Shooting themselves in the foot

US Embassy SealA warning to all freelance writers out there planning a trip to the US — get a visa! And you might want to think about praying, too, as it’s no guarantee of entry.

I had a call from BlackRat yesterday with news of recent US chicanery when it comes to dealing with people they might not like. He posted a story about  a freelance reporter being arrested at US airports and sent packing if they didn’t have a visa – and there are more reports below from both sides of the Atlantic.

Basically, you could be arrested, thrown in a cell, body searched and deported if you don’t have the visa journalists must have if they travel to the US. Since the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took over the duties of the immigration and naturalization service, their officials decided to revive a visa requirement, dormant since 1952, that required journalists to apply for a special visa, known as an I-visa, when visiting the United States for professional reasons. This visa requirement also applied to so-called “friendly nations” – 27 countries whose citizens do not have to apply for a visa in order to visit the US for personal reasons.

The Guardian reports the decision to restart the visa requirement is so little known that most foreign (and American) journalists have no idea it even exists. As a result, last year 15 journalists from “friendly nations” (Britian, Australia and others) were deported from the US. 12 of those deportations occurred at Los Angeles International Airport.

The US Embassy in London has a slew of visa information on its web site but to be honest, you might be better off phoning them to get more information if you have the occupation “Writer” on your passport.

Oh, I’ve also discovered that US officials read these blogs and can take umbrage at what they see as the merest slight on Their Way of Doing Things. We must behave!

More on Journalist Arrests and Prohibitions:

Welcome to America

The Guardian, 5 June 2003 (registration required). When writer Elena Lappin flew to LA, she dreamed of a sunkissed, laid-back city. But that was before airport officials decided to detain her as a threat to security …

Foreign Reporters cry Foul

The Christian Science Monitor 8 June. An American take on the situation by Tom Regan. He reveals “In each of these cases [of arrest and deportation], the journalists had no right to see a lawyer, no right to call their local consulate, and no right to appeal (these rules come courtesy of antiterrorism measures passed in 1996 and 2001). And the growing international outcry seems only to embolden the Immigration and Customs agents who are keeping the United States safe from celebrity hacks and technology journalists. ‘A customs officer … chose to make me sweat and to threaten me with deportation, even though I have a valid journalist’s visa that does not expire for another two years,’ wrote Andrew Gumbel, a correspondent of The Independent [who works for the paper in Los Angeles], in late July [of 2003]. ‘A visa is not a guarantee of entry,’ he told me. ‘We’ve been deporting quite a few British journalists recently.’

Los Angeles: Allegations of Foreign Reporter Harassment at Los Angeles Airport

From the Progressive Community web site

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: Creating Comics, downthetubes News

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