It’s Easy To Enter The U.S. Illegally, And Not Even Mean To Do It

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. It’s not just Airlines. With the Democrats, not only is it easy to get into the USA, you can stay FOREVER! they will give you free health care, a drivers license, a section 8 housing voucher, preferences for getting into schools. There is literally nothing you can do short of mass murder to get deported. What a country!

  2. I imagine part of what makes it hard for airline employees is the fact that many international airports have US preclearance. Most Canadian airports come to mind, where you actually clear customs before you board your flight.

    So it’s not like every single incoming international flight requires you to go through customs.

  3. I prefer that major airports in México and Canada do what is done in Aruba. Customs and Immigration is handled at the departing airport, not the arriving airport.

  4. I prefer that customs and immigration be handled at the departing airport rather than the arriving airport, ala Aruba and some others.

  5. The gate agents at DFW always mess up. A few years ago I flew to DFW from FLL and arrived in terminal D. I was one of the first off the plane and noticed the door to customs and not the terminal was open. I ask the agent and she asks where the flight was coming from and when I said FLL she opened the other door and ran up the corridor to customs to get the few that accidentally proceeded that direction.

    Seems DFW and JFK really need to better train there agents on how to handle international arrivals vs. domestic flights.

  6. An inflammatory comment by some nationalist nut head that forgot to mention that you cannot get on a flight to anywhere without the basic prerequisites, yes a passport with a Visa when required.

  7. If someone arriving from outside US has checked baggage, how do they retrieve it if the agent directs them to domestic terminal? I know at JFK the domestic and international baggage claim are separated (international baggage claim has customs immediately after passport area).

  8. @rjb – must be hard going through life so ignorant.

    Sorry you and Amazing Larry both supported such a historic LOSER!

  9. @Rjb: in my Blue state, illegals also get tuition-free college! Non-llegals must pay tuition – you cannot make this up. Welcome to “Idiocracy”.

  10. @UA-NYC – Explain how they are being ignorant. Biden is open that his administration plans to send a bill to congress that will allow 11 million plus illegals to become citizens. Who do you think is going to pay for their welfare, health care etc..? If you don’t think tax payers will foot the bill, you are being ignorant.

  11. @RJB & @Amazing Larry – would you care to explain how that works, other than misinformation being spread?

    @Frank – there are plenty of US Citizens and Permeant Residents receive free college tuition as well, as long as they maintain the proper GPA. Just choose to ignore that fact.

    @Jase – Remember that Reagan, a Republican, who started the immigration amnesty back in 1986. Did the system become overburden with a rush of people applying for benefits? Did you lose your Social Security and Medicare benefits because of it?

  12. @Jase – quite xenophobic of you to go right to “paying for their welfare”. Guess what…they are doing jobs that Americans don’t exactly want to do.

    Majority of Americans support a path to citizenship & writing the Trump wrongs. Elections have consequences you know.

  13. @UA-NYC – Typical liberal has to pull the xenophobic card when they disagree with someone. How about you use facts instead? Do you believe 11 million newly legal workers can be injected into the work force and not displace current American’s jobs?

    Since you are saying they will be doing jobs American’s don’t want to do, those would have to be low paying, unskilled jobs. Do you believe tax payer dollars will not be funding programs for these new low income citizens? In one sentence you call me xenophobic and the next sentence you are blanketly referring to the new citizens as unskilled workers that will do jobs no one else wants.

    You are the one calling them unskilled workers that will take crap jobs and I am the one being xenophobic because I don’t want to pay an increase in tax? Liberal logic at its finest.

  14. BTW, I do support a path to citizenship but I do not support making 11 Million people legal that are currently breaking the law to be here.

  15. @Jase – you don’t seem to get that a “path to citizenship” doesn’t mean they get immediate citizen status. And don’t worry, they aren’t taking your job.

    They will be a better investment than Trumps tax cut for businesses and the top 1% that is acknowledged to have basically been a $1.5T giveaway.

  16. @UA-NYC – Race/xenophobic card – A tool of the intellectually weak and Lazy. Used when they cannot counter a argument with factual data.

  17. @UA-NYC – At least we seem to be in agreement that tax payers like myself and possibly you will have to fund this. We also seem to be in agreement they will take jobs from working American’s but not mine apparently. How is this going to make America better for current citizens?

