Skip to comments.ANOTHER CASE OF "FED UP"! (Vanity)
Posted on 01/07/2007 1:51:52 PM PST by Hostage
I married 14 years ago and just had my firstborn, a son, this past September.
I met my wife in medical school. She was originally from Lithuania and when I met her she was on a H1-B visa working as an adjunct professor of internal medicine.
She had made significant contributions to medical science and had been asked to lecture at med school for the year. That was 16 years ago in the afterglow of the world of Ronald Reagan. She became a naturalized US citizen in 1996.
We've had a real love affair ever since but children did not come easy for us and we had given up hope the year before last when suddenly our prayers were answered with a 'miracle'. There were no fertility treatments, nothing artificial, just natural in its occurance but unexpected.
The birth of our son has been a joy without limit and it continues to be so. But prior to knowing of the miracle to come we had lived for years in despair (most couples with fertility problems will know exactly what I am talking about).
During those years of despair there was one other person whose despair seemed greater than our own, that was my wife's mother who still lives with her family in Lithuania. She wanted so badly to be a grandmother. She prayed and prayed and prayed. When my wife would call her on Sundays, her mother would always cry and it always fell to my wife to calm her down. This constant weeping, in addition to our own despair, was more than we could take and as a result my wife began to look for excuses not to call her mother.
News of the coming arrival of our son made my wife's mother a changed person. She wanted to come immediately but my wife's father has a herniated disc and cannot move unless heavily dosed with painkillers. We are trying to save money to get for him an operation that we hope will give him many years of freedom to move his body. He would also like to see his grandson.
But grandmother was able to get her sister and her son to look after grandfather while she travels to the US to see her blessed treasure, her grandson.
So we bought her a roundtrip ticket on Scandinavian Airlines and she connected in Copenhagen before setting foot in Seattle last night.
Her son had taken her to the US consulate last week to make sure her visa was in order. As she does not speak English, he wrote her a note (he is fluent in English and works as an IT professional throughout Europe) to present to customs that she was traveling to see her grandson and numbers to call if there were any problems. On the note he wrote our names, address, telephone numbers. He also gave her a cell phone and called me the day before she left to make sure I had her cell number.
Last night grandmother was making her way through customs and we were outside waiting for her with our 3 month old son. We were waiting a longtime when suddenly my cell phone rang and it was a customs official telling me that they needed to contact the daughter of a person they were holding. Knowing they were referring to my wife's mother I said "no problem, her daughter is right here waiting with me" and I handed the phone to my wife.
The customs official asked my wife to talk to her mother and to tell her to answer the questions they were asking her. My wife said she does not speak English and asked what questions did they have for her. They said to ask her if she had any cigars, weapons and so on in her possession. My wife was then put on the phone with her mother and repeated what the customs official had asked. They then let grandmother go.
Grandmother came up an escalator into the international baggage claim area with tears in her eyes and she at once saw me, then my wife and the baby. I thought the tears were of joy but my wife later told me they were tears of fear, fear that customs was going to send her back to Lithuania. But there were also tears and smiles of joy as grandmother and grandson immediately fell in love.
Here's the story and the reason we are "fed up".
Customs had asked grandmother a series of questions and she could not answer. She kept telling them "no English, no English" but they took her out of line and then called for a detail to escort her to a retention room, a room that was according to grandmother a long long way through many doors and up and down many floors. In this room they made her strip to her bra and panties and would not allow her to make any phone calls. She was left in this room crying when the customs lady called us on my cell phone.
She was let go out of the retention room but no one escorted her back to the customs line. She had no idea where she was and how to get back to where she was, in other words she was lost. I haven't asked yet how she found her way out because she is bonding with her long awaited grandchild and I don't want to spoil the happiness we all have now by pressing her for details.
Today she is doting on her grandson and both are all smiles. But her impression of America or at least Seattle SeaTac airport is forever a memory of fear.
I asked her if things went well when connecting in Copenhagen and she said "Copenhagen good, Seattle no good".
I'm so very sorry for what you MIL went through.
I suggest phoning your Congressmen as well.
It's beyond awful.
Well, I'd say that you had a great personal experience of your government in action. Curious, isn't it, that the same government that requires hospitals, at great expense, to have translators available for any person presenting themselves for care, doesn't have the same requirement for itself when operating ports of entry.
A terrible experience. I suspect it's purely stupidity combined with bureaucratic inertia. Anyway, it certainly can't do any harm to speak to the airport manager.
Contact the local media -- TV news, especially.
YEah that - and they say written letter follow-up has the most mojo.
This is just awful!
What harm was done?
A delay? If your mother in law doesn't like it here she can return to her country and tell others how terrible things are in America.
I bet they asked her "Habla Espanol?" When she looked confused, they wanted to send her back.
Customs Officials are exceptionaly powerful. The only real limits to their authority seems to be the fear of politically powerful interest groups such as the Muslims and Hispanics posess. I feel terrible about what occured and hope the karma catches up with SOB's who did this. Lok to the happinees about your child and let it go.
