United States 2007, or Soviet Union 1977?

This story will lead you to despair. Read the whole thing. It is the harrowing tale of a young woman from Iceland, one of the most friendly and laid back countries in the world, who came with some friends for a pre-Christmas shopping trip to New York. It turned out that she had overstayed a visa by 3 weeks in 1995. For her crime, she was arrested, shackled, verbally abused, jailed, denied the use of her phone, subject to degrading personal questions, denied the chance to sleep, and kept without food and water for 14 hours. Before being deported, she was frog-marched through the airport in handcuff and leg-chains, which were not released until she was on the Icelandair flight. She described her tormentors aptly as “small kings with megalomania”. Welcome to the new America.

This is no longer an unusual occurrence. I know personally of similar cases. I know people who have left this country for these reasons. And I know people who grew up under the Soviet yoke, who are dismayed to see echoes of their childhood in twenty-first century America. Is this treatment any surprise, though, when the Bush administration has argued in court that non-citizens who show up at the border have no rights beyond a protection against “gross physical abuse”?

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

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  • http://catholidoxy.blogspot.com Irenaeus

    For once — and don’t let it go to your head, now — I’m with you on this, in general terms. One of my doctoral advisers from Germany came over and just had a miserable time getting into the country with a passport and all needed documentation, etc. And of course to top it all off, the gifts he bought stateside for his kids back in the Fatherland were apparently stolen by TSA employees on his return trip.

    I also saw a story somewhere (BBC?) that tourism to the US is way, way down, in spite of the incredible exchange rate Brits and Eurozone citizens would get here.

    I guess I’d hate to be the TSA employee that let the bomber get through, but our immigration system — airports and otherwise — is a mess.

  • Jonathan

    What a horror. Heads should roll (but they won’t).

  • http://roadgoeseveron@wordpress.com Henry Karlson

    I know many horror stories from those I’ve worked with at CUA.

    One professor, from Austria, was sent back to Austria, He was told he had been in the US long enough. To get back in the US he had to go back to Austria for a year and gain a higher level position (tenure track) to justify he is worthy of being in the US.

    It’s not just him, however.

    Don’t ever marry someone in a third world nation. IF you do, you will find how difficult it is to get them to the US. It is easier to get them in on a fiance visa. Seriously crazy.

  • http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com DarwinCatholic

    Big, clumsy nations never seem to be able to resist behaving ham-fistedly this way once in a while. Sometimes more than others.

    When I was traveling in Italy as a student back in ’99, several other American students and I were awakened in our train compartment at 2am by a couple of uniformed guys shining lights in our faces and pointing sub-machine guns at us. They tried several different languages before shouting, “Passport, passport! Give, give!” as us. We handed over our passports and one of them went off with them while the other stayed pointing his gun at us.

    Ten minutes went by, and then the other guy returned, dropped off the stack of passports, and they both shrugged and went off.

    These particular American security guys seem to have outdone themselves in being idiots. (Though I’m amused that the article is particularly indignant because it was a young, blonde Icelander affected. Kind of an implicit endorsement of racial profiling…)

  • http://padrevic.blogspot.com PadreVic

    Before others say it MM, let me say…Why is it always “blame America” around this blog? not sure how to html code sarcasm, sorry.

    As I read this story the other day I thought, if someone posted on this how many “why blame America” (or “she should not have broken the law” or “she was illegal” etc…) comments would there be? I guess we will find out. I think we can all understand that things are broken, just sometimes wonder how they can be fixed.
    peace to all

  • http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net Maximos

    Don’t ever marry someone in a third world nation. IF you do, you will find how difficult it is to get them to the US. It is easier to get them in on a fiance visa. Seriously crazy.

    It is seriously crazy. When I began corresponding with a Russian girl from Sevastopol, I was advised by an immigration lawyer in my parish to opt for the visa route. She was adamant that under no circumstances could I consider marrying the girl – who became my fiancee and then my wife – over there.

    Even then, the visa process affords abundant opportunities for arbitrary behaviour. Prior to my fiancee’s trip to Warsaw, where the applications for K-1 visas are processed, the information we received specified notarized copies of her original birth certificate, in English and Russian. When I inquired as to whether they also wished to see the original, they told me that this would not be necessary. So, there in Warsaw, many thousands of dollars into the adventure, and an embassy official turns us away – because my fiancee did not have the original birth certificate that we were told we didn’t have to bring with us. Hence, we had to repeat the process the following month.

