If you, or someone from your family, have any plan to visit the
US in a near future, I strongly suggest you to continue reading
this text, where I describe the experiences I had in LA
International Airport, late Feb 24, 2002.
My name is Ricardo Abude E. Da Silva, I'm an Electronic Engineer graduated in 1982 and today am managing our family's businesses in the farming sector. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org . Throughout my 42 years of age I've travelled several times to the US, both on business and tourism. Late Feb 23 I embarked in Rio heading to LA, in possession of my third Visa to the US, issued in November 1999, and valid until November 2009.
I was aware of the increased airport security for US trips, due to Sep 11 attacks, and in Rio International Airport one can already notice the routine change, but I could have never imagined what would happen next.
From now on I describe, step by step, the horrendous and unimaginable nightmare that I went through :
Saturday Feb 23 21:50 hrs I depart from Rio with Varig flight RG 8836, going to LA.
Sunday Feb 24 07:00 hrs I arrive in LA and proceed towards passport control. The officer looks at my Passport for about five minutes, and asks me to proceed towards an INS office known as 'Secondary One'. It is the first time something like that happens to me, but I imagine I´m going to be interviewed for additional information concerning my stay. 'Extra safety measures....' I thought.
Sunday Feb 24 07:30 hrs A Second officer asks me to collect all my luggage and accompany him inside Secondary One. "...the interview is going to be in there." I thought again. All of a sudden, I am brutally pushed inside a 2x2 yd cell, all my luggage, money, documents and personnal belongings are confiscated, and they take away my belt and shoe strings. As I protest against the unexpected treatment, the two officers respond with loud screams and threats of beating me and keeping me confined. I am violently pushed against the wall, they frisk me from head to toe, and all my personnal belongings are searched. Again I´m pushed against the wall, my picture is taken, I'm fingerprinted and am finally thrown into a filthy, stinky, unventilated hall, already crowded with people. I notice, by their looks, that they've gone through the same 'ritual', and even though I am still stunned by the long flight, the jet lag, and mainly by the violent, outraging disrespect of civil and human rights, I face the crude fact of life "there's no such thing as interviews - I'm a prisoner."
Sunday Feb 24 09:00 hrs The scene resembles a Greek tragedy, a 4x4 yd room, filthy chairs, a stinking black carpet, no ventilation, huge 50" TV turned on all the time volume blasting. Tired, hungry people, sick people, people throwing up....worried about a friend, who was waiting for me outside the airport I ask for a phone call.
- "Shut-up! No phone calls." - They answered.
Sunday Feb 24 10:00 hrs Arrested, hungry, thirsty, no communication, and without the slightest ideia of what was going to happen next, I noticed the continuos flow of tourists coming to our cell and I face the degrading scandal the very same treatment is given to women, teenagers, children even elderly people a truly barbarian act ! Revolted, I witness two INS officers arguing over the priviledge of frisking the prettiest ladies, without any concern of hiding their sickening lust from their respective fathers, husbands or brothers, doing their commentaries, invitations, and obscene declarations right on their faces.
- "I've just frisked a disgusting latino....now it's my turn to frisk this Italian fox !" stated an Officer to his coleague, refering to the wife of an Italian tourist. The blunt disrespect made my stomach churn in revolt....
Kicking, pushing, screaming, threathening, heavily armed bullies displayed their brutallity, prejudice, and arrogance upon the constant flow of tourists coming into our cell, getting more and more crowded by the minute, holding an unbearable stench....
Sunday Feb 24 14:00 hrs After seven hours of ordeal, I'm finally taken to an almost surrealistic "interview" with Officer Sanchez, and Officer Lee, both subordinate to Officer Green, from INS. He "explains" to me that since all my papers and my Visa were in perfect order, he would "kindly" give me two options :
- The first was to sign a document in which I "requested" the withdrawal of my Visa, returning to Brazil in the first available flight.
- If I refused to sign the hoax I'd be arrested for an undetermined period and he'd start a compulsory deportation process, sending me back to my Country thus.
A important detail on the "deal" - so long as I refused to sign the document I'd not receive any food, or water. What would you choose? Oh well, me, too.
Sunday Feb 24 16:00 hrs I am taken, with another five "prisoners" to a different cell. We are all handcuffed, and escorted by armed officers, we are made to stroll through the airport lounge. The terrified tourists make way, frightened by the grotesque scene. They take us all to a van, parked outside the terminal, and transfer us to the other cell. The humiliation is suffocating ....
- Sunday Feb 24 17:00 hrs Apparently, they have forgotten to make me sign a few forms at the Secondary One, so I'm taken again for a couple of strolls ( going there and coming back ) in the Airport Lounge. Those strolls remember are with cuffs and 'escorts.'
