Kiwi journo lecturer makes US watch list
September 24, 2008
Martin Hirst, journalism lecturer at AUT, is on sabbatical in the UK. Or he will be if they let him fly through the US.
Hope he makes it back. I owe him a coffee.
This is not the first time I’ve heard of a journalist getting into trouble with the US immigration process. One colleague from Australia (Natalie Apostolou) got caught up when the US tightened up its laws around the Visa Waiver Programme after September 11.
She flew in to the US for a conference and did like we all did, checked the box marked YES I can enter the US on the programme. Unfortunately journalists are not allowed in to the US without a special I AM A JOURNALIST SHOOT ME ON SIGHT visa. After being held in a concrete bunker for many hours, handcuffed to an armed guard, she was forced to buy a return ticket to Australia (the vendor in charge of the trip paid, which is good because it had to be Qantas business class) and put on the next flight out.
Worse than that, she was informed she would not be flying IN business class but would be handcuffed to the back of the plane for the flight home. “Ma’am, you are being deported from the US of A. You will be handcuffed at the rear of the plane for the duration of the flight.”
She took umbrage at this, as you can well imagine, and kicked up such a stink the armed guard was pulling away from her. They allowed that perhaps yes, as she was simply being sent home on a technicality she perhaps would be allowed to sit in the seat that was purchased for her. She was, however, lead onto the plane after everyone else had boarded, still in her handcuffs.
After the plane reached cruising altitude the pilot came out, sat with her for a bit, told her not to worry she wasn’t the first he’d seen sent home and he told the chief steward to pull out the good Scotch and to keep her plied for the rest of the flight, which he did.
So good luck Ethical Martini – hope to see you back in NZ one day. Just remember: fly home through the friendly airspace – Iran, Southern Russia, Vietnam, Australia… it’s the only way.