High-handed INS robs fans of golden
High on the list of Washington’s most
unloved federal agencies is the Immigration and Naturalization Service, whose
uneven enforcement has made it as controversial as the Internal Revenue Service.
Some believe it has been too lax. Others
have seen some of its port-of-entry officers to be officious, capricious and
downright rude and hostile.
One international port of entry in the
Northwest United States had a reputation for looking on even the most minute
paperwork infraction as cause for packing non-Americans back on airplanes and
shipping them to where they originated their travel.
Could this icy reception have been the
case last week when Canada’s golden pair—2002 Olympic gold medallist pairs
skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier—ran afoul of an INS inspector while
crossing from British Columbia into the United States to perform at the Sun
Valley Resort ?
It sure seems that way.
With earlier and uncomplicated U.S. tours
behind them, the couple suspected nothing when asked why they were entering the
To perform in Sun Valley, they answered,
making no attempt to blur their intentions.
Well, that did it. The INS officer claimed
the couple lacked proper work credentials. They and the Sun Valley ice show
producer were baffled, but compliant with the INS decision while lawyers tried
to figure out what was wrong with the paperwork. The two are obviously not
terrorists, nor were they seeking to stay in the U.S. illegally.
Losing three skating dates in Sun Valley
was costly, not only in lost income to the popular young skaters, but to Sun
Valley audiences who were eager to see them perform.
The irony is that the truthful champions
weren’t allowed to do the job that only they can do, while hundreds of thousands
of others continue to enter the U.S. illegally and work illegally every day
while government and business leaders ignore the whole mess.
Although the skaters’ honesty bore a high
cost, their truthfulness simply added to the winning character that endeared the
couple to Americans in their moment of triumph at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
As for the INS, it surely knew the
celebrated skaters were regulars on the U.S. ice show circuit and could’ve used
discretion in allowing them to continue to Sun Valley to perform while paper
shufflers figured out the error.
But INS didn’t. What it did was to merely
add to its reputation.
We leave it to those who’ve encountered
INS at ports of entry to decide what that reputation is.