Icelandic tourist to US held for two days, shackled, deported -- over a ten-year-old visa mistake

An Icelandic woman who came to the US as a tourist was arrested and held without charge or a phone call for two days at the border because she had overstayed a US visa more than a decade ago. She was held in shackles, denied food, and then deported from the US back to Iceland.
She contended she was interrogated at JFK airport for two days, during which she was not allowed to call relatives. She said she was denied food and drink for part of the time, and was photographed and fingerprinted.

On Monday, Lillendahl claimed, her hands and feet were chained and she was moved to a prison in New Jersey, where she was kept in a cell, interrogated further and denied access to a phone.

In Brazil, they've instituted fingerprinting at the border -- but only for Americans, because the US fingerprints Brazilians who visit America. What goes around, comes around. When US border personnel treat foreigners badly, they create a climate in which American travellers meet similar treatment abroad.

The kind of people who have the affluence and freedom to travel the world are often thought-leaders and influencers in their home countries. By treating these people as criminals when they visit America, the DHS undoes decades of US public diplomacy, creating a global narrative of America as bully and bad citizen.

The journalists who've been detained and turned back at the US border because of changed (and strict -- worse than any other western nation) visa rules will spend the rest of their careers reporting on the US through the lens of their experience in a DHS holding cell. Link (Thanks, Jason!)


  1. There’s a New York Times article on tourist shoppers taking advantage of the cheap dollar.

    They bury the key bit in the third-from-last paragraph, though:

    Most surprising, despite the visible increase of European tourists in places like New York, overall travel to the United States is still below pre-Sept. 11 levels, according to Cathy Keefe of the American Travel Industry Association. Overseas travel is down 17 percent from its peak in 2000. Without the positive effects of the weak dollar, “we can’t imagine what the numbers would be right now,” she said.

    Yes, despite the dollar being so weak that people are having to wear some of their purchases to stay below the baggage limit on their return, we still can’t get as many people to visit as we did back then. This sort of treatment, and the milder forms, are the reason.

  2. This is also an example of getting Scroogled in the worst way.

    When she overstayed her visa it was commonly done.

    The current climate alerts us that we possibly could be confronted in some stupid future by what we write here.

    She had no way of making that determination.

  3. Many flights from Western Canada to southern Ontario pass over US territory. The US is now making noises that they may require passengers on such flights to be pre-approved by US authorities up to 72 hours in advance. This also applies to Canadian flights to Mexico, Cuba and other points south.

    It will be politically impossible for the Canadian government not to impose similar conditions on US flights passing over Canada. This included flights from Alaska to the Eastern US, and most flights from the US to Europe.

    It’ll be amusing to watch the reaction of some US congressman travelling from Washington to Alaska or Europe, when Canada denies him permission to get on the flight because he didn’t book far enough in advance.

  4. I’ve booked my February trip. I could have gone to the US – that was the original plan. Instead I’m going to Vietnam. A communist country.

    Why? I won’t get fingerprinted at the border. I won’t have my face scanned. I won’t have to take my shoes off for no reason by some gump who hasn’t seen Doc Martins before (yes – I got that last time through LA). I won’t get stopped for my accent, nor my religion.

    USA – Land of the free indeed.

  5. Does a website exist aggregating these border-horror stories? If so, then Cory, could you please promote it on BoingBoing?

    If no such site exists, could someone create one.

    Posting the horror stories on BoingBoing is a good thing, but an single site collecting them would highlight the problem.

  6. I have to agree with some of the above posters. I’ve been to the U.S. on a few short trips in the past & I’d really love to explore it in more detail, but I simply can’t consider traveling to a country where I’ll be treated as a criminal on arrival.

    Hopefully all this madness will pass in time & I’ll be able to make that trip someday in the future.

  7. I´m a spanish researcher and I have some friends working in the States. We usually laugh about american policy on Foreigners (We joke because you couldn´t take that seriusly…). It´s unbeliveable that nobody says nothing about this medieval attack against “criminals” like that woman or other tourists. This is more annoying when you are traveling for business: Visa for some months and come back to your country to get another one (and don´t mistake the date!). In my opinion Brazil makes a good point, probably US people travelling around this country will think about what do you feel if you go to another country and you are threated. I heart some times, and it´s getting more popular, that european people prefers not to travel to the States and be safer & more calm travelling around Europe, South-America or Asia.
    (sorry for language mistakes)

  8. The power of blogging! It’s astounding how this fledgling medium empowers the individual to be heard as far and wide as any national broadcaster.

  9. Srry, bt dbt t ws tht nncnt. Why nt tll s wht th ‘mstk’ ws? Mrrg frd? Rcvng 10 yr br fr n vrsty slly rqrs sm typ f srs mmgrtn vltn. Jst lk th crprt plgsts sprd flsts bt trt css (sch s th ‘McDnld’s cff cs’ r th ‘BMW pnt scrtch cs’) n rdr t gtt htrs, frgn trvlrs ftn ply thngs t f cntxt wtht tllng th whl stry. D y knw hw mny frgn trvllrs pss thrgh r brdrs nd rprts ch yr? Hndrds f thsnds, pssbly mllns.

    Ths stry s ll bt chrctrztn.

    @#6 gr, sh shld hv jst snck n thrgh th Mxcn brdr s sh cld rcv vrythgn fr fr nd thn clm w bs hr cvl rghts.
    #9 nd #10, snds lk y hv ltnt thrpy sss, y lv mrc ngh t wnt t cm nd vst, bt y cn’t rsst dmnng t, tlkng dwn t s, nd gnrlly nfrrng w’r ndctd, bs nd gnrnt.
    #7 ‘m jst lghng t ld t y. Whtvr. f y wnt t ssct wth cmmnsts g hd, thy nd th mny. Why dn’t y vst sm f th rlctn cmps whl y’r thr? r scb dv n th Yllw S t bsrv th snkn hlks f flng rfg bts?

    mrcns cn’t trvl nywhr wtht sm rrgnt rpn tlkng dwn t thm nd lctrng s bt hw crppy nd gnrnt th mrcn ppl r, r bng trgtd fr rnsm, mrdr, rbbry, tc. Ths stry s pthtc cmprd t wht s dn t mrcns nd thr frgnr trvllrs ll vr th wrld by stt scrty frcs, r dn’t y rd bt ths ncdnts? Thy nnmrbl cmprd t prblms y wld fc hr.

    Gt vr yrslvs nd gn sm prspctv, nd lrn hw t rcgnz n-sdd rprtng whl y’r t t.

  10. Bush declared war on Tourism.

    My wife “beeped” when passing through security at Newark, the */%&/$!!( brutish woman who searched her could not believe it was the bra undercups that were causing the machine to go off. She basically strip searched my wife in front of everyone. Two weeks latter, we had the same situation in Switzerland, where they asked my wife of to a side, drew a curtain and were very polite in determining that some types of womens underwear require more support.
    After this, and other situations, we skip the USA as much as possible.
    On another occasion, after suffering the Chicago O´Hare security idiocy, we got on to our flight (a small 30 person plane) and we could not take off because there was one extra passenger and they could not figure out who it was. Finally, the pilot decided to take off anyway (!!!!) instead of asking for everyone´s boarding pass (that would have taken 15 minutes at the most). So much for security, someone just stowed away!

