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Friday, September 21, 2012

Searched by Customs at Miami Airport


Living in Oakland, I normally fly out of San Francisco for my annual Latin-American vacations. However, in November 2011, I chose to fly out of Miami because my airfares, overall, came out a lot cheaper going to Perú and Venezuela. I even took some time to hang out in Miami and West Palm beach as part of my vacation package.

Upon my return from Perú, however, I didn't realize how strict the Miami customs are in comparison to San Francisco. In San Francisco, the only question that was asked of me by customs was, what was I doing in the countries I've visited? I'm always proud to talk about my hobby of exploring Black cultures in Latin-American countries,  practicing my Spanish, and having family-like connections. In fact, I'll even encourage them to read my blog, LOL. Another asked me if I brought back any liquor? When I told him that I brought back three bottles of pisco (brandy) from Perú, he told me that I'm only allowed to bring back one bottle. However, the customs agent let it slide because he had more pressing concerns to deal with.

Now, Miami was different. My luggage was searched (thoroughly) and I was asked what kind of work I do, presumably because he wanted to make sure I'm on vacation from a real job and not involved in the drug trade. I told them that I'm in workforce development and even offered to show my business card. The officer was not interested as he continued to search my luggage finding Spanish reading material, CDs, and Venezuelan currency that I had forgotten all about. When he came across my bottle of stevia (an herbal alternative to sugar), I just laughed out loud and shook my head as he opened it and started sniffing. 

There was plenty of time before my next flight back to San Francisco, so I just passed the time making conversation with the officer. I figured this may have been racial profiling because the only other person being searched was a dark Peruvian Mestizo man. He and I also engaged in a Spanish-speaking conversation as well just to get over the boredom. However, it's been brought to my attention that White executives, college professors, and old ladies have been busted bringing contraband into the country, so this is really not a Black or White thing. 

When the customs officer finally finished searching my luggage, I managed to get a chuckle out of him when  told him that he should transfer to San Francisco where he won't have to work so hard.