I am Greek and a professional seaman or as the term goes in the US, a "merchant marine." To be more precise, I work on board ocean-going vessels as a Chief Officer AKA "First Officer".
I've been working at sea for about 25 years at this point and I've also served in the Navy for almost two years as an E-5. I am very familiar with the USN as we, uh, worked together with USN personnel. This will come handy later on. I am also a Merchant Marine Academy graduate.
So, last time I entered the US, which was back in 2010, I was holding a C1/D visa of 10 years duration. My first C1/D USA Visa was issued back in 1993 and I have been continuously holding C1/D visas since then. I have entered the US multiple times, I have no criminal record, no tattoos and have never violated US immigration or other US regulations.
I was also carrying letters of recommendation from my employer, a major Greek shipping firm and also letters of recommendation from our Company's Maritime Agent in the US who stated that they would cover all my expenses until I join my vessel, which was alongside discharging at that moment in some Texas port.
The CBP low ranking officer at First Screening was completely expressionless, checked my papers and did not say a word apart from directing me straight to Secondary Screening and Interview.
I was kinda naive back then and did not think anything of it, but I have since learned through some website that if you are being selected for Secondary Screening at a US airport then this means that:
Even if your visa and intentions are valid, if the CBP officer finds a problem that can't be resolved quickly or believes you're being dishonest or are a security risk, you will be sent to a secondary inspection area for a longer interview.
So, they thought I was dishonest and a security risk.
I remember sitting there together with some Turkish Merchant Marines and waiting to be interviewed by a WASP Warrant Officer (recognized his rank from my stint in the Navy).
Of all the thousands of passengers at Houston Airport being admitted freely in the US, the big brains at CBP only picked us Merchant Marines and set us aside for extra screening. There was just like 7 of us in that room. Me (Greek Senior Officer) and 6 Turkish Merchant Marines.
So, my turn for the interview comes up. The WASP warrant officer was very friendly and very polite. In all honesty, I am not sure what to think with Law Enforcement types, not sure if this was a facade or just an technique they use to interview you. I am very distrustful and wary of people, esp uniformed Law Enforcement, so I do not know what to make of this.
Believe it or not, the interview consisted of positive commentary of the said Warrant Officer of the layout and pictures of famous Ancient Greece historical episodes & famous Greek Antiquities printed on the Greek Passport. He asked what is my occupation and saw the letters of recommendation I had and also asked where did I serve and how come my English is so good.
Finally, he thanked me and sent me on my way.
So, I was pulled aside from the line and selected for Secondary Screening only to have a Warrant Officer comment positively on my passport and ask me where did I serve. I am positive the US Govt knows all about that since I am sure there's records of my service with the USN.
I am a completely honest professional Merchant Navy Officer, being at sea for 25 years, no criminal record, no convictions, worked together with the USN during my mil service, no ink, yet they thought I was "dishonest and a security risk."
I have to stress that at no point was ever any US uniformed personnel impolite, condescending, hostile or threatening towards me and I was never made to feel uncomfortable. Does anybody know whether all C1/D visa holders who are Merchant Marines are being given this special treatment at all US airports?