Join 3,553 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Now the Musicologists Are Dangerous Too
September 18, 2007 6:07 AM   Subscribe

"Dr. Nalini Ghuman {is} . . . a citizen of the United Kingdom and a professor of music at Mills College in Oakland, California. In August 2006 Dr. Ghuman was detained upon her return to the United States." And nobody knows why.

The American Musicological Society and Mills College are working the case, in a rather rare show of political activism from one of the more monastic corners of academia. Her faculty bio says she's on leave (and her CV is still there, if you want to be impressed). Jonathan Bellman has thoughts on the matter. By all accounts, she is "a passionate advocate of classical music as part of a liberal arts education" (from the Mills College statement quoted on the AMS site linked above.) A South Asian who grew up in Wales and speaks Welsh, Prof. Ghuman's case represents a terrifying sign of the new reality for professional foreign nationals who work in the US today, including many academics. The USA is starting to resemble another country in this respect. Condi Rice has no comment.
posted by fourcheesemac (123 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm sorry my "more inside" was a bit more exhortative than I thought it sounded when I hit post. I've met Dr. Ghuman and find her treatment outrageous, but I did not intend to prejudice the facts presented above.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:09 AM on September 18, 2007


There'll be more and more of this kind of thing happening in the future, I'll wager. Very sad.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:14 AM on September 18, 2007


And nobody knows why.

She's not White?
posted by chunking express at 6:17 AM on September 18, 2007


"Ms. Ghuman said that officers tore up her H-1B visa, which was valid through May 2008, defaced her British passport, and seemed suspicious of everything from her music cassettes to the fact that she had listed Welsh as a language she speaks. A redacted government report about the episode obtained by her lawyer under the Freedom of Information Act erroneously described her as “Hispanic.” "
Fantastic work, boys. Just top notch. I'm sure they had to look up "Welsh" in the dictionary.

Here's the short version: they saw a woman who looked vaguely Middle Eastern (again, they probably don't know what Sikh means); funny accent; traditional dress; claimed to be an expert on someone called "Elgar" (again, no idea who that is). They did the math and decided that she posed some sort of MUSICOLOGICAL THREAT.

It's genius, really.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:17 AM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


fourcheesemac - she sounds like a great prof. Maybe I'll take a musicology course from her when she starts teaching in a sane country.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:18 AM on September 18, 2007


THE MUSICOLOGISTS HAVE ALREADY WON!
posted by gomichild at 6:26 AM on September 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


I will add, from personal knowledge, that I am as sure as I am that MetaFilter is blue of two things: 1) she is a very brilliant scholar, and you don't get that way by being passionately devoted to anything but your work; and b) she is not a threat to anyone, anywhere, except some old fashioned British music scholars who cannot countenance the poisoning of the well of "too much lark ascending, too much clodhopping on the fucking village green" (to quote Anthony Burgess) with the pungent curried tones of Britains South Asian colonial Imperium, by calling Edward Elgar (!!!) on the carpet for orientalism. Whoo Hoo. Big threat there. Those Oxford boys have a reason to worry about her. The rest of us? Not so much. Indeed, obviously, she adds something good to American society by being a member of it, like most professional immigrants and foreign national residents.

When you know someone, even slightly, whom this shit is happening to, and you know she is being treated absolutely unjustly, it really drives home how far we've come down the road to a police state in the US, how far these m*therf*ckers have suckered us with "security" bullshit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:27 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


But seriously - this is disgraceful. More and more it seems that you are put on trial at the airport just for being someone that isn't the ideal.
posted by gomichild at 6:28 AM on September 18, 2007


Here's the short version: they saw a woman who looked vaguely Middle Eastern (again, they probably don't know what Sikh means); funny accent; traditional dress; claimed to be an expert on someone called "Elgar" (again, no idea who that is). They did the math and decided that she posed some sort of MUSICOLOGICAL THREAT.

Chuckdarwin: it's clear that this didn't happen because some bored customs officer decided to fuck up someone's life. It sounds like the officers were actually somewhat sympathetic at the end.
As Ms. Ghuman tells it, the officers said they did not know why she was being excluded. They suggested that perhaps a jilted lover or envious colleague might have written a poison pen letter about her to immigration authorities, she said, or that Mills College might have terminated her employment without telling her. The notions are unfounded, she said.

One officer eventually told her that her exclusion was probably a mistake, and advised her to reapply for a visa in London after a 10-day wait.
posted by delmoi at 6:30 AM on September 18, 2007


That kind of treatment is coming US citizens' way.

"Beginning in February 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will implement their ¨Advance Passenger Information System (APIS),¨ the gist of which is that you will need permission from the United States Government to travel on any air or sea vessel that goes to, from or through the U.S. The travel companies will not be able to issue a boarding pass until you are cleared by DHS [Department of Homeland Security]. This applies to ALL passengers, US citizens and visitors alike. And how do you get said permission to travel? That´s for your government to know and you to never find out.
posted by nickyskye at 6:36 AM on September 18, 2007 [7 favorites]


"And nobody knows why."

Well, it's plainly obvious to me:

"...she is 'a passionate advocate of classical music as part of a liberal arts education'."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:42 AM on September 18, 2007


The way the post is worded, I thought Ghuman had been detained permanently, as in disappeared-to-an-undisclosed location permanently. As relieved as I was to RTFA and learn otherwise, it's still a sad commentary on the current state of affairs that I assumed that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:57 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know which is worse, that the authorities in the US are becoming more oppressive or that they are becoming more stupid.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:11 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


america sucks more every day.
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 7:16 AM on September 18, 2007


Card Cheat, apologies for that implication. But in a sense, being kept from your job (and unpaid, at that) and not allowed back into the country where you work and live (and where your fiancee lives) is a form of "detention" in my book.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:16 AM on September 18, 2007


And for my part, I didn't mean to imply the actual situation isn't outrageously bad.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:22 AM on September 18, 2007


More and more it seems that you are put on trial at the airport just for being someone that isn't the ideal.

it's still a sad commentary on the current state of affairs that I assumed that.

