do not enter Atrios has picked up on the story , reported only in the Canadian media, of a professional woman of Indian descent and Canadian citizenship and residency, a loan officer at a major Canadian bank, who was harassed and barred entry to the U.S. during an O’Hare stop-over of her vacation flight home from India to Canada. She was threatened with jail for having a passport the INS thought “looked funky”, and denied consular assistance. The INS officer “cut the front page of Cruz’s passport and filled each page with ‘expedited removal’ stamps, rendering it useless. She was photographed, fingerprinted, barred from re-entering the U.S. for five years and immediately ‘removed’. Not to Toronto, but to India, where she had just spent several weeks visiting her parents. It took four days, and help from Canadian officials in Dubai and a Kuwaiti Airlines pilot, to get her back home.”

As a Canadian who spends a fair bit of time in the U.S. on business, I am distressed at the flagrant and arbitrary violation of this woman’s rights, but I am equally concerned that such stories, which are not uncommon and which are obviously of concern and interest to Americans (Atrios’ post has attracted dozens of very emotional comments), are ignored by the U.S. media, usually because, like the fascinating investigation into the friendly-fire deaths of Canadians in Afghanistan, they are not deemed “newsworthy”.

There are two important principles here that seem to be violated with regularity in America these days, and which represent an alarming slippery slope for a country that prides itself on being ‘democractic’ (despite the 2000 election):

  • Democracies depend on the rule of law prevailing over the rule of man to prevent tyranny and circumvention of the judicial system. Allowing INS agents, intelligence agents, the police or anyone else, to make arbitrary and far-reaching decisions with no clear guidance or restrictions on their authority, is an abrogation of that principle. 
  • Democracries require a truly free press, where the media can report fearlessly on any issue that they believe to be of public interest or import. As the press’ insatiable appetite for far more trivial ‘human interest’ stories indicates, stories like this clearly warrant coverage in the U.S. media, and their absence suggests either a tacit censorship, or, more alarming yet, a self-censorship, of stories that might be deemed by some to be unpatriotic.

Other countries that have allowed these principles to be compromised, notably some fledgling Latin American ‘democracies’, have quickly found themselves living in countries that are no longer free. It’s a sobering thought that one day the colour of the U.S. on the freedom map might be the same as that of our allies Columbia and Saudi Arabia. I love the U.S. and Americans, but if it comes to that, I may no longer be allowed in, or, having been born in the U.K., may have to change to a job that doesn’t require me to meet and work with colleagues on U.S. soil. Somebody please tell me I’m just being paranoid.

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