    I still love to fly, but I rather do it from anywhere else BUT the USA

  11. Guilty before proven innocent, eh? Which pretty much sums up her entire experience.

    1. In her blog post she makes it clear that she *has* travelled to the U.S. again since the time she overstayed her visa. She had no problems then so had no reason to expect problems this time.

    2. “there were a couple times when she was hungry/thirsty and she couldn’t get food/water.” – re-read the article. She was held without being able to rest, eat or drink for at least ten hours.

    Nice how you comfortably state “prior crimes” when all we know about is a visa infringement. Thanks for reinforcing the negative reputation of the U.S. abroad.

  12. #16 — it matters a lot whether the “visa violation” is the equivalent of a parking ticket or a major crime, don’t you think?

    Even if there was a legitimate reason to turn the woman back at the border, I should think it would be possible to do it in less than two days, with more dignity than being shackled and taken to a prison.

    Not to mention that shibboleth of Taxpayer Dollars being spent NEEDLESSLY to prevent our nation being threatened by middle-aged female Icelandic tourists.

  13. >> Hello, she was a prisoner, not an invited guest.

    No. The US encourages tourism from other countries through TV advertisements and other media. As a tourist she is by definition an invited guest.

    If the US is going to reject bar someone from entry over some minor issue, they’re justified to direct them to a holding area until the next flight back. They are NOT justified to shackle them and treat them like murderers.

    One journalist was treated this way because – understandably – she hadn’t heard of an obscure change in US visa requirements for reporters. One Canadian programmer was “disappeared” for several days, treated as the worst kind of criminal because the US announced a change in visa requirements days *after* it came into effect, making it impossible to comply.

    Another Canadian who had a minor traffic violation was strip-searched, fingerprinted and and jailed – because as a foreigner she might run for the border rather than wait for the court to open to pay the petty fine.

    Canadians used to believe that when they were in the US they had civil rights. Not to vote or anything like that, but the right not to be imprisoned without just cause, the right to prompt legal counsel, etc.

    We now know that this is not the case. And so many Canadians simply won’t go to the US. It’s not anti-Americanism – it’s simple common sense.

    ===Responding to a couple other posters:===
    I’ve travelled in communist countries – East Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Having said everything above, I’d still much prefer travelling in the US. Get real.

  14. I am really disgusted by the flavor of several of these posts. They are absolutely confirming all of the worst stereotypes foreigners have of Americans, as well as those I hold as a fellow American. Defensive, ignorant, racist crap that demeans us all. The notion that not only visitors and immigrants should be treated like crap, but that anyone even suspected of a crime should be demeaned and humiliated because “they deserve it.” We really have fallen a long way from the days of Jefferson and notions of equal rights for ALL mankind.

  15. This sounds like a major screwup. Bad, yes, but its hardly the official policy to treat people like this.

    And for all you “Europe is better” people, I traveled to West Germany from the US several times in the late 80’s. Screening was VERY heavy, including physical pat-downs, extensive luggage search, etc. When transferring planes, we walked out onto the tarmac, where our luggage was piled up next to the plane and surrounded by armed soldiers. An armored troop transport was parked nearby. We had to point out our bags and walk on to the plane as the luggage was loaded. I’ve never experienced anything like that in the US. Basically they were assuming we were ALL criminals.

  16. Wasabicracka:

    So this incident is better than things that happen to Americans in other countries?

    As in, YAY! our treatment of foreign tourists is totally way nicer than the plot of “Brokedown Palace”?

    I always thought our founding fathers decided to rebel against Britain in order to actually improve government and governance. That’s where our moral authority in the world came from, remember that? Slowly but surely, this kind of crap has turned our nation into a joke.

    Ken Hansen:

    Look, I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with immigration before. But the example of this lady’s overstaying her visa could be quite similar to something I did in Germany, where I still live. I didn’t have time for an appointment at the foreigner’s bureau, because my case worker was on vacation for a month. I was seriously freaked out about the possibility of running around as an illegal for a whole month, but I was assured by the head of the bureau that it would be no problem for an American citizen. “Everybody does it.”

    I’m guessing that if in 10 years, I were to be handcuffed and starved for 2 days because of this prior crime, I’d be pretty pissed off too.

    And Roger Strong is right. I wouldn’t want to travel to Iran either, because I couldn’t be sure I would be treated according to my human rights. For foreign nationals in America, it’s the same issue – just a matter of degree.

  17. Jplotz, in the late 80’s Western Germany was in the middle of the Cold War and paranoia was running high. They also had a bit of a terrorism problem, namely the Red Army Fraction (Baader, Meinhof, and company).

    Of course all governments behave badly in that kind of situation. Is that any reason to accept it?

  18. I think that #13 and #15 are desperately clinging to the “well, she must have done something” rationalization to avoid having to face what this country has become in the last six years.

  19. #23, lk sd, y rlly nd t gn sm prspctv. hv bn ll vr th wrld, nd knw mny thr trvllrs wh hv s wll, thr’s rsn why th Stt Dprtmnt sss wrnngs bt trvllng t crtn cntrs. ‘m nt gng t st hr fr n hr nd d yr hmwrk fr y, bt th ltny f ncdnts gnst mrcns nd thr frgn trsts s XTNSV. n fct my wf ws dtnd fr 7 hrs nd dprtd frm nglnd bcs hr frm frgt t rnw blnkt wrk vs – nt bck t mrc, bt dmpd nt h strts f Frnc wtht hr lggg, hr pssprt r ny mny. ‘d lk t gv yr pst mr srs rspns, bt ts s lckng n sbstnc tht’s hrd t d. Ctng th ‘fndng fthrs’ (cn y vn nm 3 f thm?) n rspns t n bvsly n-sdd nws stry? Y r why Rpblcns n ths cntry hv sch sy tm dspnsng wth slly dmcrts. nd th ‘brkn dwn plc cmmnt?” Whtvr tht’s sppsd t mn, ‘m srry t shttr th lv bbbl y hv fr th S, bt w’r nt prfct. Dvt yrslf t rl sss lk brnng trtr tps nd scrt prsns, slly drg lws, r ctl plc brtlty.

