Reentry to U.S. Can Be Complicated

USA TODAY, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Reentry to U.S. Can Be Complicated


Many Americans enjoy overseas travel but, what they do not realize, is that coming back into the country can be more difficult than they would imagine. Being a U.S. citizen does not protect you from searches and, sometimes, seizures by Customs and Border Protection or the Department of Homeland Security, notes Robert G. Stahl of Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers, Westfield, N.J.

U.S. citizens can be asked to discuss their travels--why you went where you did; how long you were gone; whom you saw; and what your activities were. Even if it merely was a holiday away, the authorities may ask for cell phones, iPads, and computers, explaining that it is routine practice. If they find that the devices are password protected, they are allowed by law to ask you to unlock them so they can be examined, and possibly download the contents.

American travelers are under the impression that they are protected from unreasonable search and seizure but, at the border, those Fourth Amendment protections do not apply. According to the most-recent statistics, these types of searches have increased greatly, from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 19,000 in 2016, and are on track for 30,000 in 2017.

If you refuse to provide passwords, you could be detained and your devices seized. Faced with that, most citizens simply provide the passwords and begrudgingly let the officers scroll through their devices. …

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