Sometimes terrible immigration stories are terrible, or byzantine because our federal immigration service is just that — this was just as true before January 20 as after. Not every awful immigration story is a result of the Trump administration.
On Wednesday a French academic expert on the holocaust was detained at Houston airport for 10 hours, and threatened with deportation.
It was after 1 a.m. Thursday when Mr. Rousso was given back his passport and cellphone, taken to a public area of the airport and told he was free to go. He said he was told that the agent who originally held him was “inexperienced.”
Copyright: prestonia / 123RF Stock Photo
The title of his keynote address was, ironically, “Writing on the Dark Side of the Recent Past.”
As quick to the gun that some will be to blame the Trump administration, that’s likely off base. Here’s what we gather happened:
- The scholar was entering on a visa that did not permit work
- He was being paid a $2000 honorarium.
- This is permissible, there’s an academic exception with specific guidelines I’ve dealt with for years in my day job, but the immigration officer did not know this.
Once you’re trapped in the machine, it’s moving heaven and earth to get out. One officer flags someone as inadmissible, getting others to correct their colleague is tough. An immigration lawyer and the Dean of Texas A&M law school where he was speaking were involved.
I once had a Canadian employee travel to Mexico without the proper paperwork. On returning to the US he was simply allowed entry in TN status valid beyond the expiration of his passport. My immigration counsel explained to me that Immigration and Customs will often temporarily rotate employees into different roles and the immigration officer my employee lucked into was probably used to checking cargo. He didn’t know the rules, but faced with an articulate young white kid from Canada on the US-Mexico border decided to let him pass.
Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo
Another time I had a Canadian entering in TN status, which required among other things proof of a college degree. His degree was rejected because it was written in Latin. So we had the degree quickly translated, but he wasn’t asked for the English version when he returned 48 hours later.
Immigration experiences vary widely from officer to officer, and location to location. Portland airport immigration used to have a terrible reputation among Japanese who called it ‘Deport-land’. And I learned a long time ago never to have Canadians come to the U.S. for work via Toronto’s airport.