Waiting in line to go through a border checkpoint can really try your patience. However, when it’s your turn to hand over your passport, don’t let your impatience make you less vigilant. While it’s rare, there have been a couple of cases recently where customs officials have handed people back the wrong passports.
First, there was the case of Joe Valdez in Texas. Poor Mr. Valdez lost his passport when a border patrol official handed his passport to a stranger who was also crossing from the US into Mexico. The passport was never recovered, though Mr. Valdez was able to get the cost of a replacement refunded after a local news station gave the situation some publicity.
More recently, two couples crossing from Canada into the US were also given the wrong passports. Huguette and Gilles Remillard were crossing into the US en route to Mesa, Arizona, when they handed their passports over to US Customs official. As Huguette explained to CBC news, when officer handed the passports back, she told the officer “Those are not mine. And he said, ‘Uh oh.'”
“Uh oh” isn’t exactly what you want to hear from a government official, but Customs was kind enough to let the couple drive through. However, they were naturally worried about their missing passports, and it took a week to find Dennis Slack and Susan Heywood, the couple who had driven off with them. They never looked at the passports they were given, and were blissfully unaware of the situation until the Remillards were able to contact them through their son.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending: when the Remillards contacted the other couple, they were able to get their passports back. U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Chris Mission, “there has always been a policy to verify the identity of a passport holder, but one border officer made a mistake that day.”
9 times out of 10, if not more so, the passport you hand over to border officials is the passport you’ll get back. However, keeping your eyes on your documents (if possible) can help avoid mishaps. Lost passports are costly and time-consuming to replace, so it’s worth making an extra effort to try to prevent incidents like this from occurring.
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