  18. Jase, you seem to be under the impression that somehow 11 million poor people are just going to materialize in some government office with their hands out and somehow stealing jobs at the same time. These people are already here, with jobs, paying taxes, sending their kids to school. More workers and more consumers are actually good for the economy. Making them legal just makes things more stable for them which is good for everyone. So yeah, your ignorant assumptions make you xenophobic.

  19. @Jase – you should probably take your diatribe to Parler, it’s probably a more hospitable space for you there

    @Phil – race/xenophobia is pretty much a core tenet of the Republican Party at this point. Or did you already forget about the Racist-In-Chief?

  20. @Jason: How do they pay their taxes if they are illegal immigrants? More workers and more consumers are good for the economy? What about environmental impacts? Sustainability? Safety? Look at Germany. Have you thought about any of this?

    I don’t think what Jase said was xenophobic. S/He doesn’t want to pay more taxes even for lazy/unqualified Americans, not only some unrelated illegal immigrants who take more than they give. His point clearly flew over your head.

  21. @UA-NYC: You lefties always overplay your card by throwing that crap word “racist” around. As in
    “Racist In Chief”. If he’s a “raaaaaacist”. then he’s a pretty lousy one. But, being fans of fascism (while simultaneously claiming to be fighters of it), that word acts as a verbal (or written) billy club to silence those who dare disagree with you.

    Here are the basic facts:

    1) Every sovereign nation on Earth has a right, a duty, to control it’s borders. If you don’t do that, you do not have a sovereign nation. Only the USA is routinely criticized for trying to do this. If Canada, Mexico or Iceland close their borders due to the pandemic, they are applauded by the media. If we attempt any such control, it’s xenophobic, raaaaaacist and the media snowflakes are triggered.
    2) Yes, we still have a pandemic. And only a moron talks about making it easier for “undocumented” people (who may have TB, let alone COVID) to enter the US illegally and claim amnesty. A moron or a senile old man who’s being controlled by wannabe communists.
    3) I just love it when liberals try to act as if they’re the smartest ones in the room and have that condescending manner that you have. Yet I read what you’re saying and it’s just such simplistic garbage. Same crap as I can get from the sub-100 IQ cacklers on The View.

  22. When a liberal doesn’t have a valid counter argument they are always quick to claim xenophobia. I am not xenophobic and I happen to be happily married to a beautiful Korean woman.

    I am not saying I am worried the immigrants looting and burning down businesses. The legal democrats do a pretty good job with that all on their own.

  23. The comments here are entertaining. The right doesn’t want to see an increase in taxes and does not want to see American workers displaced from their jobs. There is evidence to support both of those claims. By introducing 11+ Million new legal citizens, they will drain more from the economy than they contribute. The left can’t even explain their view of how this will improve America. As soon as someone disagrees with the left on Immigration they scream xenaphobic as loud as they can.

  24. @Phil – you sound like every other Trump voter.

    Here’s a nice article talking about the benefits of immigration (which is pretty much globally accepted, other than ~40% of the US). Note that it comes from the institute of notorious bleeding heart liberal George W. Bush.

    And yes, proclaiming 11mm immediately new citizens (which isn’t actually the case) are somehow going to steal a like number of jobs & ruin the economy, is basically straight xenophobia. But after 4 years of this kind of “leadership”, not surprising you & others parrot that line.

  25. I did this in Germany of all places by accident. Arrived BRU-FRA in first. Had a car waiting for us at the plane (portable stairs – small aircraft) and was dropped at the terminal and walked through the terminal and around the counter to the First class Terminal. When it was time to go they got us and we’re surprised that we had not come through customs but they called someone and it all worked out. I was surprised as I did not think there was any customs within the EU. Anyone have an explanation of why they were surprised?

  26. @UA-NYC – The article you provided talks about controlled immigration which I think most Republicans, including myself support. It does not speak of the impact that amnesty for 11+ Million people would have.

  27. @Phil – you realize there is nothing real or factual about you or Jase or others screaming repeatedly that this is instant amnesty for 11mm immigrants, right? You guys seem to keep missing that part. It is a *path* to citizenship.

    Oh, and they also pay taxes and pay into Social Security, even though they are ineligible for the latter:

    And your current Republican leadership has basically tried to end immigration for all non-white people. Thankfully their disastrous reign is coming to a close.

  28. Why are the chat sections of these travel blogs always filled with the ravings of lunatic trumpers? Are they even interested in traveling outside of their miserable little bubble?

  29. @rjb all those illegals who entered the country were not born here, crossed the boarder illegally never took the citizenship test and all their dependents should be sent back on their ship, The Mayflower.

Comments are closed.