I was going to New York on holidays. I went through
Dublin airport as usual. I filled in my visa waiver
form, which I am entitled to do, I presented it and
was processed through Immigration without any difficulty.
I arrived in Chicago and Immigration informed me there
that on foot of a fax received while I was in the
air from Dublin, to the effect that a passenger, Bernadette
McAliskey, was on the flight, was ineligible for entry,
should be apprehended and returned.
were very very jumpy. They were clearly under the
impression that I had evaded Immigration in some way,
that I had fraudulently filled out a form in some
way and that I was a threat to the security of the
United States of America.
attempted to explain to them that I was in fact eligible
for entry, had not fraudulently filled out any forms
and was not a threat to anybody's security.
was informed that I had no rights, that in fact nobody
who is not a United States citizen any longer has
any rights in America since Al-Qaeda, that what I
had was a number of choices. My choice was to sit
there quietly until they arranged a flight and put
me back on it and to say nothing and to speak to nobody.
said "No, I have rights here. I would like to
contact somebody from the embassy. I would like to
contact a lawyer. I have no intention of going back
just because you tell me I have to go back."
at that point said that if I insisted that I had rights
where I had none, they would show me what rights I
had. I would be handcuffed and imprisoned until such
time as they arranged a flight back to Ireland.
the midst of that one of the guys then said to me,
who was the subordinate, he took me aside and he said
"Do not anger my boss. Please do not make him
angry, do not speak about rights, you don't have any.
Don't contradict him. Last week he fired a shot over
the head of a Russian gentleman."
don't know whether he did or not, but that's what
the guy told me "Don't anger him. You have no
rights, he has power. He also has a revolver. Last
week he fired it. Please, don't make this situation
I was told that I would be photographed, questioned
and fingerprinted and I said "No. I won't."
the guy said to me "Mam, when are you going to
understand this? You do not have any rights,you have
choices. Your choice is to voluntarily be fingerprinted
and photographed, to be fingerprinted and photographed
under duress or to be forcibly fingerprinted and photographed.
Those are your choices. Then you will be going back
through this I am trying to say to them "Look,
let me see this fax. What is the authority of this
got no information on that.
the very end of two very disturbing hours, because
this was happening to Mrs Citizen, not to Mrs Political
Activist, this was happening to a person and these
are the jumpiest people I have ever seen, these people
are so scared. All the time I knew and had that feeling
that had I been young and male in this situation I
would have been very vulnerable to physical violence.
These people could and would have given me a good
It was purely a personal visit, wasn't it? You
weren't planning on addressing any political meetings
at all while you were over there?
No, no. Nor was that even an issue, because they
didn't know I was me. It's very important that that
point is understood. This wasn't about me, this wasn't
about me being against the war in Iraq, this wasn't
about me and my history in Northern Ireland. They
didn't know who I was. Only at the very end, when
I am sitting ten minutes off the flight, the
guy came back to me and he said "I have got your
whole profile. I can see why you are angry. There
is nothing in your profile that says you are ineligible
for the United States. You are quite clearly not a
threat to the United States."
that point I said to him "OK, then why am I going
back to Ireland. Can you not now recognise that and
let me get on with my journey?"
said "No. We have a fax from Immigration in Ireland
that says that you are a person that basically is
a threat to the United States."
on the basis of, I don't know where the fax came from,
I don't know what possessed somebody at the Immigration
in Dublin to send the fax, but simply on the basis
of a two- or three-line fax any person leaving Ireland
and going to America at this time can be subjected
to that kind of treatment.
Is this the first time that you have been denied
entry to the USA?
Yes. And it had nothing to do with me being me, nothing
to do with my actions, my history. It had to do with
how jumpy and scared and unnerved and irrational the
Americans are at this time.
Where do you intend to take it from here? Are you
going to appeal the decision?
Well, there's not much point, it's not about my appealing
that decision, because that's not the issue. The issue
really is about basic human rights, about freedom
of movement and freedom of expression and freedom
of personal security. The real issue is that as a
citizen of Ireland, information coming from Ireland
removed those rights from me and I am not sure if
the American citizen who took that action is amenable
to the law in Ireland.
That would be the bit that to me is important, is
whether that bit of Dublin that American Immigration
controls, if a person behaves wrongly, which that
person did, if a person, just because they take a
notion of doing it, can actually restrict my rights,
I must have some right under the Irish Constitution
to know who did that, why they did it and what remedy
I have. So I will be writing to Department of Foreign
Affairs, but my suspicion is that we have leased that
portion to America and that we have no protection
of our rights against American Immigration at Dublin
I rang the American Embassy this morning and there
was just a blanket refusal to discuss the case at
Well we will see if they refuse to discuss it in the
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