    Hr’s nthr cl crd: Th vst mjrty f pblc mplys r nrml ppl, nd dn’t wnt t bs nyn (r thr jrk-ffs n th wrld? Sr), sh cld hv sly wrttn t CS nd hr cncrns wld prbbly hv bn ddrssd. nstd, gttrs wll try t blw ths thng p wy bynd wht t rlly s, nd MGHT vntlly gt rspns pblcly, cstng mny, tm, ffrt tht cld hv bn spnt dng thr rl jbs. s sttd, sh dd smthng t gt 10 yr br, nd y smply tk hr wrd fr t tht sh’s ‘bn n nd t f th cntry svrl tms’ (yh rght), bt f sh vrstyd bfr sh wld prbbly vrsty gn. gttng vr smthng lk ths frm n-sdd chrctrztn s wst f tx pyr mny nd wst f tm fr pblc mplys. Try trvllng t Grmny f y’r Trk r Scntlgst, try trng nglnd f yr n frcn r ndn, s sd, th lst gs n.

    Frthr, dn’t knw wht ‘frgnrs br’ y’r tlkng bt, bt n mrcn ffcl tld y ‘vrybdy ds t.’ Stts s rtrctv t ccnt fr bcklgs d t th rdcls mnts f frvls pplctns CS rcvs.

    grtr prblm s whn y gtt vr crp lk ths th rl ncdnts f bs sffr bcs vryn s trd f hrng y cry wlf.

    #20, thnk thr s rm fr yr pstn n ths ss, bt y’r nt ntrly crrct, n my pnn. W’r nt th nly ns tht mk mstks, ddn’t Plsh ctzn jst d frm bng tzrd n Cnd? Tw wrngs dn’t mk rght, bt yr cntry sn’t ndr th mcrscp lk rs s. Mny mrcns dn’t mnd n hnst crtcsm n n ffrt t mk bttr cntry, bt w’r nt n fr th rrgnt lctrs nd frthng t th mth ft-stmpng frm frgnrs tllng s hw t rn r cntry.

    #18, thnk thr s ls rm fr yr pstn n th mttr, th rgnl vltn ds mttr, vr-rctng s nt wrrntd, bt my pnn s tht thr s mr t ths stry thn wht hs bn rvld.

    #21, y’r jst lst. t’s sd t s ppl wh lth thr wn cntry s mch thy cn’t s th frst fr th trs. t’s clr y’v nvr wtnssd r xprncd rl rcsm r xnphb, y mght b lttl mr sspcs f th wy ths stry ws prsntd. t’s ct y knw wh Jffrsn s, bt ts thn vnr.

    #17 y cntrdct yrslf n yr wn pst. Prsmng vrythng sh stts s th trth, nd yt cknwldgng n th lst sntnc tht nt ll f th fcts r knwn. Wht’s yr rl mtvtn hr?

  20. #13 love america??? are you joking??? I have nothing against your country but “love”…. I think It would be better for your “good relations” with tourists if you don´t treat them like criminals. Come on, Do you know that Police ask you if you want to kill the President?? Do you know any “normal” country with that policy? it´s totally crazy. …And maybe you really want to kill Bush (metaphorically), and then you have to lie :P.
    What happen in other countries?
    A. Spain has almost the same tourist like USA and I´ve never seen these kind of situations
    B. Spain also had a great and vile attack that was made by Al-Queda and (fortunatelly) we are not increassing our agressivity agaisnt foreigners.

  21. WassabiCracka:
    Yes, a Polish citizen died from being tazered in Canada. Note the response from Canadians: The uproar resulted in major changes in how tasers are used. It was big news here, and it’s not over yet.

    What’s happenning in the US on the other hand isn’t an isolated incident. It’s become so common that people like you wonder why it’s even an issue. No changes are forthcoming.

    Let me ask you this: Americans so often “arrogantly tell us how to run our country” as you put it – on everything from copyright law to port security to farming subsidies. Why isn’t how you treat OUR citizens open for comment? Isn’t labelling criticism of this issue “frothing at the mouth foot-stomping” merely a cop-out?

    The US encourages tourism. You have an obligation to treat tourists fairly, and no right not to expect criticism when you don’t. We’re not telling you how to run your country, but how your treat OUR citizens is open for comment.

  22. Alajendro @ #14

    They make travel bras for your wife, among others, specifically to avoid setting of the airport metal detector.

  23. WassabiCracka @ #26

    In fact my wife was detained for 7 hours and deported from England because her firm forgot to renew a blanket work visa – not back to America, but dumped ont he streets of France without her luggage, her passport or any money.

    Now there is a story far less well documented than the original post.

  24. My experience of US border guards has been almost universally positive. As a Canadian taking an academic position in New York, I needed a TN Visa. At the border, I was photographed, printed, signed a form- the whole process took 10 minutes. As always the staff were courteous, asking about my research, etc. I’ve only ever been stopped twice: once because I had fireworks in the back seat (oops), and another time at Logan Airport because I had a swiss army knife in my carry-on (major oops). Both times I was treated courteously but firmly and allowed to proceed minus the offending items.

    Weirdly, I have more problems at the Canadian border, where I am sometimes treated suspiciously. We Canadians can sometimes be a bit smug about our ‘tolerance’ and multiculturalism, but in many ways the process in the US is more accomodating. Heck, if you’re importing goods, you can even fill out the requisite forms in the language of your choice: Thai, Arabic, Chinese, you name it. Try doing that at a Canadian crossing.

    Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt that I am a professional, employed, legal, english-speaking caucasian…

  25. I use to go Christmas shopping to NYC every year for a long week end… I stopped about three years as I felt no longer confortable with hoops you have to go through to be admitted.

    There must be a way to do this job without being arbitrary, hostile and downright rude… I did feel that the margin was getting narrower each time and that there would be a point where you’d be in trouble just for expressing your discontent.

    Not for me, thank you very much, i’ll take my buisness elsewhere… (shame when you consider the price of the dollar)

  26. WassabiCracka: Her offense was overstaying a visa by *three weeks*. Speaking as someone who had a visa last year and found that it ran out a month before my wife wrapped up work and went through the process of extending my visa by a month, I can totally understand this. I had deep contacts with the US consulate in Vancouver and even then, after spending a thousand dollars and filing my forms six months in advance, I still ended up mixing up the forms and nearly blowing my legal residency.

  27. Like I stated, Canada is simply not under the microscope like the U.S. is. Policy discussions on issues like Copyright Law (which is draconian in Canada, ten times worse than here) Port security and trade are not the same as individuals jumping on a bandwagon to criticize Canadians. This isn’t a Canadian website comprised of Canadians criticizing Canadian law. I’m not jumping up and down on a Canadian board spending my time as telling you what crap your laws are (nor did I complain and whine when our entry to England was delayed for 3 hours as everybody had to wash their shoes, clothes, mouths and hands at the airport during the foot and mouth disease ‘crisis’.) As far as trade negotiations go the U.S. isn’t the only one that critizes Canada e.g. rice wine, lumber, fishing – all under WTO arbitrations. Again, policy discussions between governments are not the same as open season on U.S. tourists abroad or Americans in general because of one-sided news posts. And once again, as stated, the person here had a prior history of immigration violations in the United States, you continue to presume that it wasn’t justified because there has been no individual response from the U.S. government telling the other side of the story(and their shouldn’t be, what a waste of time and money). The issue is a willingness to accept – in fact eagerness to accept – as fact everything this person is saying. Canada enjoys A LOT of travel privileges with the United States, such as being able to come here without a visa (but yes, you need a passport). This makes things easier for both of our countries in terms of travel, tourism and commerce. But as a consequence of this privilege, it is fair for the U.S. to request certain security procedures from Canada and vice versa. If you’re afraid that a past ‘mistake’ is going to show up when you visit, then don’t come here.