    However, the crowning absurdity came when, back in London for an overnight stay after this debacle, I flipped on the telly to catch the news, and the first story reported was Bush’s announcement of his desire for a mass amnesty of illegal immigrants. The irony was overpowering in its rank absurdity.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Morning’s Minion

    I meant to say, too, that Iceland empties its jails over the Christmas break, so the inmates can spend time with their families. And sure enough, they all show up in their cells after the New Year. This is based on personal anecdote, so I cannot verify, but it sounds very much like Iceland. Just to put the whole thing in perspective.

  • SMB

    ‘…Though I’m amused that the article is particularly indignant because it was a young, blonde Icelander affected.’

    Yes, there was just a hint of ‘True Crime’ magazine in that headline.

    I recall a similar story about a British journalist who arrived here without the proper visa not long after 9/11. She spent the night in a cell with a video screen, which was perpetually tuned into QVC. Now THAT’s torture.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    United States 2007, or Soviet Union 1977? Try Bill Clinton’s America 1996. That is when the penalties for Visa overstays were toughened up.

    http://www.visapro.com/Immigration-Articles/?a=173&z=30

    Definitely an overreaction. She should just have been put on the first plane back. Not quite as much of an overreaction, however, as comparing the US to the former socialist paradise,

  • TeutonicTim

    What should happen to these people? They’re here conditionally, and they broke the conditions of their stay. I’m not advocating embarrassing them, but I don’t see a problem for holding them responsible for breaching the conditions of what they agreed to.

  • http://darwincatholic.blogspot.com DarwinCatholic

    I suppose on the bright side, no one sent a swat team after her, as the Clinton administration was known to do when they wanted to deport a kid to Cuba…

  • radicalcatholicmom

    “I suppose on the bright side, no one sent a swat team after her, as the Clinton administration was known to do when they wanted to deport a kid to Cuba…”
    LOL.

    For sure under the Clinton Regime there were serious problems, especially for Chinese women escaping the forced abortion policies back home and being forced to live in detention centers indefinitely in America.

    Our legal immigration system has serious problems as everyone above has stated. Something HAS to be done other than building a wall on a border.

  • http://www.snappingturtle.net/jmc/tmblog/ TMLutas

    Yes something has to be done and it’s pretty simple, every american that has some ties with some other country needs to get together and form a foreign policy/immigration overwatch so that the US doesn’t foul up over there (and boy could I tell some stories) and the people over there do not do something stupid out of ignorance like not clear up their visa overstay prior to trying to reenter the US.

    So in this case, the Icelandic-American community (they’re out there http://www.joshwhicker.com/ice-eth1.htm) could sponsor a web site, some contact numbers, and maybe a lawyer or two on retainer would do the trick.

  • Policraticus

    Before others say it MM, let me say…Why is it always “blame America” around this blog? not sure how to html code sarcasm, sorry.

    PadreVic, you must have missed my, RCM’s and M.Z. Forrest’s posts on patriotism and love of country.

  • http://padrevic.blogspot.com Padrevic

    P, you know I was joking. But you are right I should go back and read the posts. Peace to all

  • Michael

    “I suppose on the bright side, no one sent a swat team after her, as the Clinton administration was known to do when they wanted to deport a kid to Cuba…”

    They sent the child home to be with his father. You people are pro-family? Not a chance.

  • digbydolben

    Michael, they’re “pro-family” when it’s in their political and class interests to be.

    All the Catholic Church in America is, is one big political party, polarized into two wings. Both “left” Catholics and “right” Catholics are “buffet Catholics.” I’m so happy to be getting back outside of America (in about 8 mos.), to parts elsewhere, for a number of reasons, one of which is that, outside of swiftly nazifying “Amerika,” Catholicism is a SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, rather than a particularist identity–and one which is meant to make NOBODY “comfortable”!

  • http://www.manlymen.org Tony

    Something HAS to be done other than building a wall on a border.

    RCM, indeed. After the wall is built we’ll talk about relaxing immigration requirements.