Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Deferred Inspection Extension

You probably know by now that my deferred inspection/parole expires on Friday. My goal today was to find out in person whether I could extend this since "the administrative processing" at Washington DC is taking for ever and it would be stupid to go back to Juarez now. I had been told by someone at the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) help center that it wasnt renewable in which case I would be Mexico-bound on Friday. I have even booked a flight. My Southwest flight leaves BWI airport at 8:45am Friday and I anticipate to be at the Zaragosa Port of Entry at 2:30pm on the same day.

As soon as I got to Baltimore last week, I scheduled an appointment with the DHS's immigration office to have my extension done. This was before I was told that the form could not be extended. I went there anyway, when I got there at 10:00am this morning, I was surprised to have to go through security check and such. I felt like I was in an airport or something. I didnt think they would have such a thing there, but I was wrong. I had my computer, camera, papers, pens, computer cables etc. Right in from of me, there was a sign that said "NO CAMERAS ALLOWED." I didnt think they would let me in while I was waiting in the line. As soon as I got to the front, the security officer asks "Do you have any guns or weapons?"
I said, "Excuse me?"
"Any guns or weapons sir?" She retorted
I answered "No."

She then asked me to put my bag through the x-ray, and go through the security check. I was hoping that they were not going to confiscate my camera. They didnt. Phew.

A few minutes later, I was standing in front to a DHS official. I have come to associate DHS with meanness. They are all mean people and I wasnt expecting any otherwise this time round. Our meeting lasted less than 45 seconds and she wouldnt even let me talk or ask anything. She said "We cant renew that. We dont deal with it. Go to the Customs and Border Patrol" When I tried to ask something, she cut in with "Sir, I told you." So, I left.

Last night, while trying to locate my passport, I happened to call the customs office at BWI Airport and had the number saved. So I redialed the number and talked to a customs agent on that end. He told me to head out there so he could look at my case. I was on my way within minutes and some 20 minutes later, I was walking towards the International Concourse E. It was empty. I learnt later that they dont get many international flights here which is a little odd.

In one of the walk ways, there was a green sign that said "US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)." The arrow on the sign pointed to the wall. It took me 5 minutes before I asked someone at Forex counter where the entrance was. Well, I made my move, entered the "camouflaged-door" only to find no one on the other side. So I waited until two officers showed up. One of them recognized me as we had gone back and forth on the phone for two days now. So he told me he would take my case. His name was Charganauf (or something like that). Definitely one of the nicest people I have ever interacted with in my life. He didnt understand why they gave me 14 days on my parole and why they never told me that I had an option of paying $500 and waive the entire process.

I wish everyone was like Officer Chargnauf but my brother used to tell me "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." I never understood what that meant then.

Officer Charganauf gave me a 30-day extension! I am here legally until February 24, 2008 or until I go get my visa.

On my way home, I called the Chief of the non-immigrant visa (NIV) section at the Juazes consulate as I had promised him that I would give him an update. He was happy that they did this without having to call him. He had told me that if there was any problem, that the CPB should call him for an explanation. He also said he would call me as soon as he hears from Wshington, DC and he hopes that would be sometime tomorrow.

I could be headed to Juarez next week.

No comments: