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On a recent trip to Hawai'i, Detroit Free Press writer Ellen Creager was taken aback by an unexpected interrogation. She wrote an Aug. 14 column entitled, "Big Brother in a hula skirt."

The last time I looked, Hawai'i was a state, not a country.

That's why passengers flying in from the Mainland should think twice before filling out the intrusive de facto customs form that's actually a tourism survey. ...

The way they present it is clever. About an hour before your flight lands, attendants hand out a mandatory Hawai'i Department of Agriculture declaration that requires you to state whether you are bringing in fruits, animals or seeds. Fair enough. Nobody wants kudzu on Kilauea.

But wait. On the reverse of the form, in the same official-looking red and black type, is what looks like a continuation of the mandatory questionnaire. Most passengers willingly fill it out, never noticing the tiny type at the top that identifies it as a voluntary survey by the Hawai'i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. ...

I noticed the strangeness of all this because the form is more prying than customs forms I've seen in places like the Middle East or Russia.

The government has no business knowing if you are in Hawai'i for your 25th anniversary, staying eight nights at the Sheraton, or running away to start a new life.

Because the last time I looked, this was still a free country. Barely.

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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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