Tuesday, December 11, 2007

~ the land of the free

An interesting story has come to light thanks to my friend the lustrous Emely McCord, pictured below.

Just two weeks ago, her sister Annie was travelling in Canada with her boyfriend Jim. They had crossed the border from the States and were attempting to return when they ran into a little strife.

Since they looked like a couple of unscrubbed, long-haired hopheads, the border cops singled them out. Because of her dual citizenship [Aust/US], Annie was partially protected, but Jim, an Australian, was subject to the gamut of intrusive search techniques – he was stripped, x-rayed and probed; the van too was inspected, then their luggage.

When it came to contraband, they were clean as a whistle - but certain incriminating photographs were found in their possession. Officials identified the pair in various poses - cavorting, gambolling and generally showing off in the presence of a large, vigorous crop of cannabis sativa.

Annie and Jim explained that, prior to their journey to Canada, they had done some work in California, picking medi-marijuana for the pharmaceuticals industry. But their explanation fell on deaf ears. These authorities, I was told, were paid by the arrest. Annie was cut loose, but – despite all their protestations – the full force of zany American law enforcement descended like an anvil on poor Jim.

He was handcuffed, clothed as a felon and locked in a badly-ventilated metal shed with about seventy-five others. And it was scary in there. A guy was using a bottle top to carve bloody crosses into his forehead. And when the lights went out, these crazed, disorientated individuals began to fight, uncaring of who they dragged into the affray.

Jim had no recourse. No lawyer. At that point, he might as well have disappeared from the face of the Earth. Annie could find out nothing.

At some point, he was transported to an immigration detention centre in Tacoma, near Seattle, Washington State - which from its description sounds very similar to camps in Australia which the new Labor government has promised to dismantle.

His original garments had been confiscated, presumably as evidence, and he was provided with what Emely described as op-shop clothes [‘thrift shops’ in the US]. Second-hand jocks, sandals four sizes too large. And after the first laundry run, he was left with a single sock, no t-shirt and yet another pair of used jocks.

Once a week, they were allowed two hours of sunlight - to walk around a small fenced yard in imitation of exercise. Every day at five they were served gruel.

One guy had been there two years. He had arrived in the US legally when he was four. He had grown up there and now had a house, a wife and kids. But after a minor change in the laws, some forms had been sent for him to fill. For some reason he had not returned them and, in time, the police arrived on his doorstep and dragged him away.

Reminiscent of the last few years of Australian Immigration policy, no?

Jim was in custody for ten days before he managed to borrow a phone card and contact a lawyer. The lawyer put pressure on his case worker and the wheels began to grind. [His case worker had 199 other clients]. Jim, as you would expect, just wanted out; he acquired a ticket home and begged for what they term rapid deportation. It was granted, along with a ten year ban from entering the USA.

He was outfitted in a classic US prison uniform with something like ‘State Penitentiary Victim’ printed boldly on the back and taken to LAX. Officers led him out onto the tarmac - fully visible to the public through those wide windows they have at airports - and removed the manacles just prior to his boarding the flying kangaroo.

Makes you even more wary of visiting the US, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder if Ruddock and Vanstone and Andrews were following the example of the Americans when they ramped the severity of our immigration laws. Of all the countries to imitate! September 11 really let the dogs out, didn’t it?

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angel wings and hearts said...

what a dreadful story / experience. I wonder what after effects Jim will now be suffering.

Anonymous said...

Sam, that's a horror story for your poor friends. Banned for 10 years? Your friend Jim would probably never EVER want to go back there anyway, would he?
Love Amanda
P.S. So have you found a photo of yourself that you approve of yet??

Sam Sejavka said...

Amanda, once you get to my hoary old age age it's hard to find a good photo of yourself but I have put something into that star-dogged sails post

Anonymous said...

Dont say that Sam, I'm in my early 40's, so 47 aint that're still lookin' good!!
Love Amanda