    What if this person failed to reveal her past immigration violations on her current VISA application? Is this person ACTUALLY from Iceland? Does she have any criminal convictions in her home country? Did the U.S. immigration official spot anything fake about her documentation? You’re analogy is apples and oranges.

    #27 you’re kidding, right? I’ve travelled to Spain and all I could get from the immigration officer there was a sneer. You’re telling me that the terrorist attacks (al queda and basque) hasn’t led to hieghtened scrutiny of individuals with prior history of violating immigration laws? I simply refute that. One or a few incidents like this certainly does not equal ‘aggressivisity against tourists.’ Please listen to Tool’s Hooker With a Penis, that song was written for you and others with your attitude.

    #25, No, not exactly, we just understand how completely inept our media can be and how characterization are used to create social myths. There is no doubt that our entire social structure has been under assault for the last 7 years, but I don’t care to hear that from foreign tourists. Mind your own business, if you’re afraid that you’re going to get caught for past crimes in this country, don’t come here, the tourism commercials weren’t meant for you.

    This is one of the only countries on the planet that grants citizenship just for being born here. In Europe it took a special treaty just allow displaced persons to claim citizenship from ANY country, and yet groups like the Romas, Turks, Albanians and (ok cheap shot here) the Basque still cannot receive fair treatment and recognition. How many asylees has Europe absorbed in the last 10 years? America accepts more refugees in one year that nearly all the countries of Europe combined in a decade. We have lenient immigration policies, but have tightened our entry procedures. In an aggregate analysis the foreign tourists we ‘lure’ here with travel commercials and such are not unduly suffering.

  28. More than mild concern here, as a young American with an eye toward emigration if matters continue to deteriorate. How long until the policies America wields against its visitors come back to pummel Americans any time they try to leave their nation of origin?

  29. Wasabicracka, I’m sorry but you’ve completely missed my point. Twice. Perhaps I was being too vague.

    – Brokedown Palace was a (cruddy, alarmist) film about American travelers getting stuck in jail in Asia. My point was that it’s not enough for the United States to treat foreign travelers in a LESS BAD way than other countries treat American travelers, i.e., the countries that the State Dept. issues warnings about, as you mentioned.

    We should be attempting to treat foreign travelers WELL.

    Sorry if you think that’s a “love bubble”. I like to think of it as expecting my government to act in a decent fashion.

    – I do not live in the United States. “Foreigner’s bureau” is my lazy translation of Ausländerbehörde. No, an American official did not tell me that “everybody does it”. A German dude did, because I am a foreigner in his country. Basically, I was trying to show an example of how easily an expat can get into a situation where a visa is expired for three weeks. Cory has provided another example of a near miss.

    Also, I’d like to add that I think it’s extremely silly to divide issues of repression into “real issues” such as the obviously disgusting burning of CIA tapes showing torture, and – “crap like this” such as the imprisonment of innocent people for only 2 days.

    They are both symptoms of the same disease, IMHO.

    Ken Hansen:

    I’m not going to argue the details of the case with you, and I think we agree on the fact that the response to this woman’s visa trouble was clearly out-of-proportion.

    However, I think you missed the point of my example.

    Ten years ago, America had no reason to even consider being screaming paranoid about terrorism, and thus clearly tend to let some immigration issues – say, a visa that had expired 3 weeks ago – slide.

    Right now, Germany has no reason to even consider being screaming paranoid about terrorism, and in
    my case, they also allowed me to run around their country with a visa that had expired, for one month.

    Times change. There will always be reasons for a government crackdown. Jplotz had an example of what he considered to be extreme surveillance in Germany in the 1980’s, and I provided the context: Not only the Cold War, but also far-left domestic terrorism. Of course last year’s Germany is different from this year’s United States. But political climates can sure change quickly.

    So if 10 years from now I found myself back in Germany on the way to a jail because of the fact I stuck around for 3 extra weeks after my visa had expired way back in 2006 – having been assured that this would cause me no problems – I would be pretty pissed off.

  30. Johnnywierd, to provide a partial answer:

    – Europe is not necessarily better at, say, not listening to your phone calls. Keep that in mind if you’re hoping for a more libertarian country.

    – Most governments don’t lash out at individual American citizens. But there are plenty of individuals who will expect you to provide a full explanation of what the HELL is going on in your home country, so be prepared for that.

    – Also, please don’t be intellectually lazy and become a complete anti-American ideologue once you’ve skipped town. I’ve seen that happen to expats more than once and it is highly disappointing.

    Remember, one-way flights are expensive!



  31. WassabiCracka @37: “Copyright Law (which is draconian in Canada, ten times worse than here)”

    (Boggle). WTF are you talking about, man? Canada has yet to come NEAR WCT implementation — just rejected the DMCA for the third time in three years. Canada has affirmative fair dealing exceptions — unlike the nebulous “four factors” test in 17USC. And Canada’s private copying levy legalizes P2P, per a recent Canadian Supreme Court case.

    This isn’t even wrong. It’s a non-parsing sentence. It’s so factually incorrect, it’s a wonder that you didn’t implode while typing it.

    As to US visa liberalism: the US is the only Western democracy that requires a visa to give a paid speech or do a day’s consulting work. Moreover, such a visa doesn’t actually exist! You can get a “performer” visa for a speech, or a J cultural exchange visa in limited circumstances, but they don’t cover someone like me who pops in and out to give talks, etc.

    As a consequence, I’m required to take out a full-blown residential “O” visa, and to that end I’ve spent more than $10,000 and submitted more than 300 documents in support of it, in a process that has lasted three months and continues to this day.

  32. I don’t even like traveling by plane in my own country anymore. That’s pretty sad.

    Security theatre has to end. Shoes and water bottles are not dangerous. Tourists from Iceland are not dangerous.

    What is dangerous is giving up our rights and freedoms for fear.

    That’s dangerous.

  33. WassabiCracka:

    >> Like I stated, Canada is simply not under
    >> the microscope like the U.S. is.

    Oh? Both countries have a free press. Both have visitors from other countries. Both are part of the international community, and equally subject to scrutiny and criticism in how we act internationally. Getting criticized more? There may be a reason.

    >> Copyright Law (which is draconian in Canada,
    >> ten times worse than here)

    Nope. It’s US copyright law that’s draconian. And Americans that are trying to dictate stricter laws to Canada.

    >> I’m not jumping up and down on a Canadian board spending
    >> my time as telling you what crap your laws are

    I don’t see an “Americans Only” banner. In fact, this board frequently has stories on happennings in Canada.

