Preparation Prior to Travel

• Travelers who book tickets in advance and book travel with a return trip may experience less hassle on departure and return
• Give a family member or CAIR-SFBA’s Civil Rights Department the following: a detailed itinerary for your trip, your date of birth, and your passport or visa details. This enables an advocate to assist you should you experience a delay on your return.
• Memorize CAIR-SFBA’s phone number (408.986.9874) or one of a close family member’s as you may not have access to your phone or personal belongings if you are delayed in secondary inspection when you return.

Preparation for Your Return into the U.S.

To re-enter the U.S., travelers must go through immigration and customs inspection. U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) will verify your identity, whether you are carrying any illegal items, and that you, or your family, are not bringing more than $10,000 back into the U.S.

Primary Inspection: All travelers must pass through the preliminary inspection procedure. You can be asked about the general purpose of your trip (personal, business, or both), your immigration status, if you are carrying any banned item (includes banned agricultural items), and the amount of currency you are declaring.

Secondary Inspection: Some travelers will be detained in a separate area for a variety of reasons upon return to the U.S. These travelers will be screened more thoroughly and may be asked intrusive questions. If you have experienced this before, contact CAIR-SFBA prior to your trip.

If You Are Detained

Travelers are only required to answer questions about their citizenship, the nature of their trip, and anything they are bringing back to the United States that they did not have with them when they left. I.S. citizens should immediately and politely object to any questions about your community, family, politics, religion, or work by saying: “that question is not relevant to my entry in to the country. I would like to speak with your supervisor.”

CBP also has the authority to search all persons, baggage, and merchandise arriving into the United States. This includes the search of files on laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices. If you do not want particular photos or files to be searched, it is best to upload them elsewhere and take them off the devices that you are traveling with.

CBP Can Question You Regarding:
• Your citizenship
• The nature or purpose of your trip
• Anything you are bringing back to the United States that you did not have with you when you left
• They can examine your baggage and everything in it
• They can confiscate your electronic items
CBP Cannot:
• Target you for additional screening or questions based on racial or ethnic profiling
• Ask you general questions without some probable cause, i.e.. They cannot ask you about your personal life-where you spend time, work, worship, your friends, etc.
• Handcuff you or strip search you
• Confiscate your electronic property without an inventory

General Tips for all Travelers

• Tell the Truth: All statements made to law enforcement agents, at the border or otherwise, must be truthful. A lie, even a small one, could be prosecuted and punishable with imprisonment.
• Reduce the Data You Carry: Consider backing up your data to the cloud prior to your departure from the U.S. or travel with a temporary device. Log out of all accounts (Facebook, email, Instagram, etc.) and ensure your phone has a strong password. Completely turn off your phone prior to proceeding through U.S. customs. If your device is confiscated write down the agent’s name and get a receipt for your property.
• Do not sign anything without speaking to a lawyer.
• You may ask for a phone to speak to your lawyer. Generally, this is provided to you, but you may have to ask more than once. Call CAIR-SFBA or a close family member.
• Stay Accountable: Your best defense is you. Account for the time you arrived, the lane you entered, the officers who spoke to you or handled you or your belongings, the questions you were asked, and the time you were released.
• Report any and all delays to CAIR-SFBA.
• U.S. Citizens:

  • You have the absolute right to return to the U.S. If you are denied boarding of your return flight, contact CAIR-SFBA or a close family member immediately.
  • You have the absolute right to remain silent. This is also true for questions regarding the purpose of your trip, and if you are carrying any contraband. Exercising your right to silence will likely cause some delay.
  • You are not required to unlock your electronic devices or provide your password.

See also: Know the Facts and Know Your Rights – For Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities in ArabicEnglish, and Farsi