This is a bit of a long story, and may make more sense over on the legal stackexchange, so I will keep it brief:

  • I (a US citizen) attempted to enter the USA with third party goods (my father's things), and was denied entry
  • I (on the same day), re-attempted entry with my father (Canadian citizen) present (from the US side, he had flown and taken a taxi to the border to meet me). The intent was for him to claim his goods.

I was once again forcibly denied entry. The USBP official was belligerent and aggressive, and, despite me fully complying, the situation resulted in five USBP agents escorting me to my vehicle with hands on holsters. This created a very messy situation as Canada nearly denied my father entry (he visited the USA and returned without the necessary COVID testing)

I am very frustrated that the agents escalated a very simple situation to such an extreme. While I'm aware of the political situation in the USA, and the resulting aggression from the border agents would fully be ignored, I'd like to know if I have legal grounds to at least initiate some sort of investigation.

On the first entry (a different agent), it was made clear that I could cross, being an american citizen, however the goods themselves were denied. On the second crossing, that option was never presented, and I was given zero opportunity to even speak, being instead threatened with weapons. I'm not sure if this falls into "denying a US citizen entry into their home country"

What legal precedent can I use (if any) to start a complaint such that these inappropriate and dangerous actions can be brought to light?

Edits to address the comments

  • No particular goods were cited by the border agents at either attempted crossing, "Third party goods" was the extent of the explanation both times.
  • No force or aggression was supplied on my side. The only question I could fully ask without being interrupted was "Can you please explain why I am being denied entry, these goods are no longer third party". That alone immediately prompted the multi-officer march towards me. I should add that the particular officer I was dealing with was immediately, quite literally red in the face from anger within seconds of beginning our conversation. He was clearly unhappy before I walked in, slamming doors and knocking things over from inside the office before coming out to "escort" me to my vehicle. However, regardless of this, there is no reason why even the idea of firearms should be involved in a nonviolent situation.
  • (Not that it is relevant, because nobody actually ever looked inside the vehicle or inspected the goods). There was no contraband or any goods that otherwise would have been denied entry. There was clothing, a set of golf clubs, and a bicycle.
  • My father could not cross the land border into the USA due to current COVID restrictions. He is permitted to fly, but not drive across the border. I, an american (dual) citizen, can drive across the border. That was the original intent of the trip and my father was in the air while I attempted the first entry.
  • 4
    Were any grounds for denying entry cited by the Border agents? Was the nature of the "goods" relevant? Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 18:40
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    I find it very suspicious that you simply call these things "third party goods". I believe that the nature of these "goods" is the heart of why you were denied entry. Please explain.
    – jwh20
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 19:14
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    Can you also explain "forcibly denied entry"? Did you attempt to enter without their approval and they had to physically stop you? That would explain a lot of what you say happened afterwards. Polite and respectful behavior and language is very unlikely to create the described response.
    – jwh20
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 19:19
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    From the description of the incident, it is apparent that you were dealing with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field officers, not the United States Border Patrol (USBP), which is a subunit of CBP. USBP agents wear green uniforms. They don't generally work at ports of entry but rather are charged with apprehending those who cross the border elsewhere. CBP immigration and customs inspectors wear blue.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 8:32
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    Another strange fact is that (on the second attempt) father was prepared to fly from Canda to USA and then approach the border to receive the goods, but not to simply cross the border with them himself. First time "you can enter, but not with the goods." Second time "he's back again." What were the goods? Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 11:30

3 Answers 3


You don't need any legal precedent to start a complaint process. You can just file a complaint through the CBP's system.

  • This may or may not be helpful, depending on whether "complaint" refers to the document filed with a court to begin a lawsuit.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 13:40
  • Do you have any experience with this? Does the complaint generally get addressed, or go into an ever-thickening "file"? Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 13:41
  • Complaints are useless. 97% result in "no action taken"
    – Hilmar
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 15:02
  • @Hilmar there is a pretty good chance OP will be added to a sh*t list - if OP is not already on such a list.
    – emory
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 16:16

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do.

CBP has wide leeway and almost no oversight or accountability.

You can try to file a complaint, but their complaint system appears to be purely window dressing. 97% of all complaints result in "no action taken" and the only way to get this data was to file a "Freedom of Information Act" request.

They cannot legally deny you entry in the US but they sure can illegally deny you entry and there is very little recourse (other than trying somewhere else).

I have personally witnessed CBP officer doing blatantly illegal things, but in almost all cases there is no viable recourse of any kind and they know it.

Caveat: I'm not lawyer: for specific legal advise talk to a lawyer.

Source: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/no-action-taken-lack-cbp-accountability-responding-complaints-abuse and https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/05/07/310387579/report-details-hundreds-of-complaints-against-u-s-border-agents


Your definition of inappropriate and dangerous are probably different than the CBP's.

Unless you really want to die on this hill and receive a heroic level of attention during border crossings in the future, you should let this one go.

  • Would your opinion be the same if guns had come out? What about if shots had been fired? Maybe I'm exceptionally sensitive, but there must be a line somewhere, and the political situation in the USA clearly shows that lines are beginning to be drawn Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 13:37
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    sure, what if they had killed you, but they didn't. My guess is they were mad because you had been told once you couldn't bring in third party owned items and then you show up again alone with the same items.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 13:47

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