Friday, May 16, 2008

Welcome to America! Go direclty to jail

In the previous post, I wrote about how hard the US makes things for Indonesians who want to -- or need to -- visit the US.
But Indonesia is hardly an exception. Only 27 countries have visa-waivers for the US -- Europe, Australia, Japan, etc. You would think the citizens of these countries have it easy.
In fact, US immigration has actually turned away over 2,000 people who arrived on America's shores from visa-waiver countries. That is, the lucky ones were turned away. Some visitors from the visa-waiver countries of Europe have been sent to prison on arrival.

The US immigration official at the airport has the right to throw you in jail for weeks -- no hearing first -- if he doesn't like the way you look. Or he had a fight with his wife last night. Or whatever.

That's what happened to one Italian man who arrived in the US to visit his American girlfriend. He spent 10 days in a prison because some immigration official thought he "looked the type" to overstay and work in the US. The NY Times reports on this case.
More here about how the US government scares away tourists. In this post, I looked at how the US is scaring away talented workers. Here I described what happened to one unlucky Icelandic tourist last year at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Most ominously for the future of the US, American immigration policies continue to scare away bright foreign graduate students.

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