I, The Teflon Terrorist: Flying Internationally As A Convicted Terrorist: Part IV

Jul 1, 2017 by

I, The Teflon Terrorist: Flying Internationally As A Convicted Terrorist: Part IV

Envelopes of bribery cash, pedophiles, and more in my reach for the coveted title of “international terrorist.”

The plan was to hang out in one of those “all inclusive waterfront resorts” in Cancun for the weekend. Basically they shuttle you in, the gate closes behind you, and everything inside – food and otherwise – is free for the duration of your stay. You couldn’t spend money inside if you wanted to.

Despite that, it should be obvious why my carry-on had an envelope with $1,000 in cash. My image of Mexican police was formed entirely by TV, where we’re told they get very loose with the rules when inspired by a little money.

Was $1,000 overkill? My biggest fear was time in an international jail. So no.

I had no plans to break laws, but also had no plans of my criminal history vanishing from the record before hitting Mexican Customs. How did “eco-terrorism” translate in Spanish?

My history with other countries freaking out about my terrorism conviction

European countries don’t care. None of them. I’ve been to over 10.

Canada cares. A lot. To the extent that I am explicitly banned from entering Canada, forever. (My last attempt, I spent the night in customs jail and missed a wedding).

If those are the two extremes, where would Mexico fall? I almost found out by accident when I missed the last US exit en route to a Green Day concert in Chula Vista once, but that didn’t count.

I was about to find out for real.

Touching down in Cancun

I got off the plane and approached the Customs booth. A man took my passport, took a long look at the computer screen, and picked up the phone.

Here we go…

Two guys approached and told me to follow them.

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I was taken to an office and told to sit down. In front of me was a desk. To my right was a sparse room with a table and two chairs, having every appearance of an interrogation chamber. Minus the ominous swinging lightbulb.

And for two hours, I sat, unacknowledged.

This is how I imagined life-sentences in foreign prisons began: Not with the commission of serious felonies, but getting picked up for something benign, and then – with no friends or lawyers to call – getting lost in the system.

The Convict at Customs Walk of Shame

While I was being ignored, two other Americans brought in were given swift attention.

The first was a man in his late-20s. Behind him was a frantic wife, pleading with the Customs person to tell them what was going on. The American guy told his wife to go to baggage claim and wait for his call. He was then taken promptly into the interrogation room. They left the door open.

In broken English, the Customs guy began.

“We see you have in your file an arrest in 2007. Can you tell me more about that please?”

“That was…. I worked at a school and… It was not like they made it out to be…. I was spending a lot of time with a student… She said she was 18 but….”

“I’m sorry but we cannot let you into Mexico.”

This was too weird.

The guy came out, slumped down next to me, and called his girlfriend / wife.

“They’re not letting me in the country. It’s….. It’s my record…. That DUI from high school. Sorry honey.”

I’m not sure if it was okay to think this was funny, but I was doing it anyway.

They brought another guy in. He was in his 40s. Also with a woman. Who he also told to go on to baggage claim and he’d meet her there when this was straightened out.

To recount what happened next would be quite literally redundant. Because if you replace “worked at a school” with “worked at a restaurant,” it was a carbon copy.

And in a moment, I was sitting there with two guys who “didn’t know she was 16.”

At this point I was feeling pretty good about myself. For the first time since prison, I was the least guilty and stigmatized person in the room.

Then it was my turn.

A uniformed man who looked about 21 brought me into the interrogation room, rifled through some papers, then leaned back and said-

“There are two kinds of people Mexico does not allow into the country: Sexual criminals and terrorists.”

I knew where this was going.

“We have been trying to contact your country to… better understand something we see here.”

He was looking at his stack of papers.

“We cannot reach them. We cannot let you in until we understand these crimes.”

This was a rare discussion with a government employee I could win. I had years of experience explaining my “crimes” to hundreds, maybe thousands of people. And from right wing truck drivers to 19-year-old Starbucks baristas to prison guards, explaining my “act of terrorism” elicits only one of two responses:

“That’s really cool.” (Best case)

“That’s really funny”. (Worst)

Those are the two extremes. You simply cannot get anyone who is not an animal farmer or FBI agent to think freeing animals is bad.

“I opened cages at farms that held animals. That is all. Please look up my name on Google. You will see.”

He nodded like he hadn’t thought of that.

“Please give me one moment, I will be back.”

Five minutes later he returned.

“We looked into your story, and…. We do not care about this kind of thing.”

Cool.

“We have no problem with you. Please sign these papers and you can go.”

This is where I did the dumbest thing I’ve ever done ever

No exaggeration. I can’t think of anything that tops it.

I was handed a two-page document and asked to sign. It was in Spanish.

I take it back: This was how life-sentences in foreign prisons begin. You sign a statement you can’t read, it is a detailed confession of a crime you didn’t commit, and no man or consulate can ever save you from your dungeon.

I explained that I cannot read the document, and needed an English translation. The guy got testy, and said something about how I was in his country and this was the language they used.

I asked him to read it to me, in English.

He began dragging his finger down the page, offering a loose translation.

“This paragraph says you were detained by border security. This paragraph says you provided information about your past criminal offenses. This paragraph says everything you told us was truthful. This paragraph….”

I knew barely enough Spanish (learned in prison) to generally verify the paragraphs matched his descriptions.

But seriously, signing a document you don’t understand is like break-all-records dumb.

I had a rich history of defying police pressure to “cooperate,” including serving an extra year in prison for my unwillingness to do so. I understand the practical value of not signing or making statements in police custody.

Then I thought of the beach. The hot tub on the beach. The other hot tub on the beach. The all-you-can-drink soy lattes on the beach….

I signed it.

“You’re free to go.”

Epilogue

An hour later I was in a hot tub, writing lyrics to my unreleased hip hop record. Here’s a sample:

“I’m the Teflon Terrorist. You’re the Flypaper Felon. Only time I get caught is when snitches start tellin’…”

Labels hit me up.

pool

-Jetsetting Terrorist

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