The reliably thoughtful Andrew Sullivan delivers his perspective on the awful story of a Nordic would-be tourist:
A young, blonde Icelandic woman writes about her recent trip to America:
During the last twenty-four hours I have probably experienced the greatest humiliation to which I have ever been subjected. During these last twenty-four hours I have been handcuffed and chained, denied the chance to sleep, been without food and drink and been confined to a place without anyone knowing my whereabouts, imprisoned. Now I am beginning to try to understand all this, rest and review the events which began as innocently as possible.
...Her treatment reads like a passage from Eastern European police states in the 1970s. Apparently, she had overstayed a visa in 1995 for three weeks. Leg chains? I guess we're lucky she wasn't hooded. This is Cheney's America, after all.
Matt Yglesias joins in:
What this woman describes is, clearly, well-beyond asking people to take off their shoes, but it's all on a continuum of panic and sheep-like submission to a culture of fear.
So, this incident from Cheney's America reads like an Eastern European country in the 70's? Andrew has only scratched the tip of the iceberg:
Sharon McKnight, a U.S. citizen, was deported to Jamaica... after INS inspectors at the airport wrongly questioned the authenticity of her U.S. passport and dismissed as fake the birth certificate presented by her waiting relatives as proof of her birth on Long Island. Ms. McKnight, who is 35 years old but has the mental capacity of a young child, was held overnight, in shackles and handcuffs, at JFK International Airport, before being sent back to Kingston, Jamaica, where there was no one to meet her. During her time at the airport Ms. McKnight was given nothing to eat and was not allowed to use the restroom, forcing her to soil herself.
...Liu Nianchun, a prominent Chinese democracy and labor rights activist who had been repeatedly tortured and arrested in China over a period of 17 years, was detained by
the INS as he was returning from addressing a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission.... He was held at JFK International Airport for 18 hours, shackled to a bench and kicked by an INS officer when he fell asleep.
...A young woman who fled Haiti after being raped by armed men in a politically motivated attack arrived at JFK International Airport... As she tried, in a crowded room, to describe to male INS inspectors what had happened to her, the INS officer who was acting as interpreter told his colleagues that the woman was lying and that "everything is fine in Haiti." After this interview the young woman was shackled overnight to a bench at the airport. She was also strip-searched, compounding her humiliation.
...INS inspectors at Oregon's Portland International Airport strip-searched and jailed a Chinese businesswoman, Guo Liming, because they wrongly suspected that her passport had been altered. INS officials later explained that Ms. Guo "fit the profile" of an illegal immigrant because she was from China and was traveling with another person-her fiancé and business partner. She was not subjected to expedited removal, but she was nevertheless treated abusively by INS inspections. INS officers handcuffed Ms. Guo for the two-hour drive to a local jail and refused to tell her fiancé where she was taken, why she was being detained or how long she would be held. He had to hire a lawyer in order to find out where she had been taken. Ms. Guo spent two nights in jail before forensics experts determined that her passport was indeed valid.
...A Swiss citizen-employed as an overseas marketing consultant to American film companies -flew to Los Angeles... for meetings to explore possible long-term film production projects. He carried a valid visitor's visa in his valid Swiss passport. When he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, the INS inspector insisted that he must be coming to live in the United States, even though he had never been employed or earned money here and even though his assets and the large home where he lived with his mother were in Europe. "You're 35 and you reside with your mother?" the INS inspector said. "That's bullshit." The INS inspectors denied him water, food, access to the restroom and permission to make any telephone calls, until he had signed some documents. When he requested his gastritis medication, INS inspectors told him to "shut up." Finally, exhausted, dehydrated, ill, and in need of his medicine, he signed the documents INS presented to him agreeing to withdraw his application for admission to the United States.
... John Psaropoulos, a British television journalist who worked for CNN in Atlanta, was informed by INS inspectors at Atlanta International Airport... that he was ineligible to enter the United States because the INS had not yet approved an application filed by CNN to extend his work visa. Although he was not detained at that time, when he returned for a deferred inspection on May 7, he was handcuffed, ordered deported under expedited removal, held in detention overnight and deported the next day.
... A legal permanent resident of Jamaican origin, an 18-year-old freshman at a well-known American university, was stopped by INS inspectors at JFK International Airport upon his return to the United States in January 1998 to take his final exams. He was shackled and detained overnight by INS officers who told him that the only way Jamaicans could get green cards was if they "jerked chicken well" or "mopped the floor well." Even though he had proof of his permanent resident status, the INS inspectors ignored it. "This is not America," they told him. "We're your judge and jury.
Six Iranian scholars invited to a conference in Georgetown University have canceled their participation, saying they were harassed and humiliated by immigration officials on arriving at Kennedy International Airport, the organizer of the event said today.
The organizer, John L. Esposito, director of the Center of Muslim-Christian Understanding at the university, said the Iranians described being fingerprinted and then ridiculed by officials who detained them at the airport for several hours on Wednesday.
And more diplomatic outreach:
Immigration officials at Kennedy International Airport detained a prominent moderate Islamist political leader from Jordan for a long interrogation and sent him home on the next flight, he said, prompting high-level protests to embarrassed American diplomats here today.
The traveler, Ishaq Farhan, 67, a senator and university president, arrived on Tuesday in New York on a Royal Jordanian Airways flight from Amman. He had planned to visit a son and daughter who live in the United States and to give talks to American Islamic groups. Mr. Farhan's Jordanian diplomatic passport was stamped with a five-year multiple-entry visa valid until December 2003, the latest in a series of United States visas that he had since graduating with a doctorate from Columbia University four decades ago.
On presenting his passport, Mr. Farhan said, he was taken to a room where officers from the Immigration and Naturalization Service told him that the State Department had revoked his visa and requested that he be interrogated. He recounted:
''They asked me: 'Do you belong to a terrorist organization? Do you believe in terrorism?' I said, 'No,' and, 'No, that I believed in democracy and that I learned about democracy studying in the United States.' ''
After six hours of questioning, he said, he was ordered to buy a $2,000 one-way ticket on KLM flights back to Amman, double the cost, he said, of his original round-trip excursion fare. ''Financially speaking, morally speaking,'' Mr. Farhan said, ''it was a bad experience. This shouldn't happen between two countries that respect one another.''
Shameful- one might well ask, Is This America? And, my bad, that is exactly what the report citing the first group of incidents was titled; it was released in Oct 2000 and highlighted INS abuses that occurred, presumably, in eerie anticipation of Dick Cheney's America.
The Iranian scholars were humiliated in Dec 1999, perhaps in anticipation of the Florida recount.
And the moderate Jordanian was pre-emptively punished in May 2000.
Well. I have no doubt that once a Democrat reclaims the White House Mr. Yglesias will remember that sometimes bad things happen even if Bush is not to blame. And let's give a nod to the Praire Weatherman for this:
So you thought it was only smallish, darkish, non-Christianish people that real Americans (you know, Americans like Bush and Cheney) have trouble with?
Good point - Bush has introduced some welcome diversity here, since it appears from these non-random examples that the Clinton era was not particularly welcoming to non-whites.
That's the difference between fascism and stupid, mindless bureaucracy. In fascism, the higher up the chain you go, the meaner it gets. In this case, the apologies came from high up. In fascism, you're persecuted because of who you are and who your parents were. In an American airport, you're persecuted because you're there.