10 Reasons To Assert Your Rights
10 Brief Responses to 700 Comments About Refusing to Answer Questions at Passport Control
by Paul Karl Lukacs
Phuket Island, Thailand
My post about refusing to answer questions from Customs and Border Protection officers when re-entering the U.S. has resulted in a lot of debate. My thanks to everyone who joined the conversation, including the authors of the more than one hundred posts that called me a douchebag. Let me address the major points raised, although there are multiple issues – such as the fine distinction between CBP’s immigration powers and its customs powers – that I need to truncate or elide to keep this response from becoming a law review article.
(BTW, I’m blown away by the hubbub. In the last three days, this blog has received more than 75,000 hits. The original post currently has 175 comments, while the Boing Boing report has 172 comments, the Consumerist article 312 comments, and the Reason piece 121.) (Update: The Hacker News section of ycombinator currently has 104 comments.)
1. A U.S. Citizen Cannot Be Denied Re-Entry To Her Own Country.
A federal judge in Puerto Rico – a territory sensitive to the rights and privileges of its residents’ U.S. citizenship – said it best: “The only absolute and unqualified right of citizenship is to residence within the territorial boundaries of the United States; a citizen cannot be either deported or denied reentry.” U.S. v. Valentine, 288 F. Supp. 957, 980 (D.P.R. 1968).
So, while some commenters worried – or advocated – that a citizen who refused to answer CBP questions would be denied re-entry to the United States, the U.S. government does not have the power to prevent a citizen’s re-entry.
2. (The Right To) Silence Is Golden.