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.


(Thanks, Jason!)