Published on People Move

Over-documented, but still glimpsing fear at the border

This page in:

I have a UN Laissez Passe.  I have a German Passport.  I have a US Passport.  And, I am enrolled in the Global Entry trusted traveler program in the US.  Yet, for the second time in a row, and perhaps the third or fourth time over the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of extra screening upon exiting Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC.  I am shepherded to a separate and over-crowded room.  I show my passport and Global Entry customs declaration form.  The officer takes these from me and asks me to have a seat and wait until I am called. 

I join people from all over the world, tired from a long journey.  I glimpse the shared sentiment of those in the room, and surely repeated countless times wherever people seek to move through borders.  We are agitated, nervous, and uncertain.  At a minimum, we are worried about the hassles that lie ahead.  More anxious thoughts turn to questions like: “Do I have any food in my baggage?”  “Have I filled out all necessary forms correctly?”  “Will I be mistaken for someone else with a more sinister background?”  “Will those all important travel documents be returned to me?” 

About 45 minutes later, my turn comes.  Without any further screening of my luggage, the officer returns my papers, and shepherds me through:  “Sorry, sir.  It appears you have travelled frequently to a country of interest, so you are on a list.  You may want to contact our offices to see whether anything can be done about that.”

I do not feel very trusted.  How would people who are nationals of "countries of interest," among others, be feeling?


Christian Eigen-Zucchi

Senior Economist, Development Prospects Group, World Bank

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000