July 25, 2007

I doubt I’d want to visit if I didn’t already live here

Posted in Civil rights, Government at 1:49 pm by The Lizard Queen

Apropos of my post the other day about the detailed information the TSA will soon be gathering from visitors to the U.S. from Europe, here is an anecdote of one woman’s experience. She was flying from London, U.K. to Auckland, New Zealand, and the plane stopped in Los Angeles to refuel. Here is an excerpt (emphasis in the original):

We were told to disembark with all our carry-on luggage, leaving nothing on board. Those who were flying from London to Auckland were told to line up against a wall in a corridor while those whose flights terminated at Los Angeles filed past and disappeared. And there, in a hot, cramped corridor we stood and waited. And waited. And waited. I finally couldn’t stand it, and asked where to find the ladies’ loo – to be ordered not to leave the line. (Sod that, thought I, or rather, my bladder) and I wandered up the queue to discover that we were being processed, slowly, one by one, by a single officer in a tiny booth. After a quick dash to a toilet, I made my way back down the line to where I’d left my new comrades-in-arms – Judy, a petite, smartly dressed 61-year-old Kiwi schoolteacher in London on compassionate leave going home to Auckland to see her terminally ill father, and Derek, a wiry Scots engineer with an acerbic sense of humour. ‘You bloody Yanks seem to think terrorism is something new and only ever happens to Americans,’ he groused to me. Being possibly the only bloody Yank going from London to New Zealand, I became by default the sole available representative for my fellow countrymen. ‘We’ve had the IRA and the French have the Algerians and the Spanish have ETA. Now you know what the rest of Europe’s been living with for the last few hundred years. Why don’t you lot just grow up?’ Heads around us nodded in irritated agreement.

To our relief, we were finally moved out of the corridor, all following another LAX official to what we were expecting to be the transit lounge… but to our collective dismay, we were herded into a bigger Immigration area, where all those who were not US passport holders filled out long green cards asking detailed personal information, to be handed over to US Immigration officials busy taking everyone’s fingerprints and photographs. There was some confusion about just what to do with me, as I was a US citizen, but was flying on to New Zealand. Eventually, I was given a shorter blue form to fill out. A couple of students with worried expressions – Germans, I think, judging from the language – were being led away by uniformed police who were having interpretation problems. It was a very repressive and rather frightening atmosphere.

Bear in mind here… we were all ‘non-stop’ transit passengers, due to get straight back on the same plane we’d just gotten off and fly on to Auckland, never setting foot outside the airport and onto American soil.

Is this really keeping us safe, or is it just alienating individuals who might have been supportive of our country had they not been treated like criminals just so they could use the toilet and have a snack while their plane was refueled? I suspect we have enough enemies as it is — do we really need to be putting so much effort into making more?

At any rate, the whole piece is worth a read.

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