I’m a white, privileged, English-speaking British Citizen. I hold a valid UK passport, and have had no incidents with the police or law enforcement agencies in any country. I’m also married to a white, priviledged, US-born American Citizen. I have followed all immigration policies and procedures, both before I was married and throughout my green card application.
And yet still I have been held, on multiple occassions, for hours at a time at US Border Control. I understand the requirement for nations to control their borders. I understand that paperwork and procedures need to be followed. However, I do not understand or accept a default assumption of criminality and illegality.
When required for further processing at Border Control, you are escorted to a room and left to wait. Any communication with the outside world is forbidden and strictly enforced. Phones and computers are not allowed, and will be removed. When I have asked for information about the process or the expected wait times I have rudely been told to just sit and wait.
The rooms have often been hot and overcrowded. When I have asked for water I have been told to use the restroom faucets (translation: sink in the toilet). After observing the cleanliness, or lack thereof, I have declined. You are not allowed to stand. You are not allowed to move about. You just have to sit and quietly wait.
Often I am the only white face in the room, and although my wait can be long it is not unusual for me to be questioned before many of the other people that have been waiting since before I arrived. When it is my turn to be processed I can understand their questions, clearly explain my position, and I can prove my eligibility for entry into the US. Even so, I have been made to feel guilty and have left feeling dirty and not at all welcomed by a country that was built on immigration.
I have found the process to be demeaning and exhausting, but for me it has just been an inconvenience and annoyance. I have never felt at risk of my safety. For me the worst that could happen would be to be sent back to the UK, where I have family and friends, a place to sleep and food to eat, and the ability to live with my human rights protected. For so many others, though, being detained at the border is much more than an inconvenience. I can’t imagine how bad the experience must be for so many people right now.
Everyone should be treated with respect. Everyone should have a right to live in safety. No matter where we were born, the colour of our skin, or the beliefs that we hold, we are all human, and we should be treated as such. All this sounds so obvious, and I feel sick that we are living in a time where I feel the necessity to say this.