Why Is He Typing In My License Plate Number?
US Customs, created a computer database system in the late 1980's that links every kiosk in every Port of Entry, together so that information could be shared instantly. The computer system was dubbed "Tecs II" and the information collected is categorized, and filed by regional headquarters, and finally information is edited by US Customs (which is a department of the Treasury) in Washington DC.
By noting the time, and place of your entry "Big Brother" can later review this data to see if perhaps a strange or odd pattern emerges. If for instance a Missouri automobile repeatedly enters the US between two and four AM at various entry points and does it often enough, a little "checkmark" is put alongside the vehicle on the screen (actually it is an innocuous sounding "yes") and upon the next entry it would be sent to secondary so that the riddle can be resolved. License numbers of stolen cars are entered into the database and if the car is "flagged" then secondary personnel are forewarned that the vehicle may be hot. As an aside if your car is -ever- stolen in the states and you recover it and then subsequently decide to go to Mexico get a letter from your District Attorney's Office stating that the vehicle was recovered and returned to you. It matters not if the vehicle is registered to John Doe, and Customs finds John Doe driving it, the only instrument that will get you on the road quickly is that letter from the D.A. (the foregoing tip was earned through the school of hard knocks).
What is Secondary Inspsection
Also random cars are "flagged" to go through secondary inspection regardless of what the driver declares or stated as his destination in Mexico. It's best to resign yourself to fifteen minutes of dumb questions and suspicious stares. All Customs Agents want to graduate and become a "Special Agent" and a shortcut on this pathway to the elite ranks is to ferret out a shipment of contraband that the system might have otherwise overlooked. I answer with simple "yes" and "no" answers while realizing that one of the techniques used is to keep the person being suspected off guard. The Golden Rule of US Customs Inspection is to never show the same face twice.
Here's a sample of a rather intense (Screening) interview (Which would take place in secondary):
"What are you smuggling from Mexico today?"
"Are you really, really, sure that's all you want to declare?"
"What would you say if I told you that we're looking for a car just like yours that was reported to have marijuana inside"
"Do you know that you can be fined two thousand dollars on the spot here today for lying?"
"Now would you mind telling me again where exactly you've been in Mexico and exactly how long you've been outside of the United States?"
"I've inspected a lot of cars and I never see stuff stacked like you've got there unless you're trying to hide something"
Yes I know the above sounds rude, and yes it is a little unsettling to have to go through it. But an intense secondary inspection like the above is almost traumatic if you've had no warning about what to expect. I figure roughly that every two hundred entries will result in a vigorous question and answer session.
The reason that US Customs uses this approach is that they often find drugs and contraband that only an inspection like this can turn up. They figure that ninety percent of the illegal drugs that enters the US is hidden in vehicles that look innocent. And as long as stupid people continue to get busted in those secondary inspections, then the Agents will continue to use "screening" as an option for inspection.
Now for the type of entry conversation that is most likely to happen:
"What are you bringing from Mexico today?"
"Are you a US citizen?"
"Have a nice day"