Friday, May 16, 2008

Welcome To America...You Damned Foreigner

Americans are well aware that people from around the world have had their views soured of us. Most of those Americans know that the anger or frustration of the United States has occurred because we as a nation elected*....and re-elected George Bush as our President. The resulting policies that orbit around fear and manipulation piss off a lot of people and in the case of Domenico Salerno, I can definitely see why.

From The NY Times:

He was a carefree Italian with a recent law degree from a Roman university. She was “a totally Virginia girl,” as she puts it, raised across the road from George Washington’s home. Their romance, sparked by a 2006 meeting in a supermarket in Rome, soon brought the Italian, Domenico Salerno, on frequent visits to Alexandria, Va., where he was welcomed like a favorite son by the parents and neighbors of his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper.

But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either; over his protests in fractured English, he said, they insisted that he had expressed a fear of returning to Italy and had asked for asylum.

Ms. Cooper, 23, who had promised to show her boyfriend another side of her country on this visit — meaning Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon — eventually learned that he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out.

Mr. Salerno’s case may be extreme, but it underscores the real but little-known dangers that many travelers from Europe and other first-world nations face when they arrive in the United States — problems that can startle Americans as much as their foreign visitors.

“We have a lot of government people here and lobbyists and lawyers and very educated, very savvy Washingtonians,” said Jim Cooper, Ms. Cooper’s father, a businessman, describing the reaction in his neighborhood, the Wessynton subdivision of Alexandria. “They were pretty shocked that the government could do this sort of thing, because it doesn’t happen that often, except to people you never hear about, like Haitians and Guatemalans.”

Thats right, because this man was an Italian in a relationship with a white girl in Virginia, this story made it out from an ICE dungeon and onto the pages of the New York Times. This story happens more than we think, but for the most part it isn't reported. That obfuscation of the realities that a substantial number of people traveling to the United States.

So what happened to Domenico?

Ms. Cooper said that at the airport, when she begged to know what was happening to Mr. Salerno, an agent told her, “You know, he should try spending a little more time in his own country.”

Another agent eventually told her to go home because Mr. Salerno was being detained as an asylum-seeker.

That is absolutely ridiculous, and it shows the abuse of power granted in the ICE. It took several days to get Domenico out of jail, including requests from former immigration prosecutors and even a plea from Senator Warner. It took a tremendous amount of powerfully connected help to free this one well-off Italian kid. Imagine what life has to be like for someone who is captured by our authorities that doesn't have people who can get up to bat for them.