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To whom it may concern,
My name is Daniel M . I'm a 25 yr old male and I live in Brisbane, Australia. My mother is a naturalised immigrant from Hungary and my father is from the Netherlands. I've never been arrested before in any country. I've never been arrested before in any country. I've never even had a speeding ticket! I hope you take a few minutes to read my story about Homeland Security because I feel it's important and I feel your government has become so paranoid and irrational about the threat of terror and possible international illegals that it will treat visitors disrespectfully and like criminals upon entry without a thought. At least this was what happened to me and was my experience.
I was detained upon entry, myself and the American friend I was travelling to were suspected falsely of being terrorists based solely on a myspace message sent to me by him that was obviously a joke.. the FBI were very close to being called (which I now doubt.. but that's what they told me) They demanded all my e-mail, myspace passwords etc.. and rifled through them and accused me of intending to work illegally in the US. They used blatantly out of context messages and e-mails as "evidence" for this and other accusations. In the end I was handcuffed and led through the airport like a criminal in front of everyone to a car which took me to a detention centre in Dearborn, MI. They took my belt and shoes and put me in a cramped cell without as much as a pillow. The following afternoon I was sent back via Japan to Australia. At each airport there were security guards to watch me and take me on to my next flight. (The Japanese guards were great! Not rude or anything.) I got my passport and things back once I hit Brisbane last Saturday.
I better start from the start. It's complicated. For the past almost two years I have created and posted videos semi-regularly on the video sharing web site You Tube.com. In this time I have gathered an audience (mostly American) and eventually made many very close friends from all over America who I would contact over the phone or video chat with regularly. It's always been a dream of mine to travel to America but I could never seem to be able to afford it. I'm a single guy from a lower middle-class background and I don't know anyone in America apart from these friends but I still wanted to go there and experience your wonderful country and finally meet these people after so long. So I spoke with some of them and they generously offered places to stay as I travelled through. It seemed to be working out wonderfully. My only problem was I was unable to work and had been for a good 6 months or more due to severe insomnia and general anxiety.. conditions I've fought very hard to overcome for much of my life.. after application this legally entitled me to monetary benefits from my government which I received fortnightly. So technically I was unemployed.
Determined to go to the US anyway I had saved bit by bit over a long time what little I had spare.. I sold some stuff.. I borrowed some money from my Dad. I did whatever I could to reach this impossible dream despite my circumstances. I did my research. I made sure I had more then enough money in the bank to sustain me while I was in the US. I got a cheap flight.. the cheapest way I could get to the USA at the time. This happened to be via Tokyo, Japan and then into Detroit in Michigan. I booked the flights. I bought health insurance. I booked hotels, other domestic flights and arranged for my friends to pick me up. They were organising a welcome party for me. I had done everything you could do. Nothing was going to ruin this trip.
[edit on 18/5/08 by LI(f)E.]
On the 16th of April this year I finally got to fly for a few days via Japan to Detroit. By the time I got to Detroit I hadn't slept in 4 days and was exhausted but still had a smile on my face. I'd finally done it. I was in America!
I went to the gate and was asked what the purpose of my stay was and I said "Tourism and to see friends".. they looked suspiciously at me and then at my I94W form (I was travelling on the visa waiver program) They saw my first stop after Detroit was Pittsburgh and then on to West Virginia where I would stay with my friend. It was at that point the guy made a call and a Homeland Security officer took me into the Homeland Security section of the airport. There they loudly drilled me with questions about this guy.. who he was.. what he did.. I was never anything but polite and answered all their loud questions as best I could despite my extreme lack of sleep. They asked me how I knew this guy and I tried to explain about You Tube and that we had originally met online. They didn't even seem to know what You Tube was or that it had a community so I got them to look it up on a computer so I could explain. Their systems must block it out so it didn't come up and I couldn't show them.
