The pleasant side of the US immigration agency
Articles and negative comments have always flooded the internet concerning US immigration inspectors. Often described as heartless, impassive, and arrogant; they arbitrarily decide the future of thousands of individuals and families by refusing to let them enter American soil. A yes or a no, that’s all their future depends on.
Critics are nasty and disrespectful, always accusing them of all the evils in the world. We all know someone who has been deported back in tears or, worse still, thrown in jail.
I always asked myself: “Are all these stories true? Can it really be that bad? I guess my questions were answered this Tuesday, June 13, 2023.
Indeed, on that day, I was on a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles, and as I passed through border control, I was transferred to another control room to be fingerprinted and photographed. I didn’t expect what would happen next.
The U.S. immigration staff didn’t know I was a journalist, and as I waited for my turn, I listened to the stories of various travelers, several of whom were sent back to their home countries, but always with sympathy and professionalism. Until a father and his daughter presented their case to the officer in charge of it. The father explained that his daughter had a valid visa, but that his own was invalid and thus couldn’t enter American soil.
The father explained in vain that his visa was valid until the day of departure, but the immigration officer still denied him any form of entry.
Seeing the disappointment and distress in the father’s eyes, the officer, whose name is Thomas, saw his sincerity. Thomas empathized with the
father’s situation; the young girl, named, Laura, wasn’t willing to travel without her father by her side. She looked so disappointed, so sad… the situation was conflicting for Thomas.
He could see that his desire to enter the US was truly to travel and support his daughter. This young girl’s eyes were pleading and that moved him. Thomas told them to wait a moment and went to speak in their favor to the director of the U.S. immigration agency. The father and daughter waited anxiously until Officer Thomas came back with wonderful news: he successfully convinced his higher-ups to exceptionally grant them a visa for their stay in the U.S.
The girl was radiant, thanking him oh so many times. They had to hurry to catch their flight as their interview took some time, but Officer Thomas arranged to delay boarding for them. In this situation, he turned out to be their guardian angel. Not only did Officer Tomas grants a visa, but he also arranged for the luggage to be re-boarded and the plane to wait for the family, so they could catch their flight.
Later on, I asked Officer Tomas why he helped that family. Why would an immigration officer, so often thought of as inconsiderate and nasty, be so kind and understanding toward this family? He answered with a kind smile: “They were sincere, and I knew they were saying the truth”.
U.S. immigration services processed nearly 20 million passengers in 2022 at Toronto’s Pierson International Airport.
Over 99.5% of passengers entered the U.S. without a hitch, and only less than 0.5% were refused entry by U.S. immigration authorities.
The most frequent reasons were that the passengers in question had lied about their real status, because in reality they had a criminal past, or in a minority of cases, they had forgotten to provide documents.