the airport to assist their US citizens they are hired to help?

Eight hours later I arrived in Detroit. I whipped through customs with my Global Entry card, surrendered my invalid passport to the immigration officer who was very supportive, and headed to the luggage area. I was told by the French police that my luggage would follow me. Apparently Delta didn’t get the memo. No luggage but off to the expedited passport office in the Federal Building. My spouse had the Consultant in Paris call the same in Detroit. The passport people were given a heads up and when I arrived I had a new passport in one hour. They were awesome. Off the charts. Five Stars. Back to the airport to catch the 6:07pm flight back to Paris.

None of this would have been possible if it hadn’t been for the extraordinary efforts by my spouse and employee – they are the best. I am a lucky guy.
At the Detroit airport I tried to get my checked luggage. The Delta rep said it was still in Paris. Really?

Another fun filled eight hours in an aircraft – this time in non-criminal seats because I paid for the return ticket. I arrived in Paris, got through immigration, waived and smiled at the police and off to find my luggage. The police gave me a weird look but then recognized me because I had the same clothes

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