Welcome to the US, scumbag

Let me make it clear from the outset that this post is not an anti-American rant. If I were anti-American, I wouldn’t be working for the company I work for, or travelling to the US in the first place. What this post discusses is the impression made upon visitors to the US, when this kind of thing happens. In my experience, this does not happen when people arrive in the UK, or other countries equally concerned and affected by the current ‘terror’ situation. It is totally unnecessary and does nothing to improve the US’ standing in other people’s eyes, at a time when some positive PR would doubtless be a rather good thing.
Today’s arrival at JFK was the most unwelcoming and downright insulting I have ever experienced on coming here.
On leaving the plane we were told that immigration officers would be checking passports. Fair enough, although I don’t see what the point of this is when we’re all going to be going through a ‘proper’ immigration check later anyway. Never mind, somebody supposedly knows what they are doing and thinks these checks worthwhile.
Posters from the US immigration control plastered around JFK claim that the organisation pledges to greet people cordially and explain processes clearly. Sadly the two officers who ‘greeted’ me and everyone else did neither.
Their supposed welcome made me feel as if I were a prisoner, disembarking from some kind of airborne prison transport vehicle, as opposed to a perfectly legitimate visitor to the US. I expect other people felt the same way. I also expect that US citizens probably felt even more annoyed than me, as everyone was treated with the same disrespect.
Officers Mo Ron and Half Wit stood at the end of the gate, checking passports. Whilst doing this we were subjected to loud shouts of ‘get in line’, ‘form two queues’, ‘come on so we can get this done’ and other semi-coherent, shouted grunting. There was no ‘please’ and no ‘thank you’ and their tone was distinctly condescending. There were no efforts to speak in clear English, despite the fact that it was English was not the first language of the majority of the passengers getting off the plane. I’m a native English speaker and I found it hard to understand what they were saying half the time.
After my passport had been examined and I’d been grunted at, I stood near the end of the gate, waiting for my colleague. At this point the officers seemed either to give up checking people, or had found someone they were looking for, as they were walking towards me with someone who had been sitting near me walking next to them. They were talking away at him in a hostile manner, again making no effort to speak clearly to someone who was clearly having difficulty understanding them. “Dintyouhearmesayyougottagetyawpassportout!??”
When they saw me standing at the end of the gate, one of them grunted at me loudly, saying something I failed to understand, not being fluent in New Yoik immigration officer grunt-speak. I asked him politely to repeat himself.
“Gowalkdownthecorridor, donstandthere!” was the shouted response.
“I’m just waiting for my colleague – he’s right behind you”, I replied.
“Walkdownthecorridernow! I told you to walk down the corridor!”.
I shrugged and walked slowly down the corridor.
“Man see a man in uniform he supposed to do what that man say. I say it five times already, walk down the corridor but he don’ do it!”, went the general discussion behind me, obviously intended for my benefit.
What is the point of making people like this the ‘face’ of the US? Being secure doesn’t mean shouting at people, being rude, being aggressive and being unwelcoming.

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5 Responses to “Welcome to the US, scumbag”

  1. Magnus Says:

    Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. We travelled to US last Friday and we had a very pleasant experience. We entered at Charlotte, NC, and the guards and everyone else were friendly and helpful. The INS person who went over our papers make a little joke (same one for all people probably), chatted a few sentences, and sent us on our way.

  2. James Says:

    Chris, I couldn’t agree with you more. I fly frequently to the US and it just seems to get worse. It scares me just how use to being humiliated by jumped up idiots in uniform. Of course if you happen to disagree with the process or god forbid make a joke you are treated like a terrorist. Oh how this mocks the inscription on the statue of liberty.
    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

  3. patrick giagnocavo Says:

    Sadly this is par for the course at any of the big USA airports like JFK, BWI (Baltimore), LAX, etc. I am sorry you have to go through this to get into the USA.

  4. Br n Says:

    I’ve noticed that they seem to be getting ruder in the US too, but like Magnus, I’ve had better luck at smaller and less busy places like Charlotte. Actually, the last time I flew into Charlotte, the passport checker actually told me "Welcome home".
    I’ve not been to New York, but the ones in Washington were the worst I’ve dealt with. I would swear that one of them was trying (and succeeded) in making us miss our flight, so we got to spend the night sleeping on the floor of Dulles with four small children.

  5. Nuppo Says:

    Well, I haven’t been to the US since 1998, but even back then I remember the cold welcome my friends and I got at the New Yark Airport…man, they should really try to introduce the Marhaba service over there 😛

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