Terrorists, US Immigration, and a Canceled Tour
Friday, January 29 2010 @ 06:13 pm Contributed by: Gabriel Kuhn
Sometimes you experience the ultimate anti-climax. With three PM Press books released these months, I had been planning for about a year to come for an extended speaking tour to North America this spring. A couple of months ago, I started planning this more concretely. The anarchist bookfairs in San Francisco, New York, and Montreal provided general reference points, and I got in touch with many wonderful people who helped schedule events in twenty US states and two Canadian provinces. I was also looking forward to the trip on a personal level: I have been traveling to the US regularly since I was nine years old, did part of my schooling there, and meant to visit many dear friends. Admittedly, I was worried about immigration, as I've had problems before – one reason why I haven't visited in five years – but I figured I'll come well prepared. Little did I know that the recently introduced Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) would make it impossible for someone matching an entry on the US government's No Fly List (also known as the Terrorist Watch List) to even board a plane. I considered the process a mere formality, and it actually took me a week to check the outcome of my application. So when the words "Travel Not Authorized" appeared on my computer screen, I instantly thought of a mistake. Certainly I must have missed a letter or digit in my application form. I checked the records. I hadn't missed anything. Nonetheless, I applied again. It only took a few hours to receive another rejection.