My wife (born in Poland) got some rather rude treatment when we returned from Europe last summer, despite the US passport (nothing as extreme as your mother-in-law experienced).
It is almost as though Customs is deliberately set up to harass the s--- out of citizens and non-citizens entering the country legally while turning a blind eye to illegal Mexicans and suspicious Muslims.
"land of the free..." ... snort.
"sue them... "
Yeah. Sue the taxpayers for every nickel you can. /s
While you're at it, at least demand disciplinary action for everyone involved.....in order to do so, you will need to state exactly how they deviated from SOP.
That said, I'd rather they direct such scrutiny where it may be helpful.
So you expect all US customs agents to speak Lithuanian?
I live in Seattle...I don't agree with the treatment (my 75-year-old mother was "wanded," fer pete's sake)...but when I hear comments like this, my blood boils.
If she so freakin' much likes it in Copenhagen...then send her there.
Can't we at least use common sense? An old women from Eastern Europe is not exactly the profile of a terrorist. This reminds me of joke about the blind Irish nun in a wheelchair getting harassed by TSA scum.
Having her strip is beyond outrage. Somebody is getting their rocks off of terrorizing old, foreign women. Nobody could seriously believe this old women is trouble.
She's not hurt - all is well - get over it.
I've had as much trouble at the MVD, jury duty, and getting a speeding ticket.
It's the nature of government.
I thought along lines such as yours too. But we are an advanced country and we can make things peasant for people.
But you are wrong in one respect, that is of the impossibility of having translators for every language.
In ER rooms and urgent care clinics, there are speaker phones on a wall with speed dial buttons to interpreters that are on-call 24/7. They charge by the minute but I would have gladly paid their fee to avoid this trauma from last night.
Yup. And the JBT apologists have arrived as well.
See post #24.
Had she worn a burqa, she would have gotten the VIP treatment.
So you expect all US customs agents to speak Lithuanian?
I am truly sorry for what you mother in law went through. There should be a way to deal with problems like this without stripping someone down to their underwear..... I would write my Senator and Congressman too. I would write and call the airport.... Its sad it has come down to this but we now have a problem in this country and we have to check everyone out. Its sad but true. Don't forget about that grandmother who blew herself up in the name of Allah even though it was not in this country..... I am in no way saying your mother in law was like her either..... I am only pointing out that we have to make sure everyone who enters this country is here for the right reasons. Again I am sorry and I hope she is fine now. I hope she enjoys her visit and her new grandbaby. By the way many congrats to you and your wife. ~~Pandora~~
Every time I pass through Seattle I can't wait to move on. Too bad I have to spend any time there but my job requires it.
Seattle no good".
If what was posted actually happened, I would be furious with the individuals, not the city, not the airport, not the U.S., not U.S. laws unless it could be proven that how they treated the mother was policy. I don't believe it is policy and I am skeptical of the story. Translators are available 24/7 through services of phone companies if none are available on site.
I am Polish-Lithuanian. Get over it. Get over it.
Leave all the other people (Americans) alone. They don't like it either.
It is absolutely a true story. And yes there are interpretors 24/7. See my post #24.
I think it was policy and the customs employees were following the policy.
But policy is not law. Policy can be changed quickly by a few decision makers.
I think the policy should be changed.
Why does the taxpayer have to pay for translators for any non-citizen? They should pay for their own costs when in this country.
More government workers is never the solution to a problem.
ARA is right. Immigration (INS) used to be an agency of the Dep't. of Justice. It is now an agency of the Dep't. of Homeland Security. You, as an American, have the privilege of walking right into the local office and insisting on the attention of some authority. These problems need to be fixed. There are good people who can fix them if they are only informed of their existence.
I don't mind the delay. Leaving her by herself is not courteous, not showing her how to get out is downright inconsiderate. I live in Seattle, and SeaTac is damn near impossible to navigate without prior knowledge or English, especially the trains. But the strip search is beyond question outrageous. This women just got OFF the plane, so why strip search?
It's understandable that she considers Seattle's airport "bad." Especially since we don't question people pouring across the border.
If she was wearing a burqa they wouldn't have dared put her in a retention room.
Sorry for the unsolicited comment. Might I suggest that she used those words because they're the only ones she knows?
Good point! Language Line offers Lithuanian translators.
It's very easy to put in a credit card swipe or collect a fee. People can accept that they have to carry $20 or so to get interpreter services in customs.
Contact your Senator in tennies for immediate action....sarc/
Hi, hon! I think you meant to reply to someone else.
I'm a legal immigrant. I have some stories too that I won't disclose in this forum. Not everything is determined by policy. There is a lot of leeway.
Don't be skeptical of what Hazard is telling us because of your strong belief in policy. You are right. Treating someone like that is certainl not policy, but he is telling you a truth which some of us have experienced.