Bum Customs


Though the press release has not yet been posted at its website, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced today that it has issued a new guidance to all CBP port directors, giving them the legal authority to admit journalists from friendly countries who are not carring a special Journalist Visa. It should be pointed out that immigration authorities had long exercised that authority, also known as common freakin' sense, for several decades, until some LAX border cops started giving European tech reporters the catch-and-throw-back treatment last May. Even since then, most of the two dozen or so subsequent expulsions have come from Los Angeles, indicating that the new legal discretion was already being used in such journalistic (and potential terroristic) destinations as Washington, D.C. and New York. Here's today's statement, from CBP Commisioner Robert Bonner:

"While we carry out our mission and enforce our laws, we realize there is a difference between fraud and failure to be informed of the legal requirements for entering the United States. That is why we are giving our Port Directors leeway when it comes to allowing journalists to enter the U.S. who are clearly no threat to our security." [?]

Under the new CBP policy, a Port Director may consider a one time discretionary authorization to enter the U.S. If that discretion is exercised, the journalist will be advised of the requirement to have a visa in the correct classification for any future trips to the U.S.

Boldface theirs. Like many cases in which the government presents itself as compromising, this is actually worse than what came before, since it reinforces a truly stupid law—regular businessmen or tourists from the 27 Visa Waiver countries can just waltz right in, so no terrorist smarter than a box of hair would ever claim to be a reporter—and makes it far more likely that A) non-L.A. border cops will start enforcing the law, and therefore B) the 27 countries will pass reciprocal legislation, limiting American reporters' freedom to travel.

NEXT: One More Nail...

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  1. On the bright side, at least we won’t have to worry about reporters from other countries coming in and trying to meddle in our affairs.

    Hey, call me sarcastic if you will, but it’s based on a sentiment expressed in an earlier thread about a journalist denied entry to the US. A poster said that he doesn’t want foreigner journalists coming here to meddle in our affairs.

    Like, you know, the ones who spoke to John Kerry in French. (shudder!)

  2. This will only add urgency to Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s bids to join the EU.

  3. Matt Welch: Now the stupid rule is more clear and explicit giving foreign journalists one free pass before they are given a choice to comply or go home. After a year, one would think the journalists would not even need the free pass, that they might actually obtain the required visa.

    Have any of those countries introduced the reciprocal legislation you warned against? Have any U.S. journalists been expelled in retaliation?

    As a journalist, you get a better soapbox from which to complain about the moronic regulations specific to your profession. Given the specific idiocy suffered by any other profession, and the more broad and insidious machinations against freedom (PATRIOT, eg.), again, what would you like any of us to do in assistance of your foreign travels?

  4. Mark — I was told last night by a French consulate employee that France is putting together a proposal for reciprical rules as we speak. Note, too, that the American rules are totally vague when it comes to freelancers being on vacation & happening to stumble into a news story, or whether weblogs (which several hundred thousands of Americans maintain) can be counted as journalism.

    As for what I want you to do about it, well, the tagline of this magazine is “free minds free markets,” so you’re free to complain that I’m wasting this precious space talking about the free movement of a free press. Though I might imagine that you could do even one better and explain precisely *why* you think it’s such a good idea that we single out visiting journalists for onerous visa requirements, and how, precisely, that makes the country and the world a freer, and safer, place.

  5. [sarcasm] If you’re not a journalist, you have nothing to fear. [/sarcasm]

  6. Matt: We agree the rules are stupid. These particular stupid rules seem to apply to a minute minority of the population, and from past posts I’ve become predjudiced to read it as your personal crusade. Maybe this issue is an opportunity to investigate the process of issuing visas, or make a case about the power of individual discretion in law enforcement. I guess I am looking for the more philosophical angle. Attach it to a bigger concept.

    It would be quite flattering to them if all those bloggers were considered journalists. Imagine the puffery, “I’ve made it as a reporter; I was expelled from France!” I suppose if I want to complain about something that affects my slice of the universe, I can start my own magazine. Fortunately, reason does pretty well in my absence.

  7. Keeping in mind that I’m inclined toward open borders even in the age of terrorism:

    The state is charged with maintaining domestic tranquility. Journalists by description and history expose information disruptive to the peaceful order. Foreign journalists have the extra power to incite disturbances outside the state’s regime of control, which may result in attacks upon the domestic population. Therefore the state is wise to keep closer track of, and impose more onerous entry requirements upon, foreign press.

    If we’re going to have a state, it makes some sense for the state to hassle journalists.

    We’re at war, people!

  8. “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

  9. By the way, how’s that whole Bill of Rights thing holding up? Are you still pursuing a policy of peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations ? entangling alliances with none?

    I’m just up here in the afterlife hanging out with my black son. Fortunately, people in the afterlife treat me a lot better than I treated his people in my earthly life.

    Well, let me know how things are going!

  10. For whatever reason, sovereign nations often restrict visiters from working except with some form of work permit. Allowing bureaucrats the authority to waive legal requirements is an invitation to bribery and corruption.
    That said, should people who abuse our hospitality be chucked out? You betcha. Be nice or go home.

