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.