Thursday, July 22, 2004
still getting settled, a crying French woman in her twenties asked if she
could use my cell phone. She explained that she had been detained by
immigration for six hours while "men weet guns" went through all her
luggage, and now she was being sent back to France. She needed my cell
phone so that she could call her boyfriend, who she believed had been
waiting for her at the airport. Since the border cops won't let detainees
make phone calls, the boyfriend was in the dark as to her whereabouts - the
plane had landed, but where was his girlfriend? She didn't look like a
terrorist to me, so of course I lent her my phone.
So how was it that Continental let her get on the flight to Newark in the
first place? Apparently her passport and visa were in order (so she said),
and she had been back and forth to the United States many times. That, in
fact, seemed to be the rub. According to this woman, the immigration
authorities declared that her frequent visits were "abusing American visa
rules," even if she was in technical compliance. Her point, once she calmed
down, was that all kinds of people come into the US and overstay their visa,
which she has never done. She just wants to see her boyfriend a lot.
I have heard these stories before. Lots of perfectly harmless non-terrorist
Europeans are turned away at the border for seemingly arbitrary reasons,
almost none of whom pose either a security risk or are likely to steal
American jobs. These people will not visit the US again voluntarily, and
will vote for leaders who take anti-American positions when we need
otherwise. Meanwhile, 14 Syrian musicians fly around in groups.
I'm sure it's tough for the INS to make these judgments, but I am also sure
that we are unnecessarily alienating people, one by one, that we do not have
to worry about.
I agree that we should be careful not to alienate tourists, but come on. I'm quite sure that woman was a strong Bush supporter up until her INS hassle. You've traveled widely and hassles and fuck ups are part of the deal.
I can definitely relate to that. Before considering much else, I pretty much decided that immigration to Canada is my best option and although I have been tempted to reconsider from time to time, I can't help but think about how much the 2000 elections have changed things for us (and not for the better I'm affraid).
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