Fans expressed outrage upon hearing that when Cheryl Morgan landed at San Francisco International Airport today she was denied entry to the United States by Customs & Border Patrol authorities and placed on a return flight to England.
A prevalent reaction among overseas fans is that this is another reason not to contemplate attending U.S. conventions. That’s not hard to understand as U.S. fans also feel burdened by the country’s security measures. (Not getting Sierra a passport — without which she might not have been allowed back into the US — kept my family from departing the country for the 2003 Worldcon in Toronto. My mistake, but still a bad experience.)
However, Cheryl’s blog posts about the event indicate it is not purely a bureaucratic nightmare (though that is surely a part) but unspecified personal circumstances are also in the mix and it’s nothing that can be helped by a public campaign:
Contrary to much of the speculation, this has little to do with anti-terror legislation and the like. It has been caused mainly by the fact that US immigration is the provenance of two separate government organizations — the State Department and Customs & Border Patrol — and in my case they don’t appear to have communicated very well.
As I result I appear to have inadvertently contravened the regulations, and therefore I will never again be able to use the visa waiver program. Nothing can be done about this….
Online outrage, letter writing campaigns and the like will not have any positive effect on my situation, so please don’t waste your time and energy.
This development not only will keep Cheryl from attending the 2010 International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts as planned, it’s rendered her homeless: now she unexpectedly has to find a long-term living situation in the UK.
Cheryl has been contending with U.S. authorities over her visa for some time. She wrote in October 2008:
Well, yesterday I was told at immigration that while my frequent comings and goings were in accordance with the rules of the scheme, they constituted an “abuse of the system”, and that if I wanted to enter the USA again for more than the odd few days at a time then I would have to get a visa. I have been let in this time, but my chances of coming back are not good.
Kevin [Standlee] and I had a long conference call with the immigration lawyer last night, and the upshot of it was that there really is no visa that it is sensible for me to apply for. There are always options, but they would be very expensive and by no means guaranteed to succeed. As we have spent a lot of money already and got nowhere, we are not inclined to pour good money after bad.
This does not mean that I am banned from the US. It just means that I have to be a lot more careful how I come and go. If I can steal a phrase from Douglas Adams, I am going to be spending a year or two dead for immigration purposes.
Whatever the obstacles have been, she must have believed they’d been overcome in time for today’s flight.
[Via Dave Langford.]