I don't know which is worse, that the authorities in the US are becoming more oppressive or that they are becoming more stupid.

Yes, but the FPP declares "nobody knows why" she was denied entry. Surely there are people who are not legally entitled to enter the US of A. Even an agency as incompetent as DHS must at times actually stop one of these people from entering the country. Could it possibly be that DHS are actually just doing their job?

Or is it more comforting to assume that DHS denied her entry simply because she's a brown-skinned female?
posted by three blind mice at 7:41 AM on September 18, 2007


Ms. Ghuman [..] said she felt like a character in Kafka

That's exactly it. The great injustice here is that there is nothing for her or her defenders to fight save for an impenetrable bureaucracy. I'm really at a loss to comprehend why some crumb of reason for the exclusion hasn't been offered, something to say that she's a threat because of her beliefs or associations or that there is a basis for this year long farce. But nada? Damn, that would be excruciatingly frustrating. Lucky for her she has a groundswell of support, albeit slowly swelling; pity all those others in similar situations without exemplary credentials with which to stir the pot.
posted by peacay at 7:45 AM on September 18, 2007


Could it possibly be that DHS are actually just doing their job?

Yes. Badly.
posted by adamrice at 7:52 AM on September 18, 2007


Yes, but the FPP declares "nobody knows why" she was denied entry. Surely there are people who are not legally entitled to enter the US of A. Even an agency as incompetent as DHS must at times actually stop one of these people from entering the country. Could it possibly be that DHS are actually just doing their job?

They are doing their job exactly if she's an actual or possible threat to homeland security. In other words, NO THEY ARE NOT DOING THEIR FUCKING JOB, THEY'RE OPPRESSING SOME POOR ACADEMIC JUST BECAUSE SHE LOOKS SWARTHY, you fool.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:06 AM on September 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yet another British musician refused entry. Brings to mind Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam being taken off a plane that had been diverted to Bangor, Maine and denied entry to the U.S. on September 21, 2004. "I remain bewildered by the decision of the U.S. authorities to refuse me entry to the United States." He was able to enter the U.S. this past December without incident.
posted by ericb at 8:15 AM on September 18, 2007


Why does fourcheesemac hate Aaron Copland?
posted by athenian at 8:18 AM on September 18, 2007


I think this is great!
It used to be very hard for us to get our talented scholars to resist the appeal of a well-funded and vibrant American academe, surrounded by the cream of their peers. Soon it'll be no problem for us to keep the brightest and best at home while you sink into an inward-looking morass of stupidity! Cheers, America.
posted by Abiezer at 8:18 AM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


delmoi writes "Chuckdarwin: it's clear that this didn't happen because some bored customs officer decided to fuck up someone's life. It sounds like the officers were actually somewhat sympathetic at the end."

Problem is, we have no way of finding out.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:21 AM on September 18, 2007


THEY'RE OPPRESSING SOME POOR ACADEMIC JUST BECAUSE SHE LOOKS SWARTHY, you fool.

Is there any actual evidence of that? If people are denied entry for legitimate reasons, is this always explained to them in the sort of time frame we've seen here?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:24 AM on September 18, 2007


three blind mice writes "Yes, but the FPP declares 'nobody knows why' she was denied entry. Surely there are people who are not legally entitled to enter the US of A. Even an agency as incompetent as DHS must at times actually stop one of these people from entering the country. Could it possibly be that DHS are actually just doing their job?"

What possible threat does she pose? If you're so sure they're doing their job right, then find a good reason for this happening. If they are "just doing their job," they are doing it poorly and should be held accountable. The way it's set up, nobody who is responsible will be held accountable for anything. We, as citizens, are not even allowed to know why she was detained or refused entry. But I can't find a reason why. Can you?
posted by krinklyfig at 8:26 AM on September 18, 2007


Cue scene:
TSA #1: Hey, looky here. It says she speaks "Welsh."

TSA #2: Huh? What? Welsh? Like don't 'welsh on me?' That's no friggin' language. It's a fucking phrase. What? She trying to trick us into thiniking there's a country called Weland or sum'tin? Ya' know people from England speak English; Welsh from Weland? Hahaha. She's must think we're idiots.

TSA #1: Dunno.

TSA #2: Yeah try finding Weland on a map?

TSA #1: I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and uh, I believe that our, ah, education like such as in South Africa, and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for our children.
posted by ericb at 8:30 AM on September 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well, she is both Welsh and Sikh. I wouldn't be surprised to find she is the nexus for some international close-harmony anti-caste conspiracy to raise the price of anthracite and give men and women equality before God.
posted by Abiezer at 8:33 AM on September 18, 2007


Well, she is both Welsh and Sikh. I wouldn't be surprised to find she is the nexus for some international close-harmony anti-caste conspiracy to raise the price of anthracite and give men and women equality before God.

And then take it away again, LOL, AMIRITE!?
posted by delmoi at 8:43 AM on September 18, 2007


If people are denied entry for legitimate reasons, is this always explained to them in the sort of time frame we've seen here?

It's been *over a year*. And it's not like she's a tourist who doesn't get her vacation (though even that is reprehensible if the person is innocent).

She's a well-regarded academic, a tenured university professor!, her job was taken from her, her home, her lover, and they won't even give her the slightest hint as to what she might have done wrong.

DHS is literally destroying her life. University professor positions are _not_ easy to come by. And it's been over a year and they won't even hint why. If she's a terrorist, why don't they simply rat her out to the UK and have her arrested?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:57 AM on September 18, 2007


What is shocking here is the way that two completely different spaces, with radically opposed ethics, are coming into conflict with one another. Borders have become spaces of discrimination, where some are permitted passage and others are turned away. The abstract values of the state are turned into criteria which control the constituents of our plural society. At the same time, the academy is, or should be, a space of maximum inclusion. One's participation should be governed by one's insight and clarity of speech. There should be no criterion for inclusion other than maximum opportunity. To behave otherwise is to cripple the normal function of a healthy academy.