    Again, the US encourages tourism. You have an obligation to treat tourists fairly, and no right not to expect criticism when you don’t. We’re not telling you how to run your country, but how your treat OUR citizens is open for comment. What part of this do you not understand?

    >> at the airport during the foot and mouth disease ‘crisis’

    Any intelligent person can see that washing your shoes to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease is an acceptable inconvenience, and that shackling and jailing a tourist because of a minor oversight ten years earlier is not.

    >> If you’re afraid that a past ‘mistake’ is going to show
    >> up when you visit, then don’t come here.

    Is the word “reasonable” even in your dictionary? It was a ten-year-old minor infraction. The kind if infraction that’s often dimissed at the time, or when your papers are back in order. Worst case, you deny the person entry and send them back on the next flight. You don’t shackle them and send them to jail.

    >> Is this person ACTUALLY from Iceland?
    >> Does she have any criminal convictions in her home country?

    Now you’re making stuff up.

    >> This is one of the only countries on the planet that
    >> grants citizenship just for being born here

    You made this up too.

  34. I’m angry and sad and frustrated.

    These kinds of actions slander America more than any terrorist could do– with a terrorist at least one can see the obvious bias when he badmouths the US, but when actual American security personnel do this (not to mention what the CIA does in its “black sites”) what can I say to prove that the US is not the land of jack-booted thugs?

    Whatever happened to the “kinder, gentler nation” that Bush the elder spoke of?

  35. Oh, I know I’ll get yelled at for suggesting this…but what’s with the multiple, lengthy diatribe comments from a couple of readers? It looks less like discourse and more like male dominance display. If you really want to give a lecture, maybe it would be more appropriate to write an essay, post it on your own blog and link to it from your single, brief, one-paragraph BoingBoing comment. The effort of doing so might encourage people to take your ideas more seriously.

    On another note, using “non-parsing sentence” as an insult is kinda hot. Does somebody have schoolteacher parents?

  36. Sigh…
    My blog is concentrating on sad and odd immigration news for US and EU, and for a reason (so anyone interested…)
    I’m an EU citizen, married to a USC, and been separated from spouse for nearly a year already thanks to USCIS phone services giving rotten and incorrect info. Every day sucks when you can’t live with the beloved one, and don’t even see a day when you could get a visa to join the spouse (on either side of the ocean for that matter). It is unfortunately much easier to bring a pet to US, as that would have max. 6 months of quarantine…

  37. Can we back up just a little bit?

    > Fingerprinting – that’s so bad?

    Not for criminals, no. We (eurotrash ahoy) do that to our criminals as well!

  38. Infallibly, whenever there’s a story like this, we get commenters doing a tough-guy routine about how the victim had it coming. (Infallibly, if I disemvowel or remove one of these comments, its author will wail bloody murder about this tiny infringement of “rights” they don’t actually have.)

    You know what? Mistreating Erla Osk Arnardottir Lillendahl over a ten-year-old nonviolent visa error is unreasonable and uncivilized. The rest of the world knows it. The only reason some of our citizens don’t get the point is that they think it’ll never happen to them.

    That’s remarkably stupid. Arbitrary power, power without responsibility, always corrupts those who wield it, and their abuses always get worse. You may suffer from it directly, or it may come back at you from an indirect source — abuse does provoke retaliation.

    (BTW, that’s why the regular military has opposed our abrogation of the Geneva Conventions: anger at our mistreatment of prisoners will be taken out on our guys who become POWs.)

    It has other costs as well. For instance, it hampers our ability to do business with other countries when their people are unwilling to cross U.S. borders. Having foreign grad students attending U.S. universities has always been a win/win proposition, but we’ve suffered a significant drop in their numbers in recent years because they don’t want to have to deal with our customs/immigration/DHS practices.

    One further reason it’s stupid to accept customs/immigration/DHS abuses: it makes it easier for the government to justify (or rather excuse) policies that make it difficult for us to cross our own borders. It’s much easier to oppress and intimidate people if they aren’t sure what will happen if they try to leave.

  39. Well, Cory, I’ve respected this site and have been a regular visitor for roughly 4 years and have never received any response from anyone but Xeni. I respect your body of work and experience, but I have to say that I just don’t believe the fact pattern laid out here.

    1) 3 weeks overstay does not result in a bar to admission, and its unclear to me how CIS would even be aware of a 3 week overstay. It takes 180 days – six months for those of us who are shy on math – before someone becomes inadmissible for 3 years. INA Sec. 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I), 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(I). If a person leaves before CIS institutes removal proceedings *THEY ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THIS BAR*. So if you hop on a plane after overstaying 5 months, and nobody from CIS has contacted you in any form or fashion then there is no bar. CIS does not track people once they enter except in unusual circumstances (an attempt was made to pass a bill like this, promoted by Louis Freeh, in 2000, but it failed).

    2) If you overstay for a period greater than 12 months, AND CIS institutes removal proceedings, they only way they know if you’ve overstayed, you are barred from being admitted for 10 years. [previous cite, subsection (ii).

    Cory, I’m a bit confused about your situation, and wouldn’t advise that you lay it all out in public like this anyway. Nonetheless, sorry for your troubles, but without knowing specifically what forms you filed and how they were messed up, (or was this for your wife?) can’t really address the specific provision to which you are referring.

    Visitors coming here for a day or two to lecture should consider using the B-1 business Visa. This visa allows you to travel in and out of the country freely for the duration of the visa. This visa is good for three months, and can be extended for another 3 months, usually at a local field office (no mail filings necessary). Many countries have a Visa Waiver Program with the United States (sorry I don’t have the site off the top of my head), which means you can come here without a visa for business or pleasure and they will stamp your I-94 card for three monhts.

    If you have a regular busines, you can apply for an L visa, which lasts for up to 7 years (multi-national executive) or up to 5 years (specialized knowledge). Again you can travel in and out on this VISA.

    If you have paid someone 10k for an O Visa (which are very hard to get, I can’t see how you were approved, frankly) then you need to take it up with AILA. These private bar attorneys will deal with someone gouging you, and refer you to more reasonably priced services, as well as provide a wealth of free VISA information and plenty of legitimate criticisms of U.S. immigration law.

    Ever tried to get copyright licenses from Canadian companies? Ever wonder why Canadian TV shows cannot even display a picture on the TV? Parody, Reverse Engineering, Time Shifting, Media Shifting, Transformative use, Derivative Uses are all illegal or severely restricted in Canada, more so than in the U.S.(that’s right Canadians, technically you can’t record Trailer Park Boys to watch it later). Nonetheless, as I am not a Canadian copyright lawyer, and I don’t want your head to explode, I will relent on this point. Seriously though, you should do an extensive comparative analysis of Canadian Copyright law and U.S. copyright laws.

