Sunday, May 18, 2008

One Man's Bold Decision

"I've decided to take a more personal interest in the news," said the e-mail from my friend, media expert Hank Scott, "and particularly in the things that piss me off and embarrass me as an American. It is so easy for these issues to be seen as institutional, and they are. But they also are the consequences of actions by people..."

He was referring to reading in The New York Times, where he worked for many years, about an Italian tourist arriving in Washington at Dulles Airport and being held in custody for ten days. The man is a 35 year-old lawyer who was coming to this country to visit his girlfriend and her family in Alexandria, Virginia.

The reason given for his being jailed was that he had asked for asylum in the U.S., and therefore needed to be held for a hearing. He said he wanted no such thing. Officials finally agreed this had been a mistake. Still, he was not released, in spite of the efforts of his American friends, and U.S Senator John Warner of Virginia. Instead, he spent ten days in a rural Virginia jail, where he had been taken in shackles. "He ended up in a barracks with 75 other men, including asylum-seekers who told him they had been waiting a year."

He was released when a Times reporter began investigating. Yay, New York Times!! Yay, free and vigorous press!!

And yay, Hank, for calling immigration authorities to complain and encouraging others to do the same.

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