By Aparajitha Vadlamannati
I remember coming back to the States a few years ago after a long summer spent with family and friends in India. I felt homesick, tired from the 16 hour flight, and did not want to start school in two weeks but then I was pulled out of my funk when a customs official smiled and said ‘welcome home.’ It was such a simple act but it changed my mood and made me feel as though maybe all those customs officials, even the ones with sour faces, are not so bad after all. Little did I know, I doubt the official recognized this either, that this act is public diplomacy.
Public diplomacy was believed to be a job solely for the state department but it takes more than Foreign Service Officers to do the job well. It is important for every citizen, resident, official, supporter, etc. of a nation to do their best to fairly represent the nation they associate with to a foreign (i.e. those from a nation different than their own) audience. Those working for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are certainly no exception. In fact, they play one of the most important roles in maintaining a positive image of the US because of the opinions and experiences immigrants relay to family and friends back home. These experiences become a part of the composite image/impression that foreigners have of Americans overall; similar to the reasons why an exchange program works to shape an image of America.