    #41 RAISED BY WOLVES Re first point Broken Down Palace – a fair point, sorry I didn’t get the reference Palace reference. My doubts about this particular story aside, I agree that two wrongs don’t make a right, and as a believer in a multicultural, cosmopolitan society, I do sympathize with tourists, visitors, immigrants who suffer at the hands of our admittedly imperfect system. I just don’t think this is one of those times, and (this is more for others) this story is certainly not a catalyst for reforming our security procedures (at least not without complete verification of the facts). Greater inequities have occurred.

    #39 RETCON I don’t know who you’re talking about, I’m a veteran, but that has nothing to do with the fact that I think this person is not being forthcoming.

    #45 RE:

    Point 1: you’re under a rock dude, if you think Canada or any other country gets half as much scrutiny as the U.S. does, plain and simple.

    POint 2: reference above to Corey

    POint 3: What part of this person is lying do you not understand? I will say it one more time, people are all to eager to presume that stories like this are completely truthful (I saw it on the internets, it must be true), you included. Tried to be fair and give you some space, now you’re just illustrating my point about arrogance. Our government allows individuals to redress their claims, does yours? You’re not the one who was allegedly wronged, you’re just a sheep following the anti-american mantra. We’re not dictating anything to you, but I’ll remind you that it was your lax immigration laws and procedures that allowed a number hijackers into this country. As mentioned above, Canada is given a lot of privilege in travel to this country, not unreasonable to ask for certain assurances.

    Points 5 and 6, again, this is all based on the presumption that she is being truthful. All in the face of reasonably presented evidence that her story doesn’t make sense (a 3 week overstay? BS, U.S. law doesn’t even address that lenght of overstay).

    Point 7: Perhaps I wasn’t clear, these questions were raised to point out what we don’t know from the U.S. customs point of view, we have only gotten her side of it. I suppose you think all foreigners are honest, forthright, people (because they’re not American). Even in 1998 an INS study revealed that fully 62% of the documentation they received was fraudulent. You can walk into a shopping mall in Minneapolis and buy an entire package of U.S. immigration documents to file with your application. CIS has to deal with fake business licenses, laundered money, and huge volumes of faked business documentation from individuals around the world. Canada cannot hold a candle to the number of individuals and companies trying to come here. I’m not going to call you dum, I’m just going to say you need to gain some perspective.

    Last point, re born a citizen, I made this up? LOL, ok, how do you know this? Why don’t you list me even 5 countries that grant citizenship based on just being born there.

    Ok, enough of defending the evil empire for todayy, I’m off for some CoD4. The rest of you, put down your hater-ade for a minute and try to actually consider what has been said instead of presuming the worst about the U.S.

  40. Antinous @ #48

    . . . the multiple, lengthy diatribe comments from a couple of readers? It looks less like discourse and more like male dominance display.

    It doesn’t look like discourse at all.

    Could engaging them do anything more than camouflage the picture they paint:

    – anger in place of reason
    – intolerance rather than policy
    – blame in instead of solutions
    – defensiveness rhetorical tactics
    – a shrill tone like a call to arms.

    In every direction: posters, journalists, bloggers, victims, liberals, other countries. Given the subject, how much more fitting a case against themselves could they make?

  41. Ok have to address the Moderator, amazing what disagreeing with a post can do. I hope you don’t think this poster is pulling a tough guy routine, I believe – rightfully so – in getting the whole truth. The fact of the matter is, if she is telling the whole truth then of course she has been wronged, and she can even receive compensation from the U.S. government for that. But incidents like this ARE NOT THE NORM, they are the exception. Does our security theatre (thanks to above poster for this funny term) have problems like a bloated DNF list? Sure. Are there a-holes that abuse authority in America? Sure. Are there others around the world, who work for governments, who make it difficult, practically impossible to get in? You bet. Cry wolf for doubtful stories like this and you discredit the real instances of abuse. Infallibly, people broaden the issues when a poster makes a comment disagreeing with them and they can’t or choose not to respond.

    Without wishing to seem vain, let me just state that I myself have tracked, researched and compiled indictments on war crimes, processed and advocated for hundreds of asylum cases (in many cases actually having to take pictures of torture victims injuries – gruesome, heart wrenching work), filed hundreds of citizenship applications pro bono, and dispensed hours and hours of pro-bono immigration advice. Now I’m a public servant. Imagine how someone like me felt when the windows of my office shook on 9/11, imagine the fear I felt that I may have helped lying criminals into our country. All that being said, I am not particularly jaded, and think its rather sad (but not surprising) that people have to resort to insulting my intelligence just because I question the veracity of a story that doesn’t make sense.

    Just because America is imperfect doesn’t mean its always wrong. But I will conclude by stating that RAISEDBYWOLVES point should carry the day, and that truth, above all else, should be the object of public discourse.

  42. America seems to do as it pleases at home and abroad, answerable to no one.

    With great power, comes great abuse.

    I miss the cold war era.

  43. To #55: You argue your points well, Wassabi. … but the fact is that our visa and other related policies are decreasing our tourism/economic base, jeopardizing our graduate educational system (which depends to a surprising degree on foreign students ), reducing our status in the world (hypocrisy beyond measure, is how we are perceived, and many Americans agree with that assessment), and just plain betraying principles both moral and practical.

    Applause for all your great work.. but the problems of ‘who let in the bad guys’ were more in the realm of turf disputes in govt. agencies, incompetence in doing obvious things like actually comparing entries to watch lists, and people in bureaucracies covering their asses rather than doing their jobs.

    The govt has admitted (sorry, would have to find the link) that they haven’t caught anyone through all these extra security measures btw, but instead through human intel. Therefore THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THE USA CAN DO – is make people WANT to help us!!

    Our current policies don’t tend toward that AT ALL – which is what these nice people from other countries are trying to get across to us in sharing their opinions and experiences. (And for those of you who tell them not to complain, i say, What others think of us is affecting us economically – isn’t that enough justification for us to listen??)

    Instead i say, citizens of the world, PLEASE DO COMPLAIN/EXPLAIN: please let the US govt KNOW WHY you aren’t coming to visit.. it might save us and most of us will thank you for it :)

    That the USA is driving away even our allies (it’s true, ASK THEM), means that the USA has *configured its basic approach* incorrectly (and by incorrect i mean, it won’t get us what we want!).

    So.. let me thank all non-USA citizens for your input… and thank you for trying to help us break free of the current insanity here – we need all the help we can get. And please do know – 75% of US voters DO NOT support the Bush approach. Do realize you aren’t getting all the news from our side, either – i doubt you’ve heard of all the letters, protests, movements – they simply are NOT reported. So.. Please don’t give up on the USA yet!

  44. The last time I came to the US, I flew in to give three speeches, teach the Viable Paradise writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard, and meet with a client.

    I called the US immigration hotline in London (at UKP1.50/minute), where, 45 minutes later, I was assured that I could do this all on a B1 visa that I could apply for at the border, and told which papers I needed.

