Just Above Sunset
Visa, Don't Leave Home Without It (Or Don't Leave Home)

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

You had to assume this item from Reuters on February 9th would get some play in Paris - the French anti-globalization activist José Bové just got the Farley Mowat treatment. He was denied entry into the United States. As you recall, in April 1985 the Canadian nature writer Farley Mowat - Never Cry Wolf (which Disney later made into an odd little film) - was barred from entering the US ever again (discussed in these pages here). A bit of indignation over the Mowat case in both the United States and Canada played a part in a major revision of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 - in 1990. Most curious. Naturalist? Communist? Whatever. Think of Mowat as a beta version of José Bové.

What is it with these "nature people" that gets us all upset? They seem to be tagged as dangerous. Well, although both Bové and Mowat smoke pipes (danger of second-hand smoke), Bové is the far more dangerous - he doesn't just denounce globalization and junk food, he had a hand a hand tearing apart a French McDonalds restaurant (six weeks in jail in 2003, and yes, they do have those over there). He got a four-month prison sentence last November for destroying a field of genetically modified corn in southern France (he makes cheese near Roquefort, even if he went to UC Berkeley). Hong Kong wouldn't let him last December when the WTO met there. Unlike Mowat, he does things. (Yes, writing amazing books is doing things, but no one reads books anymore, even while eating alone in McDonalds.)

Here's what Reuters reports (without diacritical marks) –


French farmer Jose Bove, a prominent protester against genetically modified food and agricultural free trade, has been denied entry into the United States, officials of an event he was due to address said on Thursday.

Bove arrived at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport with a valid U.S. entry visa on Wednesday afternoon but was detained for several hours and later returned to Paris, according to William Kramer, a spokesman for the conference.


So instead of speaking at the conference Thursday and Friday, he was on the red-eye back to CDG. That conference, organized by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute among others, was "Global Companies - Global Unions - Global Research - Global Campaigns."

Does that sound subversive?

The conference people called Immigration and Homeland Security, and told Reuters this was "ridiculous" and "illegal" and a violation of free speech. But he is French, isn't he? Reuters reports they couldn't get any comment from Immigration.

They should have called Monsanto, as what was on the agenda for Friday was Bové's address - "The Struggle Against Monsanto in Europe." Monsanto makes all those genetically modified seeds. They have the lobbyists in Washington.

Reuters quotes Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell's Global Labor Institute - "This speaks volumes about where the United States is in terms of free speech."

Not exactly. It says more about old line, the business of America is business. His entry visa may have been valid, but Monsanto matters more.

And things are getting tighter. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 - as revised in 1990 - has be trumped by Homeland Security with its TSA and the NSA listening to everything, and reading all the emails and blogs, and all the rest. (Reading blogs? Note a logon here - 06 Feb, Mon, 08:20:53 CIFAGB01.CIFA.MIL - this is the military domain - Counterintelligence Field Activity - so if you've logged onto the latest issue of Just Above Sunset they've opened a file on you too! Everyone wave!)

So how tight are things getting?

From Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis (and born in Canada) –


PARIS, Friday, February 10, 2006 - As it so happens I will get to test the efficiency of the NSA watchdogs myself on Tuesday, 21 March when I am scheduled to arrive at JFK for a three week stay in the city. Especially since last night, when I watched a documentary on Arte-TV about how farmers in India are killing themselves because they've been ruined by using Monsanto's genetically modified seeds. Too bad Bové won't be there in person to spread the gloom.

In the Reuters story you may have noticed that Bové traveled to the United States after getting a visitors' visa. New Homeland Security rules call for passports containing biometric information, but the French don't produce these yet. As a citizen of a country in the visa-waiver program he must either have the new passport or get a visa. Most French, when confronted with this hurdle, change their destinations, perhaps going to Cuba instead. To get a visa all French travelers must apply to the US Consulate in Paris. Finally, even with a valid visa, costing about a hundred dollars, a traveler may still be refused entry.

Citizens of Mexico and Canada do not require visas. Neither country is in the visa-waiver program. Canadian authorities strongly advise Canadians to carry passports for their visits to the United States even though they are not legally necessary. According to the Canadian consulate in Paris the new 'e-Passport' is now available to comply with new US regulations. Application can be made in Paris but it takes a month for Ottawa to produce the high-tech travel document.

The deadline for the new passports was set late last year by the United States, and then the deadline was extended to the end of 2006 because nobody can comply. In theory the old style non-biometric but machine-readable passports are still acceptable for travel to the United States - which should mean that French travelers do not require visas for US visits.

My Canadian passport was therefore valid, but would have expired less than six months after my return from this upcoming visit. The United States effectively declares that all passports are invalid if they expire less than six months after a traveler leaves the United States. My Irish passport is valid until 2009 but I can't use it because it is handmade and looks fake. Another US rule says that new passports issued after a certain date are useless, so a visa is required. But the Irish are exempt from the visa-waiver program, like Mexicans and Canadians. Joseph Heller called it, 'Catch-22.'

Final Canadian government advice for travelers to the United States - 'Switchblade knives are prohibited, except those owned by persons with only one arm.'

