I’m a naturalized USC, born in Syria (I know!!) moved to the US as a teen in the 90s. My parents, siblings, uncles and aunts all live here. I lived most of my life in this country and naturally it feels home to me more than any other place. However, recent events are making me wonder if the US government truly considers us (naturalized citizens) US Citizens or do they in fact still see us as foreigners!
I have been traveling for leisure & work for more than 10 years, and I have never had a single incident with TSA or immigration. In the past 5 years alone, I accumulated 1.2 million miles mostly traveling internationally. I have (had) GE, TSA Pre, Clear, and DHS Trip/Redress number. I have zero criminal records and zero incident at airports. My Global Entry was slated to expire in June, so in April I applied for the renewal.
On May 23rd I took the inaugural flight from Tampa to Amsterdam and returned on Sunday the 26th. This is a trip that I booked as soon as the route was made available for booking. I was super excited that TPA will have a direct SkyTeam route to Europe.
My major mistake was perhaps returning from AMS directly into a small airport like Tampa international Airport. Upon arrival, an immigration officer who seemed to be looking for me, pulled me out of the GE line, took me to the back, searched my bags, asked me few questions, made me wait a bit while he made some calls and then I was on my way. All in all, very understandable and I attributed that to the fact that TPA is a small airport and they saw a “strange” name and wanted to “check things out”.
In retrospect, the officer seemed a little surprised that I had GE when he pulled me out of the line, he asked me twice if I had GE and I didn’t think much of it at the time. However, less than a week later and while checking on the status of my GE renewal, I was surprised to find that my current status was revoked. A notification was posted stating that I’m no longer eligible for GE. No further explanation was provided. At first, it did hurt and sadden me and what frustrated me more is that instead of denying my renewal application or calling me in for an interview, they decided to revoke my current status. On the same day, I wrote letters to the Enrollment Center that sent out the revocation letter, the CBP Ombudsman, and contacted my Congress representative. I’m not too hopeful and not expecting much to be honest since the system seems to be biased against those with similar backgrounds.
Yet, to me this seems to be unfair and borderline institutionalized racism. To be blunt, if I was of a different ethnicity, this would not have happened to me. Plain and simple! They are judging me based on my background which I have zero control over rather than my actions, behavior, and contributions.
If this isn’t racism and discrimination by the system, then it’s abuse of power by officers and resembles policies and behaviors of 3rd world countries, which is not only sad but a frighting thought that this country is heading in that direction.
Moreover, with all the security agencies that monitors everything we do, eat, think, and write, they know everything about every single one of us. If there was a problem or concern of some sort, then deal with it out of the airport. Arrest or investigate those you have concerns with…don’t leave it to the airport!
And the Oscar Goes To…
Whether it’s TSA performing extra checks on minorities or Immigration officers pulling naturalized citizens out of Global Entry lines, it all seems to be theatrical. They already know all that needs to be known about each one of us; yet they still do that at the airport in front of everyone as if we are criminals. Perhaps they do that in order to send a strong message that minorities are 2nd class citizens, and that the majority can in a way feel empowered to abuse them!
I understand that GE is a privilege and not a right, but I didn’t do anything wrong to cause my status to be revoked. I have few personal and business trips coming up and to be honest I don’t know what to expect. This sense of uncertainty alone is unfair for someone who didn’t do anything wrong and would welcome and cooperate with the system to share and give them access to all my data but don’t punish me by revoking my status without justifying the cause. If a system starts abusing its citizens by using unjust biases against them, then let’s call it what it’s…Naturalized Citizens are officially 2nd Class Citizens.