This is particularly sad because, as everyone knows now (though not everyone will admit), state policy is being decided by racist, xenophobic thugs. Its implementation, whether polite or brutal, still reflects a political climate which favors exclusion of difference. But since this is translating into a de facto impoverishing of the diversity of our academy, it is inevitable that we will become less and less able to criticize the policies of the state and to demand redress of grievance. It's very hard to attend to what is not being said in a conversation, and if crucial voices have simply disappeared, their absence will be felt only indirectly and over time.

Consider the case of Tariq Ramadan, who was supposed to have taken a job at Notre Dame a few years ago, but was denied a visa by the State Department. You may abhor his political beliefs. I am certainly suspicious of them. But restricting this man, a literal prodigy, from participation in a conversation on the role of Islam in a plural democracy actively harms that democracy. The state department is making decisions which affect directly our ability to build a healthy, plural society.

In the final analysis, the issue is not whether border guards were polite or nasty to Prof. Ghuman. It's not even what pretext was used to deny her residence. No, it's why, in a society which was founded on the principle that "all men are created equal", the bureaucratic function of the state now favors despite of difference.

Friends, we are slipping further and further into darkness.
posted by felix betachat at 9:05 AM on September 18, 2007 [5 favorites]


Remember the last time you saw some National Geographic or Nature Channel show, and you had to watch some big, dumb beast helplessly, pitifully thrashing in its last moments of life?

I always the expect the narrator to make some allusion to the state of the American polity, but it never happens.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:14 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's been *over a year*. And it's not like she's a tourist who doesn't get her vacation (though even that is reprehensible if the person is innocent).

I know that, but it doesn't really answer the question.

Anyway, it's not really a question of guilt or innocence. She's not a US citizen, so she's doesn't have the same entitlement to live and work in the US as a citizen has. It's as simple as that.

Now, people shouldn't be denied entry arbitrarily, but we don't know that's what happened here. She in all likelihood isn't a terrorist, but that's not the only legitimate reason to deny someone entry.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:37 AM on September 18, 2007


An Elgar expert?
It's an enigma why she's been detained.


[And oh yeah, Merica sux.]
posted by NorthernLite at 9:40 AM on September 18, 2007


Now, people shouldn't be denied entry arbitrarily, but we don't know that's what happened here. She in all likelihood isn't a terrorist, but that's not the only legitimate reason to deny someone entry.

Ok. Sure. But whose decision is it? And what should the criteria be? Granted non-citizens don't enjoy the same rights of passage that citizens do, but can we at least agree that when a non-citizen is turned away at the border, the basis for their exclusion should be made absolutely clear?

She's not a US citizen, so she's doesn't have the same entitlement to live and work in the US as a citizen has.

This is a more fundamental problem. Academics, like a select few other positions in society (entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers, for example) are an absolute social asset. We exclude them at the expense of our own benefit. I mean, I certainly have the right to chop off my own arm, but that doesn't necessarily make it advisable to do so.

"Citizenship" and the supposed advantages it conveys is scarcely the issue when we're talking about intellectuals and innovators. You act as if she should be grateful to be in the US, when the US should be grateful to have her.
posted by felix betachat at 9:47 AM on September 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "Now, people shouldn't be denied entry arbitrarily, but we don't know that's what happened here. She in all likelihood isn't a terrorist, but that's not the only legitimate reason to deny someone entry."

You assume the best, without evidence. Given the history of this agency and the way the US has handled this issue since 9/11, I tend to assume the worst.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:57 AM on September 18, 2007


I'm not interested in talking about how things should be with regard to the rights of entry of non-citizens. I don't care who should be grateful to who for what. Simply not interested.

No one seem to know whether people in her position typically actually are told why they were denied entry, and that makes me wonder how suspicious her case really is.

As I said before, non-citizens actually have fewer right than citizens with respect to entering and remaining in the country. This too makes me wonder whether her rights were actually violated, as some people here seem to be assuming.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:00 AM on September 18, 2007


Disgusting. Our country is turning into a disgrace. The USA I grew up in no longer exists.
posted by mike3k at 10:00 AM on September 18, 2007


Jesus, nickyskye- is that for real? If it is, it's worth a post of its own.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:00 AM on September 18, 2007


You assume the best, without evidence.

No, I didn't assume anything. I'm not trying to convince you that DHS acted appropriately. I don't know if they did or not.

As this discussion progresses, I'm getting the feeling that no one here knows, and people are simply jumping to conclusions based on their preexisting biases.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:02 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


No one seem to know whether people in her position typically actually are told why they were denied entry, and that makes me wonder how suspicious her case really is.


Um, that's the point. When someone is turned away at the border, why should we, the citizens who are ostensibly being "protected" by such a move, have to wonder about why this decision was made? It stinks.

I'm not interested in talking about how things should be with regard to the rights of entry of non-citizens. I don't care who should be grateful to who for what. Simply not interested.

*cough*
posted by felix betachat at 10:10 AM on September 18, 2007


Maybe DHS played some of her music backwards?
posted by notreally at 10:12 AM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "As this discussion progresses, I'm getting the feeling that no one here knows, and people are simply jumping to conclusions based on their preexisting biases."

Given the evidence we have, what other conclusion is there to make, except that this is some sort of mistake or bad judgment? He peers have come out in droves to defend her, thousands of them. She's in academia, with an advanced degree and a spotless professional reputation. You assume she's hiding something, and all her peers are incorrect about her nature?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2007


I'm getting the feeling that no one here knows, and people are simply jumping to conclusions based on their preexisting biases.

Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 AM on September 18, 2007


Small point: I don't think Nalini Ghuman is tenured, yet.

Larger point: I have to say "trust me," but have I ever steered you wrong? Nalini Ghuman is not a freaking terrorist. She's a damn good scholar (and while not a citizen, had residency in the US). She hasn't got a secret life. She's not even particularly politically outspoken except in a narrow way within her work (and then the target is 19th and early 20th century British composers, not the USA!). Those saying "there must be a reason" are buying the Heimatsekuritat bullshit. The only possible "reasons" are a) a mistake and b) sheer ugly racist discrimination against people of South Asian descent. No one who knows her even slightly has any doubt she's been treated outrageously here.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:40 AM on September 18, 2007


Oh, and I do despise Aaron Copland, it's true.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:40 AM on September 18, 2007


And she's a British citizen. That used to mean something too. The UK is not much better than the US about this stuff.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:41 AM on September 18, 2007


Oh, and I do despise Aaron Copland, it's true.

