It was 4:20 a.m. by the time my train limped in to the Buffalo-Depew station, more than four hours late — too late for the Border Patrol, it appeared. But by 9 a.m., when a train on the return journey pulled into the same station, half a dozen men in green uniforms with pistols on their hips strode down the platform toward me and a family that included two women wearing saris.
An agent with a shaved head and sunglasses stopped beside me. “Are you a U.S. citizen?” he asked.
“I don’t want to answer that question,” I replied.
“Fine,” he said, and promptly turned to the family — two children, their parents and grandmother.
Unlike me, a white woman in jeans who had spoken American English with no accent, they looked and sounded like immigrants. If they said they were citizens, would they be asked for identification? If they refused to answer, as I had, would the agent just move on? Or, as upstate immigration lawyers maintained, would the agent take their silence as a justification for further inquiry?
I would never know, because the father readily replied that they were all legal permanent residents of the United States from India. He handed over all their Indian passports as soon as the agent asked for them.