They got into my stuff and found a myspace message from months ago from my friend Will, where he was joking to me about how I better not bring box cutters or something like that.. (I still have the exact mail). They flipped OUT over this and rang many of my American friends in my address book and drilled them. However they repeatedly refused to call the friend (Beccah, Lisasimpson) who was supposed to be meeting me and currently waiting for me at the same Detroit airport.. they said they tried to find her but they never called her. She was worried sick. They never called my parents or Australia at all despite my pleadings and the phone in my cell would only call local collect.
When they had finally cleared me of terrorist suspicion they didn't stop there but continued to find other ways to prevent my entry, accusing me of intending to work illegally in the US since they had found through my e-mails that I had been exploring the possibility of working LEGALLY in the US in the past. Looking at Visa applications etc.. (An idea that I had given up on.) They made me take a statement under oath. The whole time they were loud and intimidating and I'm a nervous guy anyway.. so that didn't help me look less conspicuous I'm sure. I'm not used to being yelled at and treated like scum. Anyway so they take my statement and when done show me it and want me to sign each answer I supposedly gave. But I didn't want to do that because I noticed that the whole thing was inaccurate. I asked them about this and one of them yelled at me that it WAS accurate. After I protested a lot the other officer let me change a few words with pen but the first guy kept yelling and I was scared and so I didn't change any more things and just signed it so they would leave me alone.
They were acting very egocentric and GI Joe about it all the whole time. They wanted proof I had enough money to sustain me for 8 weeks. I couldn't find my receipt at first but eventually gave them proof I had $4800 in the bank. They searched my bags.. I had a novelty hat that said "FBI" on it. They then asked if I worked for the FBI. (Ha. What a hell of an undercover operation that would be!) Lots of stuff happened. They wasted a LOT of time and agents on me. In the end I was searched.. padded down.. and they had a good feel of my testicles etc.. then they sent me to the detention centre in Dearborn. Before that they informed me I was being officially denied access to the US because I "didn't have any permanent ties to Australia" and was banned from the Visa Waiver program for life with no rights of appeal or complaint since I signed the I94W upon entry. When I asked if my family and my whole life and everything I've ever known was considered a "tie", they just laughed at me. That was it. Thousands of dollars I saved hard for squandered and I was going home.
I can bet if I were a wealthy Australian with $40 000 in the bank to inject into the economy and my own house, this never would have happened. As for me. Back to square one.. I'm currently looking for a job to start saving up again for another holiday.. not to America this time but Canada. I hope they treat me better there. I have a feeling they will. Some of my friends will be meeting me on the other side.
If you have read this I'm sorry it was so long. There is more here then I can paraphrase. I'm sure the media here in Australia would be very interested in hearing this story but I haven't contacted anyone yet. I am suspicious of the media and I don't want things distorted. I did make a video on You Tube about it with not much detail and things kind of went crazy.
The story has already been distorted and embellished without the media and I haven't even told people any details. I feel what happened was unfair and I don't see why I don't even have the right to complain about it.. I did nothing wrong to deserve to be treated this way. All I wanted to do was see America and my friends and then come home. My whole audience knows this was my intention as do my family and friends. I bet this happens more then anyone realises. I still can't believe it happened to me.
I can relate to this because there were quite a few younger guards involved.. the only guard to show the slightest bit of remorse and to finally admit fault was an older guard but he also couldn't be bothered rectifying the situation once things had escalated and the forms for my denial of entry were being signed. I was really polite the whole time and too scared to have an attitude. I was too scared to even be angry I just wanted to answer their questions honestly as I could so they would let me go. The only time I was the slightest bit pissy was when they took my ATM card and claimed they had given it back to me when they actually hadn't.. the card was later found on the desk of one of the officers and I was issued a brief formal apology for the loud yelling I experienced telling me I had my card back when I didn't.
By the way if you do run into anyone with similar or any trouble with the CBP officers on the borders please direct them my way. I have an old buddy in tv I know who wants to help me put something together with interviews for my channel. I already have a few people involved but the more the better. These are often people with no voice and I want to try to give them a small one.