That's obviously the problem.
posted by felix betachat at 10:42 AM on September 18, 2007


claimed to be an expert on someone called "Elgar"

That's obviously al-Gar, probably a jihadi... No, I don't have the heart to joke. What appalling crap. How much longer will we put up with this?

Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America: Have you been following the news for the last six years? I can understand your questions if you've just been parachuted in from the 20th century, but as it is, you're coming across as just a trifle trollish. Do we really have to explain to you why there's reason to doubt official explanations—or rather (since there have been no explanations) official good will? Or do you also believe Daniel Ellsberg and Dr. Martin Luther King were threats to the security of the United States?
posted by languagehat at 10:47 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Less of the jokes. This is a tragedy
posted by A189Nut at 10:51 AM on September 18, 2007


The only possible "reasons" are a) a mistake and b) sheer ugly racist discrimination

Nah. It's possible that she'd overstayed a previous visa that nobody noticed till now, or didn't give an I-94 back so she appeared to have overstayed, or that she made a wrong pencil-mark on a form and checked off that she had been a Nazi between 1933 and 1945, or that her visa number had accidentally also been given to someone else, or there might have been any number of possible errors on her visa applications that hadn't been caught yet, or she might have the same name and birthdate as someone with a criminal record in the UK that hadn't come up before.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:04 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Have you been following the news for the last six years? I can understand your questions if you've just been parachuted in from the 20th century, but as it is, you're coming across as just a trifle trollish. Do we really have to explain to you why there's reason to doubt official explanations—or rather (since there have been no explanations) official good will?

That's hilarious. It's now considered trolling to be hesitant to draw a conclusion when many important facts are unknown?

Anyway, the question isn't whether there's "reason to doubt" that CBP is acting with good will. Of course there is, and I never suggested there wasn't.

But then, I don't see a great deal of "doubt" in the thread above. In fact, most people seem to have no doubt at all!
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2007


The most likely reason is that her last name came up on some watch list, perhaps an eighth cousin gave money to a Sikh group that may have ties to terrorism. Not to demean an entire group, but there are some Sikhs, like some Irish, Arabs, Americans, some Jews etc. who blow stuff up.

I don't know how common a name Ghuman is but one colleague at my office has that name. The local DHS people probably don't know *themselves* why she is persona non grata, but they don't care - they're jes' followin' orders. Now the DHS shit-ocracy would rather destroy her life, and deny the US an eminent scholar than admit it fucked up and its watch list is a joke.

I don't even think it was because she was "non-white" per se, if her name was Ghuman and she looked like a Nordic goddess it would have the same result. Of course there are a lot more mistaken Ghumans than mistaken Larsens on this list, I am sure.

Deep down I think the powers that be in this administration love this. The more the US denies foreigners in this country the more isolated and ignorant of the rest of the world 'Murcans become. This will be but a blip on the daily buzz of outrage, and well, most people will not even notice, what with Britney and OJ.

Only way to stop this is if Microsoft, IBM, and say five top universities say basically, you either stop this shit or we'll move lock stock and barrell to Canada. You've ten days to decide.
posted by xetere at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


But then, I don't see a great deal of "doubt" in the thread above. In fact, most people seem to have no doubt at all!

I think this is because it would be thoroughly unsurprising to discover that the DHS had made a mistake.

Foreign Academics are already going elsewhere. My university's Engineering and Math departments were filling up with top-notch Iranian grad students that couldn't get Visa's to the US.
posted by chunking express at 12:10 PM on September 18, 2007


I think this is because it would be thoroughly unsurprising to discover that the DHS had made a mistake.

Thoroughly unsurprising, sure. Actually happened? It's much harder to say. That doesn't seem to matter to most people here, though. As long as the facts don't too badly directly contradict their preferred conclusion, they're happy leaping straight there.

I suppose I'm getting a little tired of these posts that are little more than thinly-disguised excuses for people to rant self-righteously about the impending doom of the United States.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:30 PM on September 18, 2007


People are ranting about how America sucks. This is one example of how it sucks. Whether her being kept out of the country will lead its ultimate downfall is anyone guess.
posted by chunking express at 12:39 PM on September 18, 2007


This is one example of how it sucks.

That's what people keep saying, but since no one actually knows why she was kept out of the country, they're just concluding that it was for a sucky reason based on their previous belief that America sucks.

With this in mind, it's clear that we didn't even need the Dr. Ghuman link. A no-link post reading "AMERICA SUX AMIRITE" would've worked just as well.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:41 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "That's what people keep saying, but since no one actually knows why she was kept out of the country"

Because nobody will tell her or anyone else why. How can you contest a situation when you're forbidden to know?

From the knowledge we do have, however, it appears to be a travesty of justice. Unless she's living a secret life that none of her peers knows about, we have to take it at face value. Of course, this would be simpler if we were allowed to know why, but we're not. Why do you suppose that is?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:47 PM on September 18, 2007


It's a rare sort of person who puts his faith in the obfuscations of institutions before the experiences of individuals. Congratulations, Mr. President etc.

Also, get over yourself. I love my country and I hate what it's turning into. I also hate that expressions of dissent are now routinely dismissed as self-righteous ranting by people who are "simply not interested" in the values of the democracy at whose tit they were nourished. In an earlier time, Mr. President etc., I would have been called a patriot and you would have been called a King's Man.
posted by felix betachat at 12:49 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "Thoroughly unsurprising, sure. Actually happened? It's much harder to say."

Are you often inclined to trust the government?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:55 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "But then, I don't see a great deal of 'doubt' in the thread above. In fact, most people seem to have no doubt at all!"

