Hello everyone. I must apologize to you because last Monday I skipped La Crónica del Lunes. Actually I skipped a bit the blog because of my busy Parisian trip. But here I am: A French is Mexico is back!
And today I want to share the incredible experience that I lived during my transit in Atlanta. First of all, I would like to mention that it was far to be the first time that I pass by US in transit when I travel between France and Mexico. Everytime it’s the same "circus" if I may say. Even if you are just in transit, you have two controls: the identity one (passport and visa control) and the hand luggage one. Usually you have to wait so much time that you need a minimum of 2h30 before your next flight, and it’s really a minimum.
I know of what I am talking because I missed my flight once in Miami. Another time I arrived when they had already closed the plane gates: they accepted to re-opened them! And another time, I got to run through all Dallas airport to catch a flight to Chicago. You can say whatever you want, explain that you are going to miss your connection, American officers absolutely don’t care. In the best scenario, they will ignore you. In the worst, they can literally ask you to shud up, so better to not say anything…
As European, I travel to and by US with an ESTA which is not technically a Visa. It’s more an authorization. The ESTA has a validity of two years and costs 14 dollars. You first fill a survey online (“have you already killed someone?”), you make the payment and that’s it!
A way to go faster at the passport control in the airport is to go to scan machines. Problem? Everytime that I scan my passport, the machine gives me a ticket that signals a problem and that I have to pass with an officer. As I was going to Paris, I asked what was wrong with my passport. The officer explained me that in their system, my past Visa J1 still appears and that this is what creates a confusion. It’s unbelievable because this Visa that I received to go to US as an au pair, and that I finally never used, expired in 2013. The officer explained me that he couldn’t update my situation and that I had to contact myself the national agency which deals with Visa and Immigration.
And, one week ago, as I was going back to Monterrey (and again in transit in Atlanta) after 1h30 waiting for the control (seems that they had an informatic issue) the unbelievable happened. The officer told me that there was something wrong with my passport. Without any explanation, he took my right arm and started to make me run with him through the airport yelling: “Hurry up!”. As I had to carry my wedding dress and my bag with my computer, I definitely couldn’t follow his rhythm. But he didn’t want to slow down and was just keeping screaming “hurry up!”. We finally arrived to a place where was written “Second Inspection” and the officer threw me in a room from where I couldn’t get out. He had kept my passport and all my documents.
In the room, there was another man and I cannot say in which language he was speaking, but one thing is sure: he was crazy. He was not stopping to call Jesus…And me, I was under the shock. Why this American agent had thrown me in this room without any explanation and treating me like this? In the room, no computer and phone allowed and a camera watching you…I started to think about a bad movie scene. What would be next? Will I be arrested? For what? What the hell was that? What was the number of the French Consulate in US?
As I saw through the window a woman with an officer uniform, I started to make signs and called her. She opened the door and asked me what was happening. What was happening? Well it was my question! Yes, what the hell was happening?! I explained her that her colleague threw me in this room without telling me anything. She simply said: “Let me work on it”.
After maybe one hour, or more, she came for me saying that she had questions. I answered to all what she wanted to know. Why I was living in Mexico, everything. The problem? She wanted me to admit that I have a second passport. How could I have admitted that I have a second passport when it’s simply not true. I am a French citizen, with a French passport and a temporary residency in Mexico: point. I asked her if it was a confusion with this past Visa J1 that I had in 2013. She said that no, the J1 was not the problem. Well, then, what was the problem? She asked me about all the stamps in my passport and she even asked me my previous boarding pass! Seriously, who moves around with his boarding pass from the last year?
And, she finally left me pass. She put the stamp in my passport and told me that I could go to catch my flight to Monterrey. But, without giving me more explanation. When I arrived in Monterrey, they had kept my luggage in Atlanta…I finally received it the day after with a message inside, indicating that my suitcase has been inspected.
To the contrary of her colleague, this woman at least was not disrespectful. But why did American officers treat me like this? Why did they lock me in a room? And why didn’t they give me any explanation? What will be next, when I will go back to US in vacation or simply in transit? The only thing that I can do is to try to get an appointment with the American Consulate in order to clarify things.
Ultimately, I am simply shocked and mad about what happened to me and how I had been treated. When will America stop to think that it governs the world? I will tell you one thing: Trump can always build his wall, come to visit me in Mexico!