- Posted June 25, 2012 by
Ellicott City, Maryland
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Immigration: How does it affect you?
Arizona Immigration Bill
In 1991, I was driving from San Diego to Phoenix to return to my graduate school when I was stopped by US border patrol on Interstate 8 outside Yuma, Arizona, who proceeded to interrogate me switching from English to Spanish (which I don't know), and when I explained that I was a student at Thunderbird (ranked # 1 in the US in Global Business) they simply would not believe me. To make matters worse, when I explained that I had a UK passport, they laughed at me not believing I could possibly be British, continuing to speak to me in Spanish. I further explained that I was actually from Kenya, which they could not believe (first because they didn't know where it was and thereafter because I obviously couldn't be from Africa and still look as Mexican as I did). So, I explained further that I was of Indian origin, which got them in a frenzy - accusing me of making things up. How could Indians possibly live in Africa, and why would I make up such a bizarre story. I was held for 4 hours while they attempted to contact some agency in Washington to verify if the passport (I remembered my passport number but did not have my passport on me).
I had never been to Mexico or south of the border before that moment. The closest I had been to the border was the very spot that they had held me - first outside in sweltering 100 degree temperature for an hour, and then in their mobile office when they could not get any verification from whatever agency they were contacting in Washington, and had to detain me for longer.
They finally let me go when one of the officers, who was from or near Glendale, Arizona asked me enough questions about Thunderbird to know that I knew the school and must therefore be attending it.
Let me make it clear - I was not stopped by highway patrol but by border patrol. I was not speeding, had committed no crime, did not attempt to enter the US illegally, and there was no other reason that caused for me to have been stopped. I was merely driving in my own car on a US interstate, near but not at the border, with Arizona plates and in possession of an Arizona driver's license and the only reason I was stopped was for the border patrol to verify that I was legal. . And it took 4 hours of detention before I was let go.
Several months later, with my graduate degree from Thunderbird School of Global Management, I went to the UK to start my career. Over the years, I have travelled to over 80 countries and lived on 4 continents. 20 years later, I have become a a US citizen (legally).
It is extra-ordinary that today, we have an African American president whose father is from Kenya - the very country these border patrol folks had never heard of. Unfortunate for him, some believe that even he was not born in the US, but in Kenya. At least those who believe that at least know where Kenya is.
America does need robust immigration reform, but it cannot be that it needs to resort to folks, unlucky if they happen to be living, studying or visiting Arizona, to be subjected to the indignity of being held on the side of the highway and spoken to in a language not familiar to them, purely because they "look" Mexican, and by folks who have no knowledge of basic geography ... or in charge of immigration but with no basic understanding of migration of cultures.