Well, if we had a system wherein someone was allowed the knowledge of why they are being detained or disallowed entry, then we'd have a reason to trust what the government says. Since we don't and we're not, we can only assume the worst. Maybe you think the government has your best interests at heart, but I know the government is made of people with flaws, and I don't trust them blindly, sorry.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:00 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Of course, this would be simpler if we were allowed to know why, but we're not. Why do you suppose that is?

It would be simpler, yes, but I can't answer your question. I don't know why the reason for denying entry was withheld in this case, and I don't know how unusual withholding the reason is. I don't think anyone here does.

Even if you think Dr. Ghuman should be given more opportunity to contest the decision, I don't see how you can conclude that the decision was bad to begin with. We simply don't know what CBP turned up and why they denied her entry.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:04 PM on September 18, 2007


Maybe you think the government has your best interests at heart, but I know the government is made of people with flaws, and I don't trust them blindly, sorry.

Where did I exhibit any trust for the government? No, I don't reflexively assume that every single government action is wrong and unjust, but I hardly think that counts as blind trust.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:06 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "Even if you think Dr. Ghuman should be given more opportunity to contest the decision, I don't see how you can conclude that the decision was bad to begin with. We simply don't know what CBP turned up and why they denied her entry."

That's right. Given the information we do have, I would find it utterly unsurprising that this is some error, human or otherwise. I cannot give DHS/State Dept./TSA the benefit of the doubt, particularly in this case. Although I do not have all the facts, I know from past experience that many, many people have been detained/denied entry for erroneous reasons, or for reasons which never posed any sort of security risk, and there is nothing in this woman's history to suggest there would be anything wrong with letting her in, and thousands of people are putting their names to paper to make that fact known. Maybe you have faith in the system. I don't. Sorry.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:30 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "Where did I exhibit any trust for the government? No, I don't reflexively assume that every single government action is wrong and unjust, but I hardly think that counts as blind trust."

So, in this case you do trust them? Or not? What exactly are you defending here?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:31 PM on September 18, 2007


http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2005/02/jerry_dworkin_p.html
posted by hank at 1:40 PM on September 18, 2007


Even if you think Dr. Ghuman should be given more opportunity to contest the decision, I don't see how you can conclude that the decision was bad to begin with. We simply don't know what CBP turned up and why they denied her entry.

That's part of the problem, and a healthy distrust of government and its institutions is what motivated our founding fathers to write the Constitution with its checks and balances and habeas corpus clauses and the rest.

The fact that I don't know, can't know is distressing because then all the power is in the hands of the DHS and who gets to come in and who doesn't is up to them.

Well it should be but it should be for a reason, are you a threat or are you not. I;m not saying the local customs people did something wrong, but in this climate of secrecy they could have.

"You don't sleep with me, you're getting on the next plane back home. I don't have to explain yourself to nobody!"
posted by xetere at 1:42 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "Where did I exhibit any trust for the government? No, I don't reflexively assume that every single government action is wrong and unjust, but I hardly think that counts as blind trust."

So, in this case you do trust them? Or not? What exactly are you defending here?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:31 PM on September 18 [+] [!]


He's defending critical thinking and logic. It is just as wrong to assume the gov't is always wrong as it is to assume its always right.

Now did the gov't mess up here? I dunno, probably, maybe, who knows. Just don't fall into that "if you're not with me you're against me" B.S.
posted by ozomatli at 1:43 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Eh, the question of whether DHS has a legitimate reason for denying reentry to Dr. Ghuman is not known to anybody and thus it's an ultimately irrelevant question.

Way to focus on the trees, Steve.

What is relevant that the DHS has simply gone overboard in its prosecution of foreign visitors and they are now routinely deporting and denying the most innocent-seeming foreigners without providing any sort of rational explanation of their actions. The relevant issues here are government transparency, bureaucratic accountability, and whether it's wise for America to develop itself as a state that doesn't welcome foreign intellectuals. This is way more common than people realize but you never hear about it because people are simply scared to death. The immigration authorities in America is simply out of control.
posted by nixerman at 1:45 PM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


From the NYTimes article:

“They told me I was nobody, I was nowhere and I had no rights,” she said.
posted by girandole at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


first they came for the froeign musicologists.... LOL, AMIRITE?
posted by geos at 1:48 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's now considered trolling to be hesitant to draw a conclusion when many important facts are unknown?

No, of course not. But you're not just being "hesitant to draw a conclusion," you're relentlessly mocking everyone who's assuming that something's wrong here. And when someone calls you on it and points out the government has given us absolutely no reason to trust it, so that a mistake would be unsurprising, you wave your hands and say "Thoroughly unsurprising, sure" but then go ahead and rant about "posts that are little more than thinly-disguised excuses for people to rant self-righteously about the impending doom of the United States" and how people here are "just concluding that it was for a sucky reason based on their previous belief that America sucks"—but of course you don't have "blind trust" for the government, nossirree. So like krinklyfig said:

What exactly are you defending here?

Because if you're unwilling to stake a position rather than mocking everyone else, well, like I said, it sounds a little trollish.
posted by languagehat at 1:49 PM on September 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


He's defending critical thinking and logic. It is just as wrong to assume the gov't is always wrong as it is to assume its always right.

Bullshit. Nobody's assuming "the gov't is always wrong"; plenty of us feel we have strong reason to suspect that if the government is refusing to say anything about a decision that from all indications is completely senseless, it's probably wrong.

If you hear a crash, see a car speed around a corner, turn the corner yourself, and see another car by the side of the road with its side bashed in, it's not an abdication of critical thinking and logic to assume the first car hit it. Yes, it could have been a coincidence, but that's not the odds you want to play. And if you point at someone who says "Uh-oh, that first car left the scene of an accident" and mock them for making assumptions, you're not being a heroic rationalist, you're just being an asshole.
posted by languagehat at 1:53 PM on September 18, 2007


I guess I don't see the mocking. But go ahead and keep calling people assholes, people who haven't insulted you.
posted by ozomatli at 2:03 PM on September 18, 2007


As humans, we always give the benefit of the doubt to people we like and who think like us. I just think it cuts both ways. You see it all the time on Fox "News" where they take some event and spin it so the "liberal celebrity type or Hilary Clinton" involved looks terrible and incompetent. Then the people who watch it laugh and have all of their biases confirmed. It's wrong when Fox does it to people they hate, and it's wrong to do it to people you hate.
posted by ozomatli at 2:07 PM on September 18, 2007


Because if you're unwilling to stake a position rather than mocking everyone else, well, like I said, it sounds a little trollish.

