Two American Peace Activist stopped and questioned entering the United States
On Tuesday, May 2. 2006 my friend and Food Not Bombs volunteer Laurie Churchill and I were taken off American Airlines flight 47 from Heathrow, England to Chicago-O Hare.
Two Homeland Security personnel met us at the gate, took us to a back area of the airport where they proceeded to search our belongings. They interrogated us for an hour. At 5:00 PM as the flight came to a stop at the gate, an announcement was made that we would be asked to show our passports as we exited the plane and to have them ready. The passengers ahead of us showed their passports and quickly moved down the jet way but when my friend and I stepped out of the plane on to the jet way the two customs agents asked us to stop.
They took a brief look at our passports and asked us to follow them. They took us to the Customs window where another Customs officer asked the other two agents asked if there was something wrong. The agents escorting us told the officer that there wasn't a problem and we passed by after getting our passports stamped.
The woman Customs agent whose name tag said Y. Tejeda told me to get a cart so I did. The agents told us to get our bags off the carrousel and they stood behind us waiting for our bags to arrive. When we finally had our bags they told us to follow them.
The male officer took Laurie to one table and the woman took me to another table about 30 feet away. The female Customs agent questioned me for almost an hour. She asked me to open my suitcase, backpack and wallet. As she looked at each item she would ask me questions. Looking at a copy of the Food Not Bombs book she asked me what groups I worked with and I told her I worked with Food Not Bombs. She read the caption under one photo out loud. She asked me again if I worked with any other groups. "Are you sure you don 't belong to any other groups, " she asked several times to see if Food Not Bombs was violent. I finally told her that the groups name says we are not for bombs, that we are non-violent.
She then asked if I had been arrested and I told her that I had been arrested for feeding the homeless. She said that couldn 't be true and asked if I had been arrested for protesting. She asked me how I made my living and when I told her I was a graphic designer and worked for myself she wanted to know the name of my company. I said I worked under my own name. She insisted that I used another name as well and I told her I also used the name Caliche Art and Design. She asked me how to spell Caliche. I spelled it and told her it was named after my cat and the type of rocks found in Tucson.
She read some of my notes in my sketchbook. She asked again about the Food Not Bombs book and asked whom the co-author C.T. Butler is, where he lives and what he did for work and what other groups he worked with. She wanted to know all the countries I visited in the past two years. I told her Sweden, Poland, Hungry, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and than she stopped me. She asked if she could keep copies of my flyer with a drawing on it and then seeing the next flyer she said, "What's wrong with McDonalds? "
After sheśread through a flyer I had from the Tucson Tennis Club and a flyer in English about a conference center in Turkey, she went through my wallet she asked me who Salih Kalem was and she was very interested in the ACLU business card. She took two Turkish business cards, the ACLU card, and a check from the Food Not Bombs account and the flyer for the Turkish conference center and typed in information from these documents into a computer.
While she was processing information, a man in a business suit sat behind her computer and asked me if I ever went up to Mount Lemmon, about the fire there, asked if I hike Sabino Canyon recently and said some stuff about Pine Top and Show Low.
When she finished inputting the information into the computer they took Laurie and me to an American Airlines window at the end of the room and we checked our bags on to El Paso.
I wrote to my congresspeople. They passed the letter on to federal agencies. After a month or two letters from Homeland Security, the Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration arrived at my mail box. Most letters explained that they were sorry I was inconvenience and that the may have been looking for another Keith McHenry. One letter said that I was on several terrorist data bases. I was also told that I could send in my passport birth certificate and state identification and if everything checked out I might be taken off the list but I might not be taken off. My Senators and congress people wrote saying that they could forward my letter to Homeland Security but that they couldn't do anything to have my name taken off the list.
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