A reader writes in on the US visa case

Some readers may have seen this article by Linda Scott, who basically compares her detention by US border authorities to Nazi Germany.

A reader writes in:

So, to sum up this article in two sentences: Ms Scott applied for a USA work visa, was denied, and then attempted to subsequently enter on a tourist visa. She then wondered why she encountered issues at the border.

Consider this: if a foreign national, say from a “third world” country applied for a work visa here, got denied, then turned up anyway at AKL saying they are now a tourist, what would the reaction be? That they are genuinely a tourist? Or attempting to get in via a “back door” and will actually be planning to work or overstay, in contravention of their tourist visa?

Having worked in the border security industry, I can guarantee that you in this situation would be answering a lot of tense questions, and would quite likely be denied entry to NZ. As Ms Scott stated, the airline transporting a passenger into a country generally is then required to transport that person back if they are refused entry. Until that happens (i.e. their next flight, which could be anywhere between 4 hours to the following week away) you would be detained in a holding cell at AKL. This is standard procedure in almost all western countries, from the UK to Canada to Australia.

As for Ms Scott saying “Osama won” in her article what I have described above has been standard practice for decades, well prior to Sept 2001.

While law enforcement in the USA is harsh (and I agree with Ms Scott I would not want to be in a US prison), I am left wondering what exactly her expectations were here upon arrival? That they wouldn’t see through her deception? That when her name came up on their computer that her failed attempt to obtain a work visa wouldn’t be there? That she wouldn’t be detained? That your cell phone wouldn’t be taken from her while a prisoner? Do she think prisoners get to keep cell phones while in custody here in New Zealand?

The article – a kind of whine about American law enforcement having the temerity to be targeting you – an educated white woman from a western country lucky enough flying premium economy… seems quite analogous, albeit in reverse to the recent article in the Huffington Post by Janis Powers complaining about her treatment at the hands of NZ Police. Janis Powers didn’t understand the laws in NZ, and neither, it seems, does Ms Scott at an international border.

My personal view is that US border security is often over the top, but as the author points out, failing to get a work visa, and then turning up on a tourist visa is not a good idea.

I recall an acquaintance who once got held by the US for six weeks because his visa had expired by a day – and he was literally crossing the border to leave into Canada! That to me is a far better example of stupid overreach by the US, than this case.

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