Mechanism for Port of Entry Complaints / Compliments11 Jan 2016
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has several options for travelers to provide feedback, compliments, and/or complaints about the agency’s employees. If a problem arises with a CBP officer, there are mechanisms for reporting the problem in person to a supervisor, as well as avenues to file a complaint in writing by comment card, by phone, or via the agency’s website. Similarly, compliments also may be shared for exceptional service.
CBP at Ports of Entry
The CBP is responsible for protecting this nation’s borders, which includes the important role of inspecting those seeking entry into the United States. Because of this, most people who come into contact with CBP officers do so at U.S. ports of entry (POEs), such as airports and land border crossings when entering from Canada or Mexico. By law, CBP officers at POEs have the authority to search the personal belongings of travelers. This authority extends to all manner of items, ranging from documents and luggage, to electronic devices, including mobile phones and laptop computers.
Security Interests Can Trump Privacy Concerns at POEs
The inspection of travelers’ private property is a common source of tension between the public and the CBP. Having a complete stranger dig through one’s purse or search the contents of a personal computer naturally can feel like an invasion of privacy. But the CBP is charged with ensuring border security for the United States, and while these intrusions may seem extreme, they also, unfortunately, are often necessary for detecting and preventing criminal activity, terrorism, and potential dangers to other travelers. That being said, CBP officers should remain courteous and professional throughout the inspection process. CBP officers are required to identify themselves in the form of visible nametags. Those who feel they may need to file a complaint at least should make a mental note of the officer’s name.
Options for Passengers to Provide Feedback to CBP
As explained on the CBP WebSite, the CBP primarily relies upon four means of addressing traveler complaints: comment cards, the CBP INFO Center, passenger service representatives, and “a program where port directors and supervisors personally respond to telephone and verbal complaints.” The comment cards allow travelers to submit complaints (or compliments) in writing to a central CBP office; representatives at this office are responsible for following up with the travelers who submit such cards. The CBP INFO Center is in charge of tracking all CBP complaints, and also has representatives who follow up with stakeholders regarding complaints that have been filed with the CBP. Complaints that are filed at a particular POE are responded to within one business day either by a passenger service representative, the port director, or a CBP supervisor. Feedback also can be submitted anonymously via a CBP online system. Of course, anonymous complaints do not receive any response.
The public has various options for raising concerns related to the behavior of CBP officers. But, travelers should recognize the important function of the CBP, and understand that the responsibilities of CBP officers often require them to take actions that prioritize the nation’s security interests over an individual’s privacy concerns. Those who are unable to resolve an ongoing matter directly with CBP are welcome to schedule a consultation with an attorney at the Murthy Law Firm.
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