Customs Camo Commotion

Posted: May 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

According to reports, the mother of a ten-month-old baby boy was instructed to change the child’s camouflage-patterned pants when they arrived at Piarco International Airport. The infant was strapped in a stroller when Customs and Excise Division officers advised that the clothing was illegal. “We presented our customs declaration form and the officer wrote something with a red ink and told us to go to the red line. I asked him why and he said it was because my son was wearing a camouflage pants and that was illegal,” the mother told the Express Newspaper. This is the gist of what happened. The response from the general public? A total condemnation and outrage at the customs division and officers involved. Why is that though? Have we become so blind as a society as to what is right and wrong at it’s core principals that we only look at surface value? Or is it the other way, that we look at principle, but it is so flawed in our own bias the we apply what we feel as what we think would be just law, while at the same time having very little understanding of the law itself?

Some have gone as far as to say that these instances are part of what has us stuck in the rut of being a Third World Country. The only thing “third world” about this situation is our citizens’ response to the situation. In a “first world” country, they very well may have been sent back to where they came from on the next flight with a large deportation stamp which would cause them hell to ever obtain a Visa/ to travel again (if holding foreign passports) or detained/fined heavily (if holding local passports). Our attitude here when people do their job is more backwards than what we sometimes choose to condemn.

It is complete negligence on the part of the parents as when traveling to another country, regulations as to what is prohibited in the airport is on the immigration form which must be signed at the bottom stating that you have read and understood what it contains. Camouflage wear of any kind is expressly prohibited on the form and there are additional signs about the airport to draw attention to ban and the fine for it. The officers I believed acted justly here as they couldn’t allow the camo to enter the country, but at the same time gave them a ‘bligh’ by not hitting them the fine (which, if I am not mistaken is in in the high 10 000’s TTD).

Customs regulations are strict all over the world and the Officers have a job to do. It is a very particular thing to be traveling across international boarders and the breaches in any of those securities are very serious matters no matter how small. Remember too at an airport or on an airplane you cant even say the word “bomb.” To attack the law on these matters or the officer is the wrong way to handle it. It wasn’t a case of discrimination or victimization but rather the officers doing what they need to do to avoid any security breaches across international boarders. The parents are lucky they didn’t get fined for it because they met up a customs officer that used his discretion to the fullest leniency that he was allowed.

It has been throw out there like many wild swings, that they (customs officers) let people who they should stop through. Understand please that we can never hold officers that do their job accountable for those who don’t. There will always be those who do and those who don’t. Those upholding and those tearing down. We should commend those who do, at the very least for doing their job. At points it may seem that we end up with absurdities in the law, but many times it is necessary to uphold the law itself, less it decay to a state or be abused to a state when the purpose of it is almost entirely defeated. The customs officers in many cases need to be careful, as their discretion can only go so far before they themselves are in breech of their duties and the law itself. Using the ‘ultimate’ justification of “What harm can a 10 month child do?” is the wrong way to approach this. The material is illegal for many reasons, and it is more than just slackness on the parent’s behalf but on behalf of people to resort to that o so familiar comfort zone that we Trinis far too often hold sacred, that of being Wrong and Strong.

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