151

Yesterday my cousin arrived to Chicago from Mexico, she is visiting family there to spend the holidays, this is not the first time she visits.

She was stopped by immigration, because they thought it was weird that she was spending the holidays away from her family. She was taken to an interrogation room and the first thing the officer asked her to do was to give him her cell phone (not sure if this is legal) she gave him the phone and he started looking through the phone and questioning her. After 2 hours they gave her back her phone and let her go.

When she left the airport she saw that the officer had used her phone to call a what I assume, was his number so he could record her cell number. Now she is receiving text from him, this is what they say in Spanish, "Hello Laura (smiling face blowing a kiss) It is me the officer."

That is it, she has not responded but she does not know what to do and does not know what that means.

  • 89
    Typical case of sexual harassment/stalking in the starting phase. I would find it logical to go to the police. I believe there is a film, Crossing Over, where Ray Liotta plays an immigration officer helping Alice Eve, an illegal immigrant getting legalized in return for sexual favours. Take out the illegal immigration out of the picture, it seems more like stalking. – DumbCoder Dec 22 '15 at 16:31
  • 82
    I think you've just won a free trip to the closest police station to press charges against this stalker. – JoErNanO Dec 22 '15 at 16:33
  • 57
    Pls, press charges. This is totally unacceptable behavior. – Quora Feans Dec 22 '15 at 19:43
  • 17
    @SnakeDoc, the courts have ruled that border patrol agents have the authority to search electronics (and many other things) at the border. See Abidor v. Napolitano, for example. – Kevin Dec 22 '15 at 23:27
  • 25
    I recommend that anyone reading this thread click the Wikipedia link, and you will see that your baggage can indeed be searched without a warrant, and that they can indeed read your text messages. (Whether you must assist them in decrypting messages is a separate and quite interesting legal issue.) The conduct in this case far beyond that. When the officer used this information for personal purposes, he broke regulations concerning his job, and he should be fired. Would you like to take this to chat? If so, bring in the precedents you believe support your take on the border search issue. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 23 '15 at 0:08
153

Taken from How CBP Handles Traveler Complaints:

Complaints concerning allegations of misconduct/discrimination

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection takes allegations of employee misconduct and discrimination very seriously.

  • Allegations of misconduct or discrimination are referred to the CBP Office of Internal Affairs. Personnel are specially trained to investigate and review allegations.
  • If warranted, CBP will take appropriate action against the employee.

CBP INFO Center
OPA - MS1345
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20229

How to file a complaint? Please see the complaints section of the customer service page.

In addition, "complaints section" is a link, which, after a couple of steps, will lead you to Submit a Complaint/Concern.

The behavior may be argued to be discrimination, but it is certainly misconduct. The text message ought to serve as clear evidence of the misconduct, so your cousin's complaint would likely have a real effect.

  • 9
    In particular I would send a screenshot from the phone. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 23 '15 at 1:53
  • 49
    In a perfect world, the appropriate people handle this situation professionally. In a cynical world, this ensures the traveler in question is flagged for every possible hassle in the book. Do you happen to know where this situation likely falls? I hate to sound like an enabler, but if this means spending multiple extra hours at the airport every time you go through US customs for the rest of your life... you have to weigh that into the decision. I'm certainly hopeful that someone can give assurance "No, they don't work like that" but I think it's worth asking the question. – corsiKa Dec 23 '15 at 6:00
  • 5
    While the objection of corsiKlause seems far fetched on the first look: There are men arranging pat searches,TSA officers lying under oath, missing background checks and unsavory behavior. All in all the TSA has a quite well-deserved infamous reputation. – Thorsten S. Dec 24 '15 at 0:27
  • 34
    @corsiKlauseHoHoHo If everyone took the view that complaints against authority are too much trouble, that's what leads to people in authority who believe they can get away with anything. – DJClayworth Dec 24 '15 at 4:58
  • 12
    @DJClayworth Like I said, my comment is definitely one that enables them to get away with it. But not everyone is Rosa Parks, and for every Rosa Parks, there was a thousand people that history forgot who stood up to their oppressors and lost at great expense, and sometimes life. With the increased scrutiny on travelers due to recent attacks, and the (not logically founded) fears of terrorists coming to the US from Canada and Mexico, is now really the time to pick a fight with someone who can slap you on a terrorist watch list? I'm not saying don't report, just saying do some research first. – corsiKa Dec 24 '15 at 7:44
28

Report the office to the officer in charge of the nearest customs office and the head of the airport. This behavior is completely not allowed, and he will face discipline, including possibly being fired. His conduct is dishonorable and unprofessional, so let them know how seriously you take it and they will deal with it.

