How many illegal immigrants are there in Alaska

Illegal immigration: After landing in the women's gym


Read on one side

A 31-year-old from Hamburg wants to travel to the USA for a few weeks. Shortly after arriving at the Seattle airport, she ended up in jail. The US authorities consider her an illegal immigrant. Here the woman, who wants to remain anonymous, tells her story:

"Maybe I will never be able to travel to the US again. After all, there will now be a note somewhere that I allegedly tried to travel to the country illegally. But what happened to me can happen to others too. That's why I want my story It shows what can happen to you if you want to travel to the USA for a longer period of time and how immigrants are treated there today.

In December I flew from Frankfurt to Seattle, from there I wanted to go on to Hawaii. I had worked a lot in the months before and above all wanted to relax. I found a place in a yoga center on the island of Kona for six weeks through a website. I didn't know exactly what my duties would be there. But for 20 hours of work a week, I could sleep and eat there for free. For the time after that, I had taken a job with an older couple. I was supposed to help with the household, so I could stay with them for free. After two months, I wanted to travel to New Zealand from Hawaii.

In Germany, I applied for an electronic travel permit before leaving and got it without any problems. Because I didn't plan to make any money in Hawaii, just volunteer, I thought that would be enough. I had done that before, on trips to Alaska and New York.


Elbe deepening - the daily newsletter for Hamburg

Find out from the ZEIT editorial team what is important in Hamburg - concise, personal and pointed, every working day at 6 a.m.

With your registration you take note of the data protection regulations.

Many Thanks! We have sent you an email.

Check your mailbox and confirm the newsletter subscription.

When I got to the Seattle airport, I went to passport control. The officer there asked a lot of questions. I had never seen that before. Would I know people in the US? Where do I live and whether I would work in the USA? Eventually I was supposed to follow him to an office next to passport control. Obviously, he didn't like my answers. I had no idea what was going on and waited outside the office for about an hour.

Then a second officer came and interrogated me about my trip, which took about four hours. I had to take an oath that I would tell the truth and explain why I came to the United States; who my parents are, where they live; how much money I have in the account; how I can even afford the trip. At some point the officer decided that I was not allowed to enter the country and had to take the next flight back to Germany.

He said volunteering is not allowed in the US because it takes away jobs for US citizens. I tried to explain that these jobs are especially for foreigners who want to get to know the country and the people. The fact that I had an onward ticket to New Zealand also made no difference. My German passport? No matter. The officer had decided: For him I was an illegal immigrant who wanted to work in the USA without a permit.

I got two rolls with sausage, an orange, and a stick of celery wrapped in plastic

I still remember thinking: everything will be fine. It went badly, but then I'll fly back to Germany. But then my luggage was locked at the airport and I was taken to a prisoner van, past the other passengers. One officer said she was making an exception and not handcuffing me. I thought they were taking me to a hotel.

After an hour's drive, two large metal gates opened. They had taken me to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, a prison for illegal immigrants. Damn it, they put me in jail! That can not be true! I started to cry.

I was questioned again and had to sign various forms: that I can be X-rayed, that I consent to a medical examination and that I can be given any medication that one thinks is necessary. I thought that was pretty blatant, but I had to sign it. I didn't really have a choice.