    When I landed in Boston, I handed the papers to the DHS guard, who immediately sent me to secondary, where I was informed that the US embassy in London was absolutely unequivocally wrong, and that I would have to be sent back to London on the next flight.

    I was detained for two hours, questioned about the (many) US visas I’ve held — TN, L, P, etc — and finally admitted — on condition that I get an O visa or similar before re-entering the country.

    I have travelled to 31 countries in the past three years, under similar circumstances. The US is the only country where there’s even a question of securing a visa to do a paid speaking engagement or do a day’s consulting, or teach for a few days.

  45. For fairness and balance, I’d like to point out that also great things come from the US.

    Many of my favourite people that I don’t know personally are Americans; Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Hicks, Jello Biafra, Noam Chomsky…

  46. Cory said
    > “the US is the only Western democracy that requires a visa to give a paid speech or do a day’s consulting work.”

    Actually, in 2001 I was told that to come into Canada for one day’s consulting/lecturing I needed a visa or had to pretend to come as a tourist. (I am a US citizen.)

  47. Going back to one of the first few posts, on how tourism has dropped even though the dollar is so weak – has anyone noticed that visa fees have been increased from $100 to $130? That was pretty unaffordable before, especially for, say, a family of four going on a dream holiday to Disney World. Now, it’s just far too expensive. Combine that with the entry procedures, and how many people still want to go on holiday there?

    The really ironic thing is that they’re claiming the increase is to pay for the fingerprinting and other checks!

  48. WassabiCracka:
    Canada has nothing like the DMCA. Private sharing of music is specifically allowed under the copyright act. (We pay a tarrif on blank media in return.) Schools are allowed the right to use materials that are under copyright.

    It’s American organizations like the RIAA that are constantly pressuring and bribing the Canadian government to increase copyright protections and remove consumer freedom.

    And you misinterpret my point: Canada is under the same *standard* of scrutiny.

    Even avoiding the Iraq issue: If we also pressured and bribed other governments to adopt our copyright controls (or remove consumer freedoms that we ourselves take for granted) we’d get more scrutiny too. If we also shackled and jailed tourists for no good reason, we’d get more scrutiny too. If we also spent as much on our military as the rest of the planet combined, we’d get more scrutiny too.

    And in all these cases, we should.

  49. #37 said: “the Basque still cannot receive fair treatment and recognition” . Well, first: I said that I live in Spain but actually I´m from Bilbao (Basque Country, Spain). Please, we have enough with our terrorists speaking about freedom while they are killing Basques and Spaniards. This topic is enough important for being treated without criterion.
    #37 said: “for you and others with your attitude.” What´s my attitude? don´t be agree with you? almost half of the comments of this post are not agree with your position…

    I´m sure that the decribed situation is NOT the normal one (I´m not stupid), but the point is that a high percent of foreigners that travel to USA feels like they are treated like terrorists and unfortunatelly the policy in UK and Europe is changing and it would be the same soon: don´t forget that USA forced UE to sign a treatment for getting many data from passengers (These data include credo) and our stupid countries signed it: forget the days when we used to fly wearing our shoes :P …

  50. you people are just a group of grumpies knowing the fact the world needs us americans more than we need you. instead you just busy with your lousy climate change issues, not like us, fighting terorists all over the world to save your a*.

  51. Well Cory, that CBP agent was incorrect. A B-1 visa is fine for the type of temporary business trips discussed here. I’m sure that’s not much help to you given that it wasted two hours of your time, sorry you were treated like a terrorist. As another poster pointed out, I’m sure there is a way the person could have done his/her job without acrimony or distemper. I can’t give you tips (and there are a lot your attorney isn’t telling you about) but I can give you some non-legal ones:

    1) look for an entry agent with a smile on their face
    2) Act polite and respond to ‘no’ answers with questions like “o really? My lawyer seems to think my papers are in order/thinks that information is not correct, can we verify this?”
    or “But this visa is valid and in order, what’s the problem?” or “Look, I’m here for a business trip, here’s a ticket/pass/flier/whatever to show where I’m going and what I’m doing.”
    3) As mean as they get stay nice, do not get frustrated or jump all over them because no matter what profession you’re in, people with bad attitudes will frustrate you just because they can if you give them the opportunity. My experience is that nice Americans like to help out nice people.
    4) Don’t take my word for it, I’m just some dude on the internet. If you’re English then consult a solicitor, if you’re American then find a lawyer, most will answer a few phone questions without any charge. Or again, I will refer you to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, they have plenty of free advice and will make sure you don’t get charged 10k for an O visa

    Roger that’s the best you can do? On a topic not related to the original post? “The U.S. doesn’t have anything like the DMCA”? You’re just parroting BoingBoing posts. Look, in Canada there is no parody defense to infringement, in Canada there is no Reverse Engineering, in Canada you can’t time shift, in Canada moral rights are absolute (no derivative works by others based on a minimal use of a copyrighted work) – these are just a few examples. Nor does Canada have the level of content production as the U.S. If the largest content industry in the world was located in Canada, then I’m sure you would have an RIAA and dozens of large businesses lobbying for protection. (Before anyone’s head explodes I don’t think there’s a thing in the world wrong with sharing music or PVP content sharing, unless you’re making money off of it). I’m not missing any points man, you’re just a one way street – not once have you acknowledged anything that I’ve said as being correct, which it is. Primary case in point, there is no penalty for overstaying your visa for three weeks. you can overstay five months and voluntarily depart and you are not under a bar to re-admission, don’t have a “violation” on your record, and not a soul will even be aware of it. This is an incomplete story.


  52. #64…
    Guess what? the world barely needs us anymore, everyone is about to unpeg their currencies/oil/etc from the dollar (which will leave us floating free in tremendous debt that no one wants to own), China’s economy is approximately comparable with ours, as is roughly, the EU… so we are not the sole economic superpower. We are engineering ourselves towards economic suicide by your kind of attitude. Please get educated on this if you want to keep our standard of living!

    And .. please back up your statement that we are protecting anyone against terrorists. We’ve instead given them a nice base in Iraq, we haven’t caught Osama (ask your precious Bush WHY NOT!!! talk about flipflopping…), and by most measures made by independent groups as well as our OWN govt, we have FUELED the terrorist movement by our stupid responses to it.

    as for #66 – excuse me, it’s exactly the US govt that has made flying a miserable experience!! Cmon.. the liquids thing?? they changed their minds on that 4-5x, it was different at different airports! and the constraints by other nations were IMPOSED on them by the USA. Who has even, by the way, admitted these things won’t prevent any real terrorists from doing bad things, just ‘makes ppl feel safer’. While of course doing some nice weatth transfer to corporations. Meanwhile REAL security is ignored, and the TSA continues to fail actual tests where they pass dangerous materials through.

