Sunday, February 12, 2006

And No Whispering To The Other Prisoners About Interior Monologues!

One hears a good deal these days about homeland security and keeping our borders safe, etc., and from time to time there are individuals (with some sort of political ax to grind, no doubt) who will insist that the government is saying a lot more than it's actually doing.

For shame.

President Bush is often far too modest about the accomplishments of his administration, which has taken a few too many partisan brickbats in recent weeks, in my opinion.

Are you like me and find it difficult to sleep knowing that visiting professors are flaunting our laws with impunity? Do you feel better knowing that they’ve been handcuffed and safely caged in a nearby jail cell not long after arriving?

Then you’ll get no small relief from the following piece that recently appeared in the NY Times. I take no small amount of pride in the fact that the incident under discussion took place here in Philadelphia, where we don't let foreign eggheads push us around:

One is a second grader in Manhattan. Over the protests of his American mother, immigration officials have been trying to deport him ever since he returned from a brief visit to his native Canada without the right visa. Another is an Irish professor of literature invited to teach at the University of Pennsylvania last month. He was handcuffed at the Philadelphia airport, strip-searched, jailed overnight and sent back to Europe to correct an omission in his travel papers.

The Irish professor, John McCourt, 40, said that on Jan. 7, an immigration officer at Philadelphia International Airport initially offered to correct a paperwork omission on the spot if he paid a $265 fine. Professor McCourt said he readily agreed, but five minutes later, the officer returned and said she had changed her mind "that I was a university professor and should have known better" and would be sent back the same night.

In an e-mail message, Professor McCourt, a James Joyce specialist at the University of Trieste in Italy, wrote: "I was told that if I protested I would simply be deported and never be let back."

At 11 p.m., six hours after his arrival, he was transported in handcuffs to the Montgomery County jail, along with another traveler denied entry, Kerstin Spitzl, a pregnant German woman who says that immigration officers abruptly canceled her visa, insisting that she was planning to violate its terms by working.

Worse than the cold, windowless cells at the jail, they said in separate interviews, was a sense of powerlessness. "You're scared," said Ms. Spitzl from her home in Wuppertal. "You have no rights. You cannot contact nobody, nobody can contact you."

In Italy, Professor McCourt quickly fixed his paperwork at the American consulate in Florence, and returned to start his classes at Penn a week late. But in New York last week, where he spoke at Fordham University on "Joyce and Judaism," he said his experience had confirmed his European friends' worst fears about America.

"At the moment, America is easy to hate," he said, "So people say, 'That does it for me. I'm not going to risk that happening.' "

Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, which is also part of Homeland Security, said that as its officers process 86 million air travelers a year and enforce 400 different laws, "there are unfortunately going to be a few instances that do not demonstrate perfect discretion."

As for that second grader, I hope they nail his ass.


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