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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, July 9, 2004

Our View

High-handed INS robs fans of golden pair

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 Lower 48.

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.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.