    Also, you are missing the point – the USA visa system is an expensive mess that is NOT helping us prevent terrorists from entering, but IS driving away businesses and students and tourists. Let’s not keep doing stupid things like this, it’s ridiculous…

  53. I’ve seen a few people here say that the woman refused the chance to call the embassy when she was initially detained but as I understand her blog ( ) she says that she was told at first that she would later be allowed to call the embassy but they changed their mind and didn’t let her do it after all. She never said why she didn’t call the embassy from prison. Not that it would have mattered because at the end of it, she said that her friend who was travelling with her had contacted the embassy on her behalf but the embassy was told that she was being held at the airport, not that she had been taken to prison.

    Since her story got news coverage, there have been other people popping up telling very similar stories. I have never had any problems going to or through the US myself but hearing something like this, I have to think maybe next time it could be me. Maybe my name ends up on the wrong list and I’m toast. Because of these strict policies, it’s becoming more common that people are avoiding the US, even for stopovers. I’ve heard more than one person say that when travelling from Canada to Europe, they don’t care if they pay more if only they can avoid the US. Maybe the US doesn’t care. Close the border and be done with it.

  54. I am a US citizen who lives half an hour across the border from Quebec, Canada. I was returning in February from London and expected, as always, to enter easily, hop in my car and be home in an hour from Dorval Airport in Montreal. WRONG. I was told when I went through passport control that I had to go to the immigration office. I saw a huge office surrounded by thick plexiglass, with one other man who looked of middle eastern descent waiting in the waiting area. I went to a bullet proof window and was asked by the immigration officer to hand over my passport, which I did. She never smiled and was quite brusk. I asked her what this was all about, and she refused to answer except to say they had some “questions” about my entry into Canada. She asked me a few questions about why i was traveling abroad. I made clear to her i lived in a state adjacent to Quebec and was anxious to get back to my cozy home. She told me to wait. I sat down and waited and waited and waited. 2 hours went by, then 3. 4 hours went by. I asked if i could get coffee, and they said no, but they would bring me a cup of water. The other man waiting was finally told by an immigration officer to come with him, that he would be going to a detention center. I thought, oh, my god, is this what will happen to me? I was totally confused, not knowing what on earth I had done. By the way, i’m a white middle aged blonde american woman who is a professional who works for a nonprofit. I’m pointing this out, as somehow if you are blonde and white, some people (and this icelandic woman) assume you are being mistreated, but i’m sure if you were middle eastern looking as was the only other man waiting in that empty room, we would not question why he was waiting that long. I understood this. I was just confused, racking my brain as to why i was being held. Finally, after more than 4 hours, an immigration officer told me to follow her. we went into a tiny cubicle. She told me that they had found a drunken driving conviction of mine from the States from almost 13 years ago. I said, yes, that was the only time I had been convicted and that I had lost my license for 3 months. But that was years ago. She said that under Canadian laws, drunken driving is a serious offense, one that can bar me from entering Canada. I was stunned, as I had entered Canada many times before, probably at least 6 times in a year. She said most likely i would be taken to the detention center. At this point, I got quite agitated and begged her to reconsider,explaining that i lived only 30 minutes from the border. she told me to wait back in the waiting room and she would discuss it with her superiors. again another hour lapsed. I went several times up to the bullet proof window and was told to just sit down and wait. the immigration officers never smiled, did not even acknowledge me except to say, “you do realize you are in a different country?”. .I thought, my God, why do you think i’m at passport control? Finally, the woman I had spoken to earlier came out. She gave no explanation for the hours long delay. She said they had decided to allow me to leave, get my car and drive home. once i get to the border, i was instructed to go into the immigration office and hand over my paperwork. I was told this was a transit visa, and that if i tried to come back into Canada, I would be arrested.

    I was not sent to the detention center, but that is just out of sheer luck, and I’m sure had i been, i would have been handcuffed. I was also denied food or even a cup of coffee for what turned out to be 5 hours. not anywhere near the icelandic woman’s time in detention, for sure, but since i live only 30 minutes from the border, it was a very long time, and i wanted to go home!I am angry, yes, but not angry with Canada. They have laws, and later, I realized they were doing the proper thing. I don’t hold ill will towards them, although now I can’t fly back into Montreal and have to fly into Boston and a long almost 4 hour drive to my home. I also have friends in Canada who i’m unable to visit. i’m considering applying to be “rehabilitated” but that is a huge hassle and takes some time. i have read that this is becoming increasingly common. The border in Washington State turns away at least 50 americans per month, I am told, because of long ago convictions. So, please, don’t say it is just the USA. All countries are tightening their restrictions.

  55. I fully approve of the measures taken by each country for their own security but cavil at the way it is implemented by US officials.
    I waited for decades before I could be pursuaded to take a vacation in the USA, because I did not want to go through the demeaning VISA procedure that was the official policy of the US government. And when I finally decided to apply, a fat colored lady looking at me through a window typical for prisons told me that I was an undesirable alien. She decided that I would try to migrate to the US. Fine. I have a five-bedroom home with live-in help and extensive property in India and her questions indicated that she thought I will jump ship in US, she must think a lot of her country’s prospects for senior citizens. I will not apply again.
    I only feel that US citizens should not expect that we ought to feel good about the treatment we receive from your people as it is the normal procedure.
    I have formed my opinion about Americans and it may or may not effect the USA in the future. I will take my holidays in Europe where I will be at least permitted to enter. Where we are treated with more dignity than by US officials. My favourite destinations are Singapore and Malaysia where we are welcomed warmly without the arrogant colonial attitude that surprisingly even the coloured Americans have picked up. I am pleasantly surprised that even some white people are given the finger by Americans. Way to go man! There are stupid people all over the world, even here in India. The trick is to avoid situations where we come into contact with them. For me US officials, the epitome of arrogance, will be especially included.
    Prince Karikkassery

  56. I got refused last monday by enterig the US. I have no idea why. I am a German citizen and hold a permanent resident card for Canada. THey took me at the border in Maine and ran me down like if I would have murdered their mothers. I am 100 % innoscent and have never violated any law in Europe, Canada or the US and I do not even have a speeding ticket. I had to answer all kind a silly questions and they took douzens of fingerprints on scanners and paper. I was dirty like after an oilchange. To those silly questions, the officer typed the answers. But he typed several of my answers in a different way like I gave them and I wasnt allowed to correct them. He blew up and was so mad on me and if I didnt understand his unproper american slang and tried to ask him to verify what he means, he suddenly jumped up and yelled me down and he said if I do not sign this immediately, he will arrest me right away. I had no other choice then to sign that because I had to get out of there after 6 hours because I felt how I run into undersugar (I am a Diabetic). So in fact I had to return to Canada with a print into my passport that refuses me for lifetime out of the US. I am totally innoscent and would have spent lots of money in their run-down economy. I feel sort of guilty now, but I really have no idea what I did to get treated that way. Just because I have dark hair and dark eyes and look sort of Southern (maybe Arabian or so?) In that case those border officers are worse then Nazis. In the way how they treat people and how they act, they are at least equal to Nazis.

Comments are closed.