  11. Does “be nice or go home” mean that foreign reporters should be obliged to write fawning accounts of our leaders and policies?

  12. It’s interesting how people like the faux Thomas Jefferson get so upset that Jefferson could actually love a black woman and have children with her. And in my experience, it’s always self-proclaimed “liberals” who are outraged by Jefferson’s miscegenation (sp?).

    I hope faux-Jefferson never learns about gay marriage; he might have a heart attack on the spot.

  13. <offtopic>


    I got the impression that “faux Thomas Jefferson” was complaining about the fact that President Jefferson kept slaves, not that he could fall in love with one of them.

    But hey, I can be pretty weird and dense sometimes, so I could be wrong.


  14. I should have known there would be some here who would not be aware of what abusing hospitality constitutes. For a start, anything that would get you thrown out of the local sports bar, or out of your neighbor’s bar mitzva.
    I have no problem with any factual reporting, but I don’t suppose that is even taught in Jschool any more. The United States needs no more Michael Moorons even with NAFTA.
    Not even our bill of rights is a suicide pact, and any judicial or academic interpretation that denies the right either of the nation or of individuals to self defense is prima fasci evidence of poltroonish asshatery.

  15. OK, Walter, are there any foreign journalists who are abusing our hospitality?

  16. Did anyone see that SNL where Robert DeNiro played Thomas Jefferson? The joke was of course that DeNiro, like TJ, has a thing for black women. Anyway, DeNiro/TJ comes up to Sally Hemmings and, trying to hit on her, asks her when she gets off work. She shrugs and says “Uh, never!?!”

  17. I think faux-Jefferson’s point was that in the afterlife people are much nicer to him than he was to most of his slaves.

    I think his more important point is that journalists are hardly a threat to our country.

  18. Sy Hersh, who is obviously french, is what Walter’s getting at.

  19. I was speaking in the abstract, but Sy may just be French reciprocity for Jerry Lewis.

  20. Sir Real, after YOU have faced down two Commie soldiers in hand to hand bayonet confrontation, come tell me how to grow a pair.
    I don’t have to be afraid of opinions to dislike some, and I don’t have to accept rude guests.
    I am wrong to dislike an opinion of others and you are the staunch defender of the faith? I have shit turds bigger than you, although not as smelly. Now go back and play with your goat.

  21. Walter, I don’t doubt your courage in the face of danger. I just doubt your ability to gauge the actual threat posed by various people, e.g. foreign journalists.

    Then again, the pen is mightier than the sword, so maybe Walter is right to be afraid….

  22. I am not afraid of rude visitors, I just see no need to extend a welcome to someone who is attempting us harm. It is not a right for anyone not a citizen to enter the United States, and just to insist it is a right is reason enough to invite a visitor out.
    We do not lack critics so much that we need to import them.

  23. “For whatever reason, sovereign nations often restrict visiters from working except with some form of work permit.”

    First, they’re not coming here to work in the sense of taking a job in the US with a US employer that a US citizen might otherwise have, which I think is usually what work permits relate to. Second, “for whatever reason” – the whole question here is what good reason is there for adding bureaucratic hoops for journalists? For whatever reason, soverign nations do a lot a stupid shit, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.

    “Then again, the pen is mightier than the sword…”

    …which is why it’s maybe less than ideal to have journalists go back to Australia, Britain, and other countries to write about how they were detained for hours without any contact, strip searched, etc. for the crime of visiting here to write a newspaper story (and not following an obscure and usually ignored journalist visa law).

  24. “I am not afraid of rude visitors, I just see no need to extend a welcome to someone who is attempting us harm. It is not a right for anyone not a citizen to enter the United States, and just to insist it is a right is reason enough to invite a visitor out. We do not lack critics so much that we need to import them.”

    How is someone here to write about Olivia Newton John or a computer game convention attempting us harm? And just because foreigners don?t have a right to visit, does that mean we should prevent them from visiting if they might be rude, make it a hassle and/or humiliation for them, or throw them out for saying something critical of our gov?t, society, etc.? We probably shouldn?t embrace an incredibly stupid and shortsighted immigration/visitation policy just because we have the right to.

  25. If we do not want to limit the right of workers to work while visiting, then we should eliminate those laws that require permits for such.

  26. Walter-

    “Self Defense” doesn’t apply to the reporting of facts or the stating of opinions- unless you’re one of those pussified europeans thats believes people saying mean thing to you hurts your little bitty feelings.

    Given your postings here, it’s rather apparent you ARE one of those pussified Europeans, at least in spirit.

    But I take that back- American journalists are (currently) allowed to go those 27 countries, report facts and opinions. But reporters from those countries can’t do the same because of weeping pussies like yourself. (“What if they say something mean about me! That’s not fair! WAAAAAA!”)

    Maybe it’s time for Americans like you to grow a pair.

    I’d be happy to show you how.

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