Sunday Feb 24 18:00 hrs Due to my unceasing protests, they finally allow me to make a phone call. I contact a Lawyer in LA, in the hope he´d get me out of that hell, but the information I get from him is even more surprising, and disheartening:
- "Ricardo, the INS grounds at the Airport are not legally considered American soil, so I cannot invoke any civil right to take you out of there..." he tells me. How about that ???
In other words, I realize I'm in a no-man's land, a lawless place, arrested by arbitrary Nazis in the guise of INS Officers, that, due to this legal technicality, have the power to do whatever they please with you and what is worse with your family. I start to dream of the moment of catching a plane back home to Brazil.....however, before that, I'd still have to go through the worst night of my life.....
Night of Sunday to Monday Feb 25 I start to dread the moment in which tiredness is going to win the battle and make me lie down on those filthy chairs. It´s very cold, but even so, the prospect of using the slimy blankets is not at all attractive. Five officers are in the night shift, and feeling bored, they pass time kicking "disgusting Chinese", cursing "stupid niggers", threatening "filthy latinos". Our uneducated officers are unable to articulate three consecutive words without using the "F.." word, and we spend the night immersed in this sea of racial prejudice, brutallity, violence, arrogance and cowardice.
A curious note : our cell had two immense posters hanging on the walls. Look at that one was a huge map of Brazil, and the other was a picture of Ouro Preto, an historical city in Central Brazil. Both seemed to convey a silent, but eloquent invitation .....
Monday Feb 25 13:00 hrs After the worse 30 hours of my life, two armed officers escort me to my plane ( Varig flight RG 8837 ) and deliver my passport to the stewardess. They set guard by the plane door until take off. Just a last minute humiliation I guess....
Tuesday Feb 26 07:30 hrs I arrive tired, but immensely happy in Cumbica International Airport, in SP. I call my girlfriend Sarah in Belo Horizonte. After her recovery from the initial shock and the necessary explanations I invite her to celebrate our unexpected meeting with a trip to Ouro Preto, of course!
I relate this unfortunate episode hoping to bring these facts to light, to a wider number of people. Maybe those who, like me, were planning an innocent trip to this country might think twice before permitting their wifes, parents and children to be subjected to this infamous tribe of uncivilized barbarians. Daily, in every American Airport, hundreds of people from the four corners of the world are falling into the claws of these arrogant, racist, brutes, barbarian Nazis, and I think every single citizen of the globe shall contribute in whichever way they can to end this grotesc stain from the face of the free world.
The terrorists put down WTC twin towers, but they will achieve a far greater victory if they succeed in bending down the spirit, the values and ideals that guided America since it's very birth as an independent Nation.
Having visited the US so many times, and knowing with reasonable depth the history of this Country, I must say that the attitudes and methods of the INS Officers do not reflect the way of being and thinking of the majority of the American People, and surely do not reflect the values and ideals I referred to above. However, the overwhelming majority of the thousands of tourists that are going daily through this sad experience in American Airports do not have this perspective, and they are going back to their countries carrying in their hearts the seeds of hatred, violence and intolerance that end up germinating in tragedies such as Sept 11.
To Mr G. Bush one suggestion: in the attempt to erradicate the World of terrorism and it's "Evil Axis", start at home in the American Immigration and Naturalization Service INS.
A very important note: this narrative would not be complete without doing justice to Victor, one of the INS officers. He came into our cell Monday morning. Right when I lay my eyes on him I noticed a different glow, quickly explained by his attitudes he'd take care of one of us, feed and give water to another, he was always ready to help, at least send a smile, say a friendly word.... He moved like a star, shedding light into the darkness. I had the priviledge to talk with him for a few minutes, when I had the chance to convey my admiration, respect and gratitude for what he was doing for all those people, brutally subjected to such a painful experience. Son of Mexican Immigrants, educated in India, and possessing a spirituality impossible to hide behind such shinning eyes, this man, who represents so well the best of the East and the West told me simply "Ricardo, I don't do much, all I can do is try to transmit to these people a little compassion, a little love...."
May God always guard you and bless you Victor, as you guard and bless so many.... A last suggestion to the US President: consider promoting Victor to the post of Foreign Relations Minister, what he deserves more than anyone. I'm certain that, in a very short time, he'd reverse the already beaten up image of the US with the rest of the world. His attitude reflect perfectly the spirit and the values that have created America, and proves that one cannot possilbly combat terrorism by becoming himself a terrorist one should employ that ancient technique: turning the other cheek.
Finally, I want to say that I have already done the following :
* Filed a formal complain at the American Embassy in Brasilia.
* Filed a formal complain at the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry
* Send a copy of this text in Portuguese and in English to the Internet, newspapers, magazines, websites, and Human Rights International Institutions.
* I hereby authorize any individual or corporation to divulge or reproduce this text partially or in its entirety, making it a public domain, as I believe this case is.
May God bless us all.
Ricardo Abude E. da Silva
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