The Arcadia and US Immigration Officers

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Arcadia in the Caribbean

A harrowing story in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph considered the plight of 2,000 passengers held in Los Angeles for security checking. How much is true and how much embroidered is hard to tell. It could be all true in which case immigration officials would seem to have a lot to answer for.
According to the newspaper, passengers on the Arcadia – nearly all British since she sailed from Southampton – made their 10th US port landing at Los Angeles. Having gone through the normal immigration procedures at their first US port of call, few anticipated long delays although Los Angeles might have been the first port of call after the Caribbean ports so a full inspection should have been expected. Some passengers commented (probably impolitely and nothing seems to rankle an official more which ever country they are in) on the 90 minute delay and it appears that is when the officials decided to give every passenger a thorough check including fingerprinting and retina scans. Some seven hours later the passengers had cleared this checking. The delay, which must have been completely unexpected because the Arcadia was forced to stay in Los Angeles an extra day, also caused a port visit in Honduras to be cancelled.
Were US Immigrations people officious? That is the suggestion from some passengers who have now returned to the UK. Yes a computer broke down which probably lengthened the wait but not to justify seven hours. That the port authority wasn’t expecting long delays seems apparent by the fact that only eight officers were available to vet everyone. So why did it happen?
US immigration officials don’t have wonderful reputations for bonhomie, friendliness and a welcoming, courteous spirit. Over the years that I have travelled to the US I have had lengthy delays but then I have got through the system in five or so minutes in some places. I have had welcoming helpful, officials and some difficult ones who, at the time, seemed to have only one thought in life; – to make mine a misery. But then I have had similar treatment in Canada, Thailand and Australia as well.
But any incident like this annoys people. Within three hours of this article appearing on the Telegraph’s website, 188 people had commented, mostly it seems, along the lines of all US Immigration officials are arrogant and disagreeable and they would never darken America’s doors again. Nine hours later the number had topped 250 still along the same lines.
Whether the account above is true or not, it is perception that sways people. The US has had a hard time allaying the years old perception of their officials. This isn’t going to help it one bit.

image courtesy of P&O

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