Dahlia Lithwick has a great piece on journalists from friendly countries being expelled from the U.S. because they don’t have the proper visa (a requirement which has been on the books since 1952, but has been ignored):
The INS (now known as Citizenship and Immigration Services) has a long, proud tradition of marrying limitless government discretion to obscure Byzantine rules that cannot be understood through ordinary inquiry. Virtually anyone in this country on a visa is in violation of some regulation, although any attempt to understand or clarify one’s status is systematically thwarted by an agency that cannot be reached by telephone and cannot be visited in under seven hours. The INS has for years contributed to widespread ignorance and punished it after the fact….
Not every agent who works at the INS is a power-mad maniac. In fact, I’d wager that most are good people doing good jobs. But as recent events in Iraq have shown, if you are a born bully and the state gives you virtually limitless discretion to bully, you will likely rise to the challenge. All the more so if you’re employed by an arm of the government in which the working presumption is that abusive behavior achieves better results than accommodation. And no one wants to make it easy to work or study or stay in the United States.
What’s wrong with requiring foreign journalists to have a special press visa, you ask? Why shouldn’t they have to show that they are here for good and benign reasons? Well, for one thing, we don’t require most tourists from these friendly nations to obtain visas…. Singling out reporters for greater scrutiny than ordinary sightseers suggests there is something uniquely dangerous about journalism. As [Elena] Lappin points out in her piece on her ordeal, only countries like Cuba, Syria, Iran, and North Korea demand that reporters have special visas. As James Michie, the public affairs officer at the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, told me this afternoon, this happens in other countries, too; another journalist reported to him that she was frequently treated this way in Yugoslavia. America: Striving to be more like Yugoslavia each day.
Far worse than the fact that we’re singling out reporters for abuses: Since when is the U.S. government in the business of accrediting journalists—foreign or domestic?
[To the tune of Ahn Trio, “This Is Not America,” from the album Ahn-Plugged.]