En garde!


Will Ric get to the Big Apple, with that attitude? With the NSA logging the emails from Hollywood to Paris and back? With CIFA.MIL reading these words?

We'll see.

Ric also pointed to this item the same day from Nina Bernstein in the New York Times


One is a second grader in Manhattan. Over the protests of his American mother, immigration officials have been trying to deport him ever since he returned from a brief visit to his native Canada without the right visa. Another is an Irish professor of literature invited to teach at the University of Pennsylvania last month. He was handcuffed at the Philadelphia airport, strip-searched, jailed overnight and sent back to Europe to correct an omission in his travel papers.

Then there are the seven Tibetan monks who were visiting Omaha two weeks ago. After their church sponsor abruptly withdrew its support, their religious visas were revoked and a dozen immigration officers in riot gear showed up to arrest them.

The details in these cases vary, as do the technical visa infractions committed by each of the foreigners. But they all testify to a larger issue looming on the front lines of immigration enforcement: how low-level gatekeepers and prosecutors in the customs and immigration system are using their growing discretionary power over travelers who pose no security risk.

Officials of the Department of Homeland Security have acknowledged that intensified efforts to keep out terrorists since the 9/11 attacks have sometimes led to the heavy-handed treatment of foreigners whose only offense was an inadvertent paperwork error or being caught in a bureaucratic tangle. In memos issued in 2004 and 2005, agency officials encouraged officers to use discretion and legal shortcuts to resolve such cases quickly, saving resources for more important tasks and showing the world a more welcoming face.

But immigration lawyers say the effort is not working. ...


It would seem not. The professor, John McCourt, a James Joyce specialist at the University of Trieste in Italy, arrived at Philadelphia International and he was soon off in handcuffs to the Montgomery County jail, along with another one they caught, Kerstin Spitzl, "a pregnant German woman who says that immigration officers abruptly canceled her visa, insisting that she was planning to violate its terms by working." She says that wasn't her intention, but people can change their minds, right?

Note this:


In Italy, Professor McCourt quickly fixed his paperwork at the American consulate in Florence, and returned to start his classes at Penn a week late. But in New York last week, where he spoke at Fordham University on "Joyce and Judaism," he said his experience had confirmed his European friends' worst fears about America.

"At the moment, America is easy to hate," he said, "So people say, 'That does it for me. I'm not going to risk that happening.'"


And so it goes. Of Kelly Klundt, the pregnant German woman, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, which is also part of Homeland Security, said the workload is heavy and "there are unfortunately going to be a few instances that do not demonstrate perfect discretion."

Who wants perfect discretion? Common sense would be nice.

But then, for those of us who live here there are other worries.

Remember the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798? (If not, the refresher is here.)  Note this - a nurse working for the Veterans Administration in New Mexico is under investigation for sedition, after writing a letter that said some critical things about the war in Iraq, and about the federal response to Katrina. She was displeased. The letter is here, your basic grumpy letter to the editor. But they thought she wrote it on government time, on her government computer at the VA offices, thus the sedition thing. They seized the computer and it seems she didn't write it on the government's dime, so they're deciding what to do.

People want visas to visit here?




Late Note from Ric in Paris, Saturday, February 11 –


For some unknown reason last night's TV-news on France-3 featured the Great Visa Problem for French travelers.  Showed lines of folks outside US consulate in Paris, waiting endlessly for entry to apply for visas.  News said the hang-up with passports is French - as in, it is Sarkzy who is insisting that the new e-passports by made by private firms. There are strong objections to this, so nothing has been decided, nothing has been done. Normally, French paper is made by the Imprimerie Nationale, owned by the state. The waiting time with a rendezvous at the consulate is reported to be nine weeks...


The issue is privatization?  It would seem so.


See this on the visa problem from the International Herald Tribune


...  France is still churning out low-tech versions because of an ongoing legal tiff between the Interior Ministry and unions that took action to block the government from using a private printing company to manufacture the documents instead of the state-owned national printers.


… As bookings drop for major airlines and tour operators, the standoff endures between the French government and the state union, which is struggling to protect jobs that have steadily dwindled over the last five years from 752 in 2001 to 433.


"Passeports Politiques," is how the national union dismisses the whole debate. The leader of the printing union, Loic de la Cochetière, said publicly that his workers are prepared to print several hundred electronic passports as an emergency measure if they are asked to.


In the meantime, the union's secretary, Jacques Floris, tips his hat to his French comrades standing in the cold, waiting their turn for a visa. But the government, he said, has to respect the union's rights.


That's small comfort for Xavier Leclerc, who joined the line for visas and passports at 7:30 a.m. and later abandoned his place to get to work on time. In January, he missed a training conference in the United States with his new employer, Google, because he couldn't obtain a visa. So did another colleague in sales.


"I know that this is happening because of the strike-related problems here," he said. "But to be honest, French people are a bit proud and it makes me feel a little like I'm coming from a third world country to get a visa. And now I will have to wait again in line in the cold."


Don't expect to see French tourists.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....