(Mods: I debated if this is more a "general talk" or a "North America" subject; I put it into the latter since I suspect more people for whom it's relevant will read it here. If any following discussion turns this into a "general talk" thread, please move it, though.)
Icelandic tourist to US held for two days, shackled, deported -- over a ten-year-old visa mistake. This was a woman flying to New York for a shopping spree, who had visited the USA again since that gross crime.
Soon thereafter I was removed from the cubicle and two armed guards placed me up against a wall. A chain was fastened around my waist and I was handcuffed to the chain. Then my legs were placed in chains. I asked for permission to make a telephone call but they refused. So secured, I was taken from the airport terminal in full sight of everybody. I have seldom felt so bad, so humiliated and all because I had taken a longer vacation than allowed under the law.
I was talking to a couple of friends of mine from the USA today (passing through Amsterdam, where they were surprised at how painless immigration was), and they had only recently found out that non-Americans have to get finger-printed and get mugshots taken. Apparently this still isn't common knowledge amongst US citizens.
How can the US immigration system be this far out of control? How can people still blithely keep on visiting? (Though I guess I do know that more and more, they don't; down 17% since 2000, despite the very weak dollar.) How can American people just accept their government doing these things in their name?
Sorry. I don't want this to spiral out of control into politics (and definitely not country-bashing). Just... Well, let this be a general warning to people thinking about travelling to the USA... You'd better be completely clean and conformist...
US immigration has always been a bitch. I travel on an replacement passport and whenever I travel through JFK, I have to get checked out a second time in "the room". Only JFK, not chicago, atlanta, philadelphia, miami...anyway, I do feel sorry for the others in the room b/c they don't know what's going on. I'm usually the only whitey in there as well. I also thought more Americans were informed on the fingerprinting/photo thing. It was very big in the press when Brazil countered with fingerprinting of their own. So I would say if you watch the nightly news, this is common knowledge...but maybe I'm wrong.
Not to change continents, but getting a Shengen visa into the Euro isn't a treat either...if you're not coming from a first world country. It may feel painless upon entry (we hope), but the hoops my husband (who's from ZA) had to jump through to get his visa really tested our patience. So much for backpacking through europe these days and there is no such thing as spontaneity. Not to mention that the website is sorely out of date so that when you go to submit your application, which must be done in person, everyone gets turned away since they don't have the correct information on hand. He had to provide proof of where we are staying for every night as well as proof as to how we intend to get to each destination and we were going to pay for it. Oh, as well as bank statements, income tax returns, business licenses. We also had to purchase all tickets, hotels, trains in advance and they could still turn him down. Even America doesn't do that!
Let's be honest: The US government (and, in particular, certain governmental officials) get(s) out-of-control often.
As an American citizen, we rarely see the effects unless it pertains to us personally. I had such an experience years ago when married to a Brazilian national who was held at the airport for for six hours over absolutely nothing (as was her brother-in-law who she was travelling with--and who was a former winner of the 24-hour Le Mans car race--the point I'm making being that celebrity status doesn't exempt you from this ludicrousness).
This same sort of nonsense used to happen to American citizens also until it was ruled that government officials could be sued for abuse of their government-official status in taking certain actions (mostly this arose in the southern states during the 1960s when officials attempted to keep blacks from legally voting). The problem is that such lawsuits are unlikely to be pursued by foreigners who have neither the time nor money to pursue such lawsuits against officials (especially considering that the officials generally have little resources to pay even if the lawsuits are successful).
Police and security officials (especially passport, homeland security, and customs officials) are especially free at this point to take more liberties in denying the liberty (and rights) of others. The good news is that generally most officials attempt to do their jobs judiciously and with respect for others. The bad news is that there are autocratic "bullies" who use their positions as an outlet for their sadist power/ego-trips and do so by making the lives of others, especially certain foreigners, miserable.
Here's hoping that if you visit the US you won't run into one of the later types.
Great - we're passing through the U.S. on Friday. Not so bad for me, but Neal had the ol' eye-scan/fingerprint thing the last time round and the officer told him in no uncertain terms that he could be put in jail for still having a visa in his passport (he'd only flown in, not back out, the US - and no one told him what to do with the thing). It was a tad humiliating and unnecessarily gruff (the guy wouldn't smile if his life depended on it).
This has been in the news here in Iceland. The woman has since got a formal apology from the American government, but only after our minister of foreign affairs talked to them..
haha a shopping spree, that reminds me of that time my mom's second cousins came down from iceland, they literally brought nothing but suitcases full of frozen fish and went on shopping sprees every day for new clothes. I thought they were crazy...until I tasted that fish. oh man...it was so good.
Maybe I should take suitcases full of cheese steaks to australia....