A British reporter recounts her treatment by U.S. immigration, when (despite Britain having a visa waiver program with the United States) she didn't apply for an "I Visa" before attempting to enter the country:
After my luggage search, the officer took some mugshots of me, then proceeded to fingerprint me. In the middle of this, my husband rang from London; he had somehow managed to locate my whereabouts, and I was allowed briefly to wipe the ink off my hands to take the call. Hearing his voice was a reminder of the real world I was beginning to feel cut off from.
Three female officers arrived to do a body search. As they slipped on rubber gloves, I blenched: what were they going to do, and could I resist? They were armed, they claimed to have the law on their side. I was an anonymous foreigner who had committed a felony, and "those were the rules". So I was groped, unpleasantly, though not as intimately as I had feared. Then came the next shock: two bulky, uniformed and armed security men handcuffed me, which they explained was the "rule when transporting detainees through the airport". I was marched between the two giants through an empty terminal to a detention room, where I sat in the company of two other detainees (we were not allowed to communicate) and eight sleepy guards, all men. I would have been happy to spend the night watching TV with them, as they agreed to switch the channel from local news (highlight: a bear was loose in an affluent LA neighbourhood) to sitcoms and soaps. Their job was indescribably boring, they were overstaffed with nothing to do, and so making sure I didn't extract a pen or my mobile phone from my luggage must have seemed a welcome break. I listened to their star-struck stories about actors they had recently seen at LAX. We laughed in the same places during Seinfeld, an eerie experience. I was beginning to think I could manage this: the trip was a write-off, of course, but I could easily survive a night and a day of this kind of discomfort before flying back. But then I was taken to the detention cell in downtown LA, where the discomfort became something worse.