Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Story of Erla Ósk Arnardóttir Lilliendahl, an Icelandic Woman who figured she could come to this country for a visit during the holiday season and enjoy the best of what America has to offer:
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During the last twenty-four hours I have probably experienced the greatest humiliation to which I have ever been subjected. During these last twenty-four hours I have been handcuffed and chained, denied the chance to sleep, been without food and drink and been confined to a place without anyone knowing my whereabouts, imprisoned. Now I am beginning to try to understand all this, rest and review the events which began as innocently as possible.
Last Sunday I and a few other girls began our trip to New York. We were going to shop and enjoy the Christmas spirit. We made ourselves comfortable on first class, drank white wine and looked forward to go shopping, eat good food and enjoy life. When we landed at JFK airport the traditional clearance process began.
We were screened and went on to passport control. As I waited for them to finish examining my passport I heard an official say that there was something which needed to be looked at more closely and I was directed to the work station of Homeland Security. There I was told that according to their records I had overstayed my visa by 3 weeks in 1995. For this reason I would not be admitted to the country and would be sent home on the next flight. I looked at the official in disbelief and told him that I had in fact visited New York after the trip in 1995 without encountering any difficulties. A detailed interrogation session ensued.
I was exhausted, tired and hungry. I didn't understand the officials' conduct, for they were treating me like a very dangerous criminal. Soon thereafter I was removed from the cubicle and two armed guards placed me up against a wall. A chain was fastened around my waist and I was handcuffed to the chain. Then my legs were placed in chains. I asked for permission to make a telephone call but they refused. So secured, I was taken from the airport terminal in full sight of everybody. I have seldom felt so bad, so humiliated and all because I had taken a longer vacation than allowed under the law.
They would not tell me where they were taking me. The trip took close to one hour and although I couldn't see clearly outside the vehicle I knew that we had crossed over into New Jersey. We ended up in front of a jail. I could hardly believe that this was happening. Was I really about to be jailed? I was led inside in the chains and there yet another interrogation session ensued. I was fingerprinted once again and photographed. I was made to undergo a medical examination, I was searched and then I was placed in a jail cell. I was asked absurd questions such as: When did you have your last period? What do you believe in? Have you ever tried to commit suicide?
I was completely exhausted, tired and cold. Fourteen hours after I had landed I had something to eat and drink for the first time. I was given porridge and bread. But it did not help much. I was afraid and the attitude of all who handled me was abysmal to say the least. They did not speak to me as much as snap at me. Once again I asked to make a telephone call and this time the answer was positive. I was relieved but the relief was short-lived. For the telephone was setup for collect calls only and it was not possible to make overseas calls. The jailguard held my cell phone in his hand. I explained to him that I could not make a call from the jail telephone and asked to be allowed to make one call from my own phone. That was out of the question. I spent the next 9 hours in a small, dirty cell. The only thing in there was a narrow steel board which extended out from the wall, a sink and toilet. I wish I never experience again in my life the feeling of confinement and helplessness which I experienced there.
I was hugely relieved when, at last, I was told that I was to be taken to the airport, that is to say until I was again handcuffed and chained.Then I could take no more and broke down and cried. I begged them at least to leave out the leg chains but my request was ignored. When we arrived at the airport, another jail guard took pity on me and removed the leg chains. Even so I was led through a full airport terminal handcuffed and escorted by armed men. I felt terrible. On seeing this, people must think that there goes a very dangerous criminal...
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This is a person--and no, it doesn't matter what color she is or how much she weighs or whether she's young or old--who came to this country, presented their passport at the airport, and was caught in the so-called "Homeland Security" dragnet that is supposed to stop people from coming to this country who should not be coming to this country. Her crime was that she committed a minor offense twelve years ago that amounted to what, exactly? She overstayed her visa, but left the country. Did she commit any felonies here? More importantly, did she shoot and kill anyone with a firearm? Use explosives? Take partial flight lessons? Try to attend a Republican political rally wearing an Obama t-shirt?
It doesn't matter what she looks like--and I post her picture here for a reason. If YOU don't look as good as she does, just wait til you see what they do to you when they think YOU'RE a threat. And that's what is so startling about putting a face with the crime. If you hear that some Eurotrash was accosted at the airport and chucked out of the country, you can tut-tut and go about your business. But when you see what that person looks like and read what was done to them, it's a whole different ball of wax. And nothing strikes me as sensationalized about this, which is why I tend to buy what she is saying. Nothing about it strikes me as being out of line for spending time in a big city lockup or jail, does it?
Anyway, I think the American people need to read about this type of story this Christmas. YOUR government is waging an all out battle of ridiculous proportions with tens of thousands of incompetent, misguided bureaucrats to keep people with Irish surnames from getting through airports, making sure no one takes the wrong kind of fluid on a plane, and jailing people for nothing.
There is, and there was in this case, NOTHING that would have prevented this government from seizing that person and putting that person in Guantanamo. Nothing. No Habeus Corpus, no right to a lawyer, nothing in the way of accountability. They could have rammed things into this person and taken lurid videos of it and no one would have ever found out about it.
As the political season ramps up, I try to be optimistic. Then I read stories like this and all I'm trying to do now is check my E-mail once in a while and just avoid the news. I mean, what the fuck?
What the fuck is this country coming to?