Usually a airline employee – not a government official – is all that stands in the way of a plane load of arriving passengers becoming illegal immigrants.
After Saturday’s Los Cabos – Dallas American Airlines flight, a a passenger arriving from Mexico reports,
We were in 1 A and B -but not first off the plane-about 5-6 people had gotten off first. As we neared the end of the jetway, I could see the door to the D terminal was open-not closed as it should be. The door to head to customer was closed. The folks in front proceeded into terminal. I asked the gate agent “Shouldn’t we be headed to customs.” Her face drained of all color as she asked where we came from. Mexico I said. She asked if we were the first out and I said no. She scrambled and was able to grab the others and get them back into the corridor and close the door. She then opened the other door and we were on our way. Thanked us and said she could have lost her job.
Terminal D at Dallas Fort-Worth is the international terminal, but it’s used for domestic flights too. Whether or not you’re directed to immigration and customs depends on which doors are open or closed when you get off the aircraft.
Several years ago an American Airlines Cancun – New York JFK flight came into a gate set up for domestic arrivals, walked through the terminal and out of the airport without ever going to formalities. American reached out to the 150 passengers from the flight and instructed them that they had to return to New York JFK for processing. 144 of the passengers did so.
Two months later another American Airlines Cancun – New York JFK flight did the same thing. Passengers were again asked to return to the airport. There was hand wringing about terrorism, though why a terrorist would voluntarily return and report to customs is beyond me.