  • 40
    A report to a superior officer risks being suppressed as it could make the superior officer look bad. The internal affairs office exists to protect against that sort of thing. – phoog Dec 22 '15 at 19:51
  • 4
    There won't be a cover up, because a supervisor who punishes his officer for illegal conduct and policy violations is doing his job, while one who covers up illegal behavior will lose his career when the truth gets out. Trust me, his own supervisor probably does not love this guy enough to sacrifice a good paying job with great benefits for him. And I was recommending reporting it to the supervisor of the whole station, who is likely to be that supervisor's boss's boss. That guy will not risk his career to protect some idiot who thinks an investigation is a chance to flirt in a creepy illeg – user3573647 Dec 22 '15 at 23:58
  • 4
    @phoog, if you're a manager in the US federal government, well-documented complaints against bad employees are wonderful to have -- they're almost impossible to fire otherwise. – Charles Duffy Dec 23 '15 at 20:26
  • 1
    @CharlesDuffy sure. Some good managers will have bad employees and want to fire them. But it's also possible that the manager himself is under pressure from above and wants to avoid the impression that she or he can't control the rank and file. I'm not saying that a complaint to the superior officer will necessarily be suppressed. It is just more likely to be suppressed than a complaint to internal affairs. – phoog Dec 23 '15 at 20:40
  • 3
    @user3573647 a supervisor who allows the officer to conduct himself illegally, however, was not doing his or her job. Perhaps there have been prior complaints about this officer, or about officers in general, and the manager doesn't want superiors to learn that complaints are still coming in. Perhaps there's other evidence that the superior officer should have known what was going on. Misconduct can have institutional causes; it is not always the sole fault of a rogue individual. That's why it is safer to complain to internal affairs than to the officer's superior. – phoog Dec 23 '15 at 20:43
12

A policeman in California was recently fired for sexual misconduct that included texting women he arrested. This was the less serious offense; he also forwarded intimate pictures the women had sent to their husbands/boyfriends to his own phone. For that he was himself charged, but managed to avoid prison. And I suspect any officer who would do this would also make a trade like that in return for entry permission.

  • 1
    Although an anecdote, this truly gets to the heart of the matter, and is perhaps the most useful thing on here is this answer. – Fattie Dec 26 '15 at 18:30
  • @DiegoJancic, the telephone number is right there for you thanks to the info of BobJarvis below. Telephone: 312-201-9740. Assuming this story is broadly true: In the first instance, your friend is owed millions. In the second instance, the culpable parties are the supervisors of the minimum wage fool in question - who should be facing prison time. It's That Simple. (Regarding the minimum wage fool in question ... trying to extract sex from a third-world visitor completely in his power ... after jail time he will need, simply, counseling forever.) Assuming this story is true. – Fattie Dec 26 '15 at 18:36
7

Immediately seek legal advice. Call some attorneys in your area.

With luck one of them will take your case and litigate on your behalf.


Note ...

As @BobJarvis points out in his comment below:

"The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) might also have some interest in cases such as this, and if they accept it and litigation becomes necessary they would most likely cover the costs as they would be the litigant. It appears you're in Chicago - their contact info is: ACLU of Illinois 180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2300 Chicago, IL 60601 Telephone: 312-201-9740. I suggest contacting them."

  • 2
    Whether this is good advice rather depends on the outcome sought by the victim. Also, the US does not have "solicitors." – phoog Dec 24 '15 at 4:08
  • 4
    @phoog Sure we do; they're the people who show up at your door trying to sell you something. – Casey Dec 25 '15 at 17:39
  • 2
    @Casey fair enough, but I would not call them under any circumstances, least of all if I needed legal assistance. – phoog Dec 26 '15 at 4:12
  • 1
    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) might also have some interest in cases such as this, and if they accept it and litigation becomes necessary they would most likely cover the costs as they would be the litigant. It appears you're in Chicago - their contact info is: ACLU of Illinois 180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2300 Chicago, IL 60601 Telephone: 312-201-9740. I suggest contacting them. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '15 at 15:41
  • 4
    @JoeBlow given the relative vote counts for our answers, you really ought to explain your position in more detail. It is not clear why you hold the position you hold, and a lot of people seem to think the way I do. What would calling a lawyer achieve? What negative outcome is likely to result from reporting the incident to the internal affairs division? What lawyer is likely to give advice that doesn't begin with "report the incident to internal affairs" and what is that advice likely to be? – phoog Dec 26 '15 at 19:05

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.