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8 January, 2004

It's not just what, but how it's done

A second point is that for those with or without visas, the fingerprinting and photography is 'a few seconds' added onto an already unpleasant experience.
I must stress I don't have personal experience, but  it's worth mentioning that Immigration officers at the main entry points into the USA have a strong reputation for being infamously rude and aggressive.  From the comments on the BBC article:

"...treat you like a criminal... immigration staff seem highly trained to be rude as possible... so rude that you wouldn't want to come back."
If one accepts the necessity and legitimacy of what they do, there remains the question of the way they go about it. Other countries are equally stringent, but manage it with courtesy; there's absolutely no need to be confrontational in making reasonable enquiries. As a Canadian commentator on the BBC article said:

"Where the US can make improvements is in how these procedures are carried out. An aggressive attitude on the part of US customs officers is neither necessary or constructive. I contrast this with Swiss officials who were always unfailingly polite while they frisked me and went through my luggage with a magnifying glass. It's not what US officials do, as much as how they do it, that annoys visitors."

Another, from a frequent UK visitor to the USA:

"If anyone clears Immigration in less than an hour they are doing well. I am white, British, born and raised in the U.K. of British parents and hold a British passport. However, I have worked in Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen and Egypt and because of this have been pulled aside for more questioning on several occasions. The people doing the questioning are invariably aggressive and arrogant. You are presumed guilty and are treated in a way that would get a US criminal set free if the police had treated him the same way. I am flying into the US this Friday and dreading the reception I am going to get. Those who advocate this treatment have obviously never been on the receiving end. The average American has no idea how arrivals are treated in the name of security and are invariably shocked when I tell them."

And to finish, one from a US citizen:

"I am saddened at the steps my government is taking in the name of national security. This, like most of the 'anti-terrorist' measures enacted by the Bush administration, will do little to protect our national security and will further alienate us from the global community. We are no longer the land of the free when people are presumed guilty until proven otherwise. Fingerprinting is one more way to let foreign visitors to our country know that they are not Americans and therefore suspect. If enough Americans are treated this way when they are abroad, maybe we will finally hear some outcry against our ever-narrowing definition of freedom. If our principles of freedom, justice and equality end at our borders, how sincere is our belief in them?"

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