I've made my position abundantly clear. I don't think the outrage toward Dr. Ghuman's treatment in particular is appropriate, given that we don't actually know why she was excluded from the country and have no way to find out. Further, this single anecdote alone makes a poor introduction to a broader discussion of American immigration policy.

I haven't been mocking anyone, and I don't know why you would suggest that.

If you hear a crash, see a car speed around a corner, turn the corner yourself, and see another car by the side of the road with its side bashed in, it's not an abdication of critical thinking and logic to assume the first car hit it.

Humor me as I make a no more inapposite analogy. If you hear a crash, and see two cars speeding around the corner, one a BMW and one a Honda, turn the corner yourself, and see a third car by the side of the road with its side bashed in, it is an abdication of critical thinking and logic to assume that the BMW hit it since BMW drivers are jerks.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:21 PM on September 18, 2007


I guess it comes down to the benefit of the doubt. I for one am no longer willing to give DHS or our government the benefit of the doubt, even abstractly. I know they are being unjust to Prof. Ghulman. I can't help think they are always unjust. That is, after all, the consequence of this administrations insane approach to security. It gets hard to trust they even mean well when the evidence suggests, over and over, that they do not.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:49 PM on September 18, 2007


There's a fraction of the minority view here that I agree with. The only salient facts we have are that Prof. Ghuman was denied reentry 13 months ago and that no explanation has been offered from the denying authorities.

I don't believe it's possible to say that either Prof. Ghuman has a fully pristine background (save as to the known exemplary record) nor do I think that you can conclude that DHS definitely got it wrong in denying reentry.

But it is crystal clear to me, just as a point of reasonable behaviour, that Prof. Ghuman has been greatly wronged by not receiving any explanation for the entry denial. It's this nondisclosure that is outrageous - they may have justifiable grounds but this is the big issue here: there ought to be some form of restriction on the extent of delay in notification. Perhaps this is a trivial case when compared to the poor sods in Guantanamo but it seems to be a similar pattern of denial of due process. It's the due process that needs ratification.
posted by peacay at 3:10 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I guess I don't see the mocking.

Voila:

I suppose I'm getting a little tired of these posts that are little more than thinly-disguised excuses for people to rant self-righteously about the impending doom of the United States.

it's clear that we didn't even need the Dr. Ghuman link. A no-link post reading "AMERICA SUX AMIRITE" would've worked just as well.


And the mocker himself says:

If you hear a crash, and see two cars speeding around the corner, one a BMW and one a Honda, turn the corner yourself, and see a third car by the side of the road with its side bashed in, it is an abdication of critical thinking and logic to assume that the BMW hit it since BMW drivers are jerks.

So who's the Honda? 'Cause I'm not seeing a Honda, all I'm seeing is a BMW driver who refuses to talk about the accident and some guy who's saying "I didn't see another car either, but that BMW driver probably knows what he's talking about, so let's not jump to conclusions."
posted by languagehat at 3:11 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr.PDSEA, do I have a joke for YOU!

An engineer, an experimental physicist, a theoretical physicist, and a philosopher were hiking through the hills of Scotland. Cresting the top of one hill, they see, on top of the next, a black sheep. The engineer says: "What do you know, the sheep in Scotland are black." "Well, *some* of the sheep in Scotland are black," replies the experimental physicist. The theoretical physicist considers this for a moment and says "Well, at least one of the sheep in Scotland is black." "Well," the philosopher responds, "on one side, anyway."
posted by mek at 3:14 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


The real problem is deadly bureocracy.

I have a friend who is going thru crap with another government entity through no fault of her own. They won't tell her what the problem is either. Trying to sort it out is like trying to find an honest man in Washington.
posted by konolia at 3:39 PM on September 18, 2007


I don't think the outrage toward Dr. Ghuman's treatment in particular is appropriate, given that we don't actually know why she was excluded from the country and have no way to find out.

That's exactly what the outrage is about! We don't know why, and there's no way to find out. Do you find that acceptable? I find it outrageous, and plenty of other folks do as well. The United States was not supposed to be that kind of country.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:45 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


'Cause I'm not seeing a Honda

I suspect it's because your world view doesn't allow for the existence of Hondas. ROU_Xenophobe pointed out a whole garage full of Hondas farther up thread, but I guess you just sped past it.

In all fairness, you're not seeing the BMW either, if we're going to keep pushing at this analogy. But you're sure it's there. Really sure.

When I ask why, I get called a troll, asshole, and mocker, but there you go.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:47 PM on September 18, 2007


Nobody's calling you a troll or an asshole. I did call you a mocker, but I'm willing to withdraw it if you find it offensive. Guess you're not a Beatles fan.

ROU_Xenophobe pointed out a whole bunch of possible reasons. If one of those is indeed the reason, there would seem to be no reason for not revealing it. But never mind, I'm sure our government has only our best interests at heart!
posted by languagehat at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2007


That's exactly what the outrage is about! We don't know why, and there's no way to find out. Do you find that acceptable? I find it outrageous, and plenty of other folks do as well. The United States was not supposed to be that kind of country.

Well, if that's really what you're outraged about, I suppose that's more understandable. Is a lack of transparency from immigration officials really a recent phenomenon, though? I thought inexplicable denials of visas, renewals, or entries was a long-standing feature of the system.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think the outrage toward Dr. Ghuman's treatment in particular is appropriate, given that we don't actually know why she was excluded from the country and have no way to find out.

See, this is the source of my outrage over this. There is no way to find out: we cannot find out, she cannot find out, possibly even the head of DHS cannot find out. A bureaucracy this opaque - one which has the power to deny you entry to a country, or kick you out, or, if you're a citizen, put you on a list that has you taken for "special questioning" every time you try to get on a plane has no fucking place in a democracy. Because of her unexplained and apparently inexplicable status as persona non grata to the U.S., her not-to-the-U.S. travel may also become greatly restricted.

Does anybody remember the FPP a while back about how banks, mortgage companies, and employers were using some DHS-generated list to "check" on people, and deny them loans and so on? Once you're on a list like that, it can be nearly impossible to get yourself removed, even if you discover the reason, e.g. your name was misspelled when being entered into an airline reservation system and then matched the name of someone who once sold a pair of shoes to the barber of the brother of the guy who said he liked fireworks and other big explosions.

Yeah, let's all calm down and wait for the government to tell us everything will be okay. Especially now that we're protected from dangerous musicologists.

On preview, what flapjax said.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on September 18, 2007


Nobody's calling you a troll or an asshole.

No, I suppose if we want to be really precise you said that 1) my behavior seemed trollish and 2) if a person were to do something that you analogized to my conduct, that person would be an asshole.

That's way different than calling me an asshole, yeah.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:55 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not only can she not find out, her representatives in Parliament cannot find out, the Congressional representatives of the college where she still has a job if she can ever get there can't find out, her lawyers can't find out, their lawyers can't find out. If it were a simple matter of an overstayed visa (in which case why was she issued a new one good through 2008) or some other simple but legalistic problem, somebody would be able to tell her! And furthermore, if she were really a Bad Guy they would have arrested her instead of demanding she immediately get on a plane headed out of the country.

But anyway, I thought it was a crime to deface a passport, let alone destroy a visa. And the officials at the San Fransisco airport did both. More of my thoughts here, yes I was being snarky if not outright sarcastic about how brown people don't speak Welsh.
posted by ilsa at 5:05 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


'Pomp and Circumstance' = Terrorism

Seriously though, the main issue is transparency.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:36 PM on September 18, 2007


This doesn't speak directly to the issue, but the U.S. gov infamously contracts lowest bidders to grim effect. It's my bet that the airport security just happened to find the right mark to harass and the case is now being ignored because a) she has no rights as a non-citizen and b) it's easier to ignore than to admit that the system is a failure.
posted by snsranch at 5:37 PM on September 18, 2007


But how do you know McCarthy didn't have a list of communists in his hand as he said? How do you know that Alberto Gonzales truly didn't remember all of those things he claimed? How do you truly know that [x] didn't really invent a perpetual motion machine just because he won't show you the details? Through examining the evidence and deductive reasoning, but if they don't provide the evidence, no one can prove they're a lair. Their claims are essentially not falsifiable and should be treated with skepticism.
posted by Challahtronix at 5:40 PM on September 18, 2007


No, I suppose if we want to be really precise

That's pretty rich coming from you, Mister "Let's Be Very Careful to Parse the Evidence in Excruciating Detail." And yes, I do want to be really precise, and yeah, it's way different than calling you an asshole.

You still haven't explained why we should accord the benefit of the doubt to a government that has shown no signs of deserving it in all the years it's been in office, or why (if you don't believe that) you don't believe that. All you've done is stand on the sidelines and snark, acting for all the world as if we were just Doubting Thomases out to make mountains out of molehills for the sheer fun of it.

If this were a brand new administration, you might have a point. As it is, your attitude is very strange.
posted by languagehat at 5:42 PM on September 18, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "Is a lack of transparency from immigration officials really a recent phenomenon, though? I thought inexplicable denials of visas, renewals, or entries was a long-standing feature of the system."

I have heard stories like Ms. Ghuman's before 9/11, but it was always in nations considered totalitarian, where you can be detained indefinitely, without explanation or redress. It's a disturbing sign when the stories people tell about coming here start to resemble those of the USSR and Eastern Bloc before the Iron Curtain fell.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:53 PM on September 18, 2007


If she was a known terrorist they would have watched her and used her as bait and would not have tipped their hand to her co-conspirators. If they made a list mistake, they probably won't admit it, because it would look very inept for an agency struggling to keep a high profile. My guess is that the mistakes happen because bureaucrats rely on buggy software, probably because it's the only thing they can rely on. So if some suspected terrorist's cousin took her class, then she may have been tagged as an influence.
posted by Brian B. at 7:56 PM on September 18, 2007


You still haven't explained why we should accord the benefit of the doubt to a government that has shown no signs of deserving it.

I have to confess, I have no idea what you're trying to say.

When I entered this thread, I thought we were going to try to figure out what actually happened to Dr. Ghuman, out in the real world. You know, the one that exists apart from our politics.

If you're not interested in that real world, though, by all means, accord your benefits of the doubt in whatever manner you deem the relevant parties to deserve it. If you've lost interest in being, you know, correct, go on and bluster with indignation over this latest travesty (which may or may not have happened, but whatever, this government doesn't even deserve the application of our critical faculties to its actions).

So, yeah, I'm snarking now. You know what, though? Cool off, and next week, or in five years, or whatever, come back and try to tell me that this little exchange wasn't snark-worthy. I have trouble taking people seriously when they criticize concentrating on the actual known facts in favor of whipping themselves into hysterics.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:05 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing that her crime was being cultured, peaceable and intelligent while looking the way she does. Our government has been trying to teach us that people who look like her do not have those qualities; but rather that they are deadly menaces without real human worth. To let her walk around in the U.S. being herself could undo years of propaganda.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:36 PM on September 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have trouble taking people seriously when they criticize concentrating on the actual known factsin favor of whipping themselves into hysterics.

The facts:

* respected academic (in a field that's about as nonpolitical as you can get), who has a longstanding relationship with the United States (i.e., a known quantity), is abruptly ejected from the U.S.. No one will tell her, her lawyers, her employer, her government, the public, the representatives of the Congressional district where she lived for 10 years, or, apparently, anyone else, why.

The fact that you're not alarmed, freaked out, or vaguely disturbed by this is...whatever. You're entitled to your feelings. What's pissing people - well, me - off is that you seem to be cultivating a deliberately disingenuous attitude regarding why people might be alarmed, freaked out, or vaguely disturbed, as if anyone who is is a naive fool, a kneejerk dumbass librul, or a developmentally disabled five-year-old.

That you are one of the only people commenting in this thread who seems to think that we should just wait for the government to let us in on all the facts (because it's done it so well so far) does not make you a righteous iconoclast, or even right. It just makes you sound like someone who's been living under a rock for the last six years.
posted by rtha at 9:29 PM on September 18, 2007


And I must point out that there *are* witnesses to this wreck. Nailini Ghuman is well known to her colleagues, of whom I am one, as a person of high character. We are not talking about some abstract "South Asian type" here, whatever side you are on. Even if she is not an American citizen, she is clearly worthy of "innocent until proven guilty" consideration on the basis of her superb record and her level of collegial support.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:51 AM on September 19, 2007


I have to confess, I have no idea what you're trying to say.

Perhaps I've been expressing myself poorly. Read rtha's comment just above; it does a pretty good job.

When I entered this thread, I thought we were going to try to figure out what actually happened to Dr. Ghuman, out in the real world. You know, the one that exists apart from our politics.

See, this is the problem: you're pretending that "the real world" has nothing to do with "politics." But the real world—the one in which Dr. Ghuman is having her life ruined for no apparent reason—has everything to do with the politics of the current administration, which has everything to do with our attitudes and assumptions about this case. You're pretending that it's possible not to have an attitude or make assumptions, but that's ridiculous. We have brains that are built to interpret the world we experience according to past experiences; we are not simple recording devices. I still don't understand what your real point is, since the one you're ostensibly making is so ludicrous, but here's another annoying analogy for you:

MetaFilter 1937. Us: "Can you believe it? More of these bullshit show trials—does Stalin think everyone is a complete idiot??" You (in a superior, detached tone): "My, you people do love to jump to conclusions. Let's wait until we see all the evidence, shall we? And the defendants seem to be confessing."
posted by languagehat at 5:53 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


But the real world—the one in which Dr. Ghuman is having her life ruined for no apparent reason—has everything to do with the politics of the current administration, which has everything to do with our attitudes and assumptions about this case.

I don't doubt that the politics of the current administration strongly influenced your attitudes and assumptions about the current case. I just don't think that's a particularly reliable way for arriving at the truth about the current case.

Now, is it really so ludicrous to be skeptical that a broad pattern of behavior by the current administration can be a reliable indicator of its behavior in a particular case? You seem to think that a bad administration can't ever make good choices or innocent mistakes, and that's just wrong.

You've let your feelings about the administration cloud your ability to reasonably evaluate what actually happened in this case. You're upset about this case even though you don't know what happened in this case and can't. That's fine, though. It doesn't really matter what you think, or what I think. It's strange, though, that I would catch so much flak simply for not letting my emotions run away with me.

Metafilter 1989. You: "Can you believe it? Why do we even need a trial--does anyone doubt those boys raped that jogger in Central Park?" Me (in a cautious tone): "Let's wait until we see all the evidence, shall we?"
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:27 AM on September 19, 2007


You've let your feelings about the administration cloud your ability to reasonably evaluate what actually happened in this case.

Usually, when I hear hoofbeats, I think horses. You want us to consider zebras, despite the abundance of evidence that we've been stampeded by mustangs for the last six years.

I guess I'll stop assuming that the sun will rise tomorrow, too, because you just never know.

Obviously, this is a dangerous and undesirable person, and evidence exists to prove that (though, due to reasons of national security, this evidence will never be disclosed). Fortunately, the U.S. has shared this evidence with the UK, because we're close allies in the GWOT, and we want them to know that she's a threat. Even more fortunately, the UK has locked her up to keep us safe.

Oh, wait.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


OK, MPDSEA, I've decided you're not arguing in good faith, so I'm out of here. Enjoy your sense of superiority.
posted by languagehat at 9:28 AM on September 19, 2007


OK, MPDSEA, I've decided you're not arguing in good faith, so I'm out of here. Enjoy your sense of superiority.

That's offensive. I've been as patient and respectful toward you as any human could be expected to be. In exchange, you've fired off a string of near-incoherent posts, each absolutely riddled with errors of reasoning.

What you can't seem to understand is that inexplicable denials of entry are not new to this administration. If you could somehow incorporate that fact into your analysis, I think my skepticism would become much more clear.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:19 PM on September 19, 2007


What you can't seem to understand is that inexplicable denials of entry are not new to this administration.

Yeah, unfortunately, while this may be an egregious case, this kind of thing is not new. A lot of my friends with H1-B visas can produce all sorts of horror stories. A lot of them boil down to some faceless INS bureaucrat just being an asshole because he can.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:53 PM on September 19, 2007


In other news: Bill To Restore Habeas Defeated
posted by homunculus at 1:45 PM on September 19, 2007


Um, I can see several potential problems. She had an H1-b and had been here working for over 10 years. Perhaps they considered her to have "immigrant intent?" Maybe she's a tax dodger? Maybe she has outstanding criminal warrants either here or in another country with whom the US has treaties?

Perhaps she is flagged as part of an ongoing criminal or national security investigation?

I mean really folks, CBP turned her away because she had an invalid visa, not because of the reasons the pedants above accuse them of. Where are the ivory tower acusations of racism and ignorance pointed towards the State Department, the ones responsable for cancelling her frigging visa?

The reason I'm not alarmed, I work for immigration, not CBP exactly, but worse. I know that what we do all day is sit around and think of new ways to block scholars from entering the US, particularly swarthy classical music scholars (and jews, let's not forget those hell-bound, liberal jews). Usually we just trump up some sort of vague national security threat or wave the 9/11 card to get detractors to shut up, but when they start bitching to the ACLU, that's when we have to pull out the "links to Al Queda." Man that shuts them up every time. If they really bitch, like say to the Anti-defamation league or the Libertarian Party or something, that's when we go hog-wild and come out witrh a press release claiming they are the number 3 in the Al Queda chain-of-command. Who's really going to check that shit? I mean number one or two, sure you've got to have Ossama himself or at least a video with the guy eating mese with the big guy, but number 3, that guy could be phoning it in from