Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Taco Inspector In Trouble With The Law

This could've been a plot for an episode of Seinfeld. How could a trip to the U.S. Immigration Offices that started off so great, end so horrible? What happened yesterday was crazy. Something went terribly wrong and it was all because of a taco.

Recently I applied online for two special travel IDs provided by the US State Department: A SENRTI card and a Global Entry card. Both cards are used at U.S. entry points along the border and at international airports. They dramatically speed up the screening process at US customs and immigration checkpoints and allow travelers with these cards to breeze past long lines and cumbersome searches. However, in order to get one (or both) of these cards, the applicant must be thoroughly screened ahead of time. The initial application is online, and then, if you qualify, you must take part in an interview at a US Customs and Immigration office, in-person. I was accepted on online and subsequently scheduled for an in-person interview at the immigration office.

I gathered up all my paperwork and headed down to the Nogales, Arizona Port of Entry for my 1:30PM interview. I had to assemble tons of paperwork: bank statements, proof of residency, tax statements, vehicle registration and much more. I got there early, after the hour drive south, and took a seat. This was an ultra-official office. These were the feds. They don't play. It was very quiet and sterile. Officers in uniform worked quietly behind the counter and in offices. My name was called and I entered an office for my interview. The officer who interviewed me, female, was very nice as she started the interview process with a myriad of questions about me, my travel, and why I was applying for these special travel cards.

About ten minutes into the interview, as the officer was asking about my work (besides a Taco Inspector, I am a radio DJ with a nationally syndicated show), she also asked me what name I went by on the air. When I told her "R Dub" (that's my radio name), she just about flipped her lid (in the good way!) She told me she listens to me and was a fan of the show, and the conversation's tone quickly shifted; to a more relaxed, friendly exchange. She wanted to know all about the radio station, other DJs, my work, etc. We had a great time for the remainder of the interview, exchanging stories, jokes, and small-talk, like we were old friends; in between the official stuff of course (fingerprints, photos, signatures, etc.) She even called other officers into the room to meet me. "This is R Dub! from the radio!" she touted. Who would've thought the officer assigned to my interview was a listener and a fan. I lucked out! This was great!

How quickly the tables turn...

We were just about done when the officer left the room for about ten minutes. She returned with a male officer. "This is Officer Schmidlap," she said. "He has a few questions for you." At this point, I thought it was maybe a few more routine interview questions before everything was finalized. But it was not. Oh no, it was not.

"Did you pass through the Nogales Port of Entry recently?" he asked. I told him I hadn't crossed here since December. He had an accusing tone, and my mind raced wondering what exactly he was getting at. What in the world was this about? "Did you film one of our officers?" he asked. OH CRAP!!! Immediately I knew what he was getting at.

You may remember, last December's Five-Sombrero Taco Inspection took place in Nogales, Mexico, and included video of me crossing back into the U.S. through the inspection port. I had filmed it, and one of the officers did come out in the video. Apparently, this is a HUGE no-no. I did not deny it. I admitted I did tape my crossing, and Officer Schmidlap proceeded to read me the riot act. He was not happy. In fact, he was furious. He explained to me the regulation and why filming at an immigration port was prohibited, including officer-safety, etc. I didn't argue. I listened to what he had to say, and apologized. I really wasn't aware of the seriousness of what I had done, and this whole confrontation really caught me off guard. Who would've thought a Taco segment I taped eight months ago would come back to bite me? I felt horrible.

The officer then informed me that my application process is now officially halted and he didn't know what would happen. My heart was racing. I was scared and also felt like a pretty big jack-ass. I could tell the female officer was "disappointed" in her favorite DJ. I let her down. The male officer explained that he didn't know how all this would end, and that the issue would have to go all the way to Washington. WTF??? I truly felt like a naughty boy in the principal's office. I left the building with my head down and drove back home to Tucson feeling like an idiot.

What will happen next? I don't know!


  1. Wow Dub! Let's hope Homeland Security does not send agents after you to throw you in lock up at Guantanamo!!!

    I think they may still let you get a pass on this one. It was an innocent mistake and I'm sure they'll realize that you meant no harm...but how the heck did they know about the film in the first place...and what kind of person keeps that in their memory for MONTHS (could have been YEARS) until they finally met you. WHo knows...maybe you might have NEVER met him. Then what? Would he still hold on to this shred of info to get at you in the afterlife???

    I will say this, might not be helping your case by posting the pic of that same officer on your blog! :)

  2. The pics in this blog were not taken by me...they were already public and on the internet! I'm stupid, but not THAT stupid! :)

  3. Gezzzz….they need to chill out. That was your personal car and your first amendment rights sound like they have been threatened. A call to the ACLU might be in order.

  4. Wow, I didn’t if I ought to laugh or pucker up some.

  5. Sooo, what's the rest of the story???