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CBP Interview Returning From Turkey

My clean cut 22 year old son and I recently went on the RS Turkey tour. We had a great time. I knew about the extra security at the Istanbul international airport. One goes through a TSA like security line TWICE before getting to your gate. At the gate is another passport check and a bag check. My bags were perfunctorily looked at by the agents but my son's bag was thoroughly checked, every zipper unzipped, every pocket examined. (Thank goodness for packing cubes). We had several bags of tea and spices in his luggage that made it through the x-rays without notice, but they got a lot of attention at the gate. Originally, I thought we were going to lose the tea and spices, but the supervisor came over and allowed all but one which was a mix to add to yogurt. (It was white, what in the he** was I thinking?) He kindly explained that he had to confiscate that but sent us on with the rest.

We landed in Chicago a grueling 12 hours later. We used the kiosks that scan your passports. My son's receipt was printed with a big "X" on it. I thought it was because of the tea and spices (we did declare plant products). We went through the first line and spoke with the customs border protection officer. Very little was said, but we were met by another officer at that point and taken to a side area. The officer said that we needed to speak to another officer. He reassuringly (?) told us not to be worried, everything would be OK. I was tired and confused and was thinking this was a lot to go through because of some spice. My son and I were separated and he was interviewed by yet another CBP officer. He was asked why he went to Turkey. He was asked how many other countries he visited. What cities in Turkey did he visit? Did he go to any other countries? Did he go to Syria? Some other questions. Did he go to Syria? How close to Syria did he get? The interview was about ten minutes or so. The officer didn't care at all about the spices.

My conclusion is that he was profiled as a risky candidate for domestic terrorism, which I am completely OK with.
Has anyone else gone through this extra interview process? If so, where were you traveling from?

Posted by
6411 posts

My clean cut 22 year old son

What does this suppose to mean?

Aside from that the fact is there have been some suburban kids of all class and creeds flying there radicalize (from watching youtube) joining ISIS. And the CBP is only doing their jobs it is nothing personal.

Has anyone else gone through this extra interview process? If so, where were you traveling from?

Yep I was coming from Mexico via Houston, but I was wearing a sweat shirt that said Cuba on it.

Posted by
691 posts

Sorry Jazz, you misinterpreted my post.
The reason I posted clean cut is that my son resembles most of the recent domestic terrorists: caucasian, 20ish and short haircut.
Neither one of us took it personally.
We both agreed that they were doing their jobs and doing it with efficiency and kindness.
I just have never seen anyone describe anything like this and I was curious how often it happens.

Posted by
6411 posts

Sorry I misunderstood you. And I have gone through the process in Houston coming from Mexico wearing a sweatshirt that had Cuba written on it.

Posted by
8906 posts

I encountered something similar last year when crossing the border from Hong Kong into China at the border visa office. Going through the pages of my passport they didn't like the Turkish stamp in my passport from a trip 5+ years previous. At first the she refused to issue me the Schenzen area visa, but when I pointed out the I had already been issued several regular visas for other trips into China, she reluctantly changed her mind.
With all the Isis activity from that part of the world their concerns were justified. At the end of the day it wasn't a big deal; it's their job.

Posted by
691 posts

My son doesn't, but I have a Cuba stamp in my passport. A Swedish immigration officer did ask me briefly about that as it was a new passport and Cuba was the only stamp.
I think we were too tired to be upset in the moment. Now it is just part of his travel story.
At no time did he feel he was in danger or that he was being treated unfairly.

Posted by
4806 posts

It is very likely that your son was "profiled", but mainly due to his age, and maybe because he was "military" looking with the short hair, maybe he looked like he just shaved his head and beard, who knows. The profiling likely was initiated by Turkish authorities, that could be because of the luggage search, and they reported the activity to CBP. CBP reviews manifest lists for incoming planes, runs checks on individuals, as well as reports from authorities at the departing airport. The fact that an X was printed out on his receipt indicates either something triggered interest by CBP ahead of time, aside from just looks, or it was random.

I will give your Son the benefit of the doubt and assume there is nothing in his background that raises questions. I would just chalk it up to precautions, probably will not be an ongoing concern...unless your Son plans to return to Turkey next month for another "vacation".