Hi, We've temporarily shifted the purpose of this page to help Andres and his amigos at El Sub (The Underground) in Medellin, Colombia feed their hungry neighbors in Castilla. Your donation between now and May 15th, 2020 will go directly to this effort. Thank you! Please see Raw Travel Giveback for more information.
FROM ROBERT ROSE / Executive Producer & Host of Raw Travel TV
Andres Ocampo is a well-known musician from Medellin, Colombia, and has been a friend of mine for over ten years. He composed the theme music for the show I host and produce, Raw Travel TV and has
contributed other tracks to the show’s sound design over the years. His band, Los Suziox (The Dirty), was
the first act I signed for my digital record label Punk Outlaw Records back in 2011. Andres regularly plays big concerts and music festivals in his home country of Colombia and he has toured extensively
throughout Latin America and most recently, Europe.
Andres lives and works in the working-class neighborhood of Castilla in Medellin, where he operates a
concert venue called "El Sub" (the Underground), which he and some partners built themselves DIY (Do It Yourself) style. In addition to hosting musical acts from around the world at El Sub, Andres works with
local youth to give them alternatives to the violent lifestyle that surrounds working-class barrios like
Andres' mother and brother live in New York City, and Andres, with approved visa in hand, has visited
twice before without incident. I always looked forward to seeing my friend when he visited. To my
knowledge, he has never overstayed his visa or broken any laws in the US.
THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WORKING?
On June 4th, 2019, during his 3rd trip to the US to visit his ailing mother, Andres was inexplicably
targeted, detained, and rudely treated by US Customs and Border Protection at JFK Airport in New York City.
He was detained for several hours and was unable to communicate with anyone, including his family, who were worried sick because he was missing.
Andres reports that after his luggage was searched, he was accused by the Supervising Officer, of seeking construction work apparently because he had a pair of boots in his luggage. Andres tried to explain to the officer that his boots were merely footwear and a fashion statement for a punk rock musician. Apparently, in the mind of the Supervising Officer, the boots were somehow proof that Andres was coming to the US
seeking construction work. An intimidating and one-sided interrogation began, but not before first rifling through the rest of Andre’s luggage and treating his personal belongings, which included Los Suziox Vinyl LPs Andres had brought as gifts, with complete disregard.
Eventually, under threat of imprisonment, Andres was ultimately coerced to sign a document falsely
stating he was visiting the US to seek work illegally. He was then sent on what became a 30-hour odyssey back to Medellin. His elderly and ailing mother was shocked and heartbroken at the news she would not
be able to see her son.
According to US Customs and Border Protection’s Website, their core values include integrity.
Specifically, their website states, “Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and
moral principles. Our actions bring honor to ourselves and our Agency.”
I submit that forcing someone to sign a false statement is not exhibiting integrity.
Also, according to CBP’s website, their mission statement and sole reason for existing are “to safeguard America's borders, thereby protecting the public from dangerous people and materials while enhancing the Nation's global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel.”
I wholeheartedly support this mission and respect the officers legitimately trying to do this. However, Andres Ocampo poses no threat to the US, broke no laws, and was simply visiting his mother. Andres has children and runs a business back in Medellin. He does not desire to live in the US nor to work here illegally.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
I have come to learn that this is not an isolated case. Andres reported that he observed several individuals, including an elderly man in a wheelchair being rudely treated. He was eventually denied entry as well.
After hearing Andres’ story, I feel that likely some of our US Customs and Border Protection Officers at
specific ports of entry may be acting above the law and this could be systematic. Based on Andres’
experience, the supervisor on duty at JFK on June 4th, 2019, was treating visitors to our country in a
discriminatory and arbitrary fashion based upon how they look, or even perhaps, what kind of mood he
was in on that particular day. Or maybe, he is merely following a misguided protocol from the top?
I do not know, but I do know, based on Andres’ experience, that it is clear US CBP is not behaving with
integrity, one of CBP’s stated core values. As a US citizen and taxpayer, I find this unacceptable.
We have tried, unsuccessfully thus far, to obtain the name of the Supervising Officer on duty at JFK's
Office of Customs & Border Protection on June 4th, 2019, but have been stonewalled with polite but glib, boilerplate responses from JFK’s CBP Department of Public Affairs. We filled out a Freedom of
Information (FOI) Report that was recently rejected on a technicality. We plan to re-file.
How often does this happen, and on what basis are people denied or granted entry? Who is responsible
for overseeing customs and border patrol offices? What of the money that visitors spend on airfare to
visit this country, only then to be rudely treated and many denied entry after arrival? In Andres' case,
Colombia is not a rich country, and Andres, like many musicians, is not wealthy. The ticket to the US is not an insignificant expense for him.
This situation is especially tragic, given that many people, like Andres, are just trying to visit family
WHAT ARE OUR GOALS?
Our goals for JusticeForAndres.com are simple. We’d like to:
1) Help Andres’ family recoup the money for airfare to and from New York City, an expense of around
2) Raise funds to help Andres apply for an Artist’s Visa so he can perform and tour in the US (just as he has in Europe), and will be able to visit his family. This expense, we anticipate being about $2,500.
3) Raise awareness of this issue and hopefully impact and improve behavior at the US Customs and
Border Protection Points of Entry so that they will live up to their mission and stated goals. CBP Officers
are often the 1st Americans many US Visitors will see. If they are rude, dismissive, unethical, and
dishonest, it reflects poorly on the entire nation and all US citizens.
We want safety and security for all citizens and understand that US Customs and Border Patrol Officers
have an essential job to do. However, I believe they can do their job and be fair, polite, honest, and
thorough in the process.
There is nothing more un-American than when good, honest people like Andres are denied entry to visit
because of the way they look, the clothes they wear or the country they come from. We believe in
freedom to travel AND the rule of law. These two concepts can and do co-exist in countries all over the
globe, including countries with much bigger security issues than the United States.
We aren't posting this blog and effort only for Andres. Justice for Andres is justice for other visitors and
ultimately ourselves. This issue may seem small or insignificant in the scope of the travesties that happen daily on this planet. Still, small injustices add up, and we should all expect more from our country.
Coercing false confessions from visitors to our great nation is not an American value that any of us should support. If we sit back and do nothing, we are essentially sanctioning corrupt behavior.
Please help us right this wrong. If you would like to help Andres and the countless other visitors like him,
please see below how you can help by donating, sharing your story, signing the petition and spreading the word by telling others to visit www.JusticeForAndres.com
On behalf of Andres and his family and countless others like him, thanks so much.
- Judy Smith
- Heather Pauli
- Charles Alexander
- Stacey Pryor