Know Your Rights at the Border & at Airports

When planning your holiday travel, or any other travel, be sure to check all DHS – TSA regulations and rules on the TSA website as well as the CBP regulations on the CBP website.
Please keep the following in mind if you plan to bring back any gift items or souvenirs:

  • Check in any Zam Zam water bottles that you want to bring back. Airlines will NOT allow you to carry liquids in large quantities on the plane, so be sure to check in Zam Zam and other liquids
  • If you are bringing back dates, make sure they are processed and sufficiently dry. You may consider vacuum sealing your dates to ensure freshness and to minimize the likelihood of contamination
  • When packing, ensure that your shoes are cleansed of any soil. CBP has strict rules regarding entry of soil, chemicals, etc. into the country
  • If you are bringing back currency (money, gold bars, etc.) worth more than $10,000, you will need to declare it. Any and all items received or purchased, irrespective of value, must also be declared. A failure to declare may result in confiscation by the CBP. Please check the CBP website for more information on customs duty

Entry into the United States

In order to enter or re-enter the country, travelers must go through two processes at United States ports of entry: immigration and customs. CBP is a department within the DHS responsible for both aspects at the point of entry.
CBP officers are required to verify the identities of travelers upon their entry into the United States. They must also ensure that travelers have not been engaged in illegal activity that poses a threat to national security. It is critical to present valid documentation in the form of a valid passport and/or proper immigration paperwork if you are seeking admission into the United States. Citizens have the unqualified right to re-enter the country.

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. You should immediately and politely object to any questions about your community, family, politics, religion, or work by saying: “I wish to remain silent. My attorney will contact you.”
If you have experienced invasive questioning on previous returns into the United States, it is advised that you consult with our civil rights department or a private attorney before your next trip. Please also see this CAIR travel advisory in regards to being detained while traveling.
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.

If you have any concerns or questions, please complete this incident report form or call us at 408.986.9874 to speak with a member of our Civil Rights Department.

*If your point of entry is California, the 9th Circuit requires that agents must have reasonable suspicion before they may search your electronics. Reasonable suspicion means that the agents have “specific and articulable facts demonstrating a reasonable likelihood that criminal activity is occurring.” Needless to say, in the overwhelming majority of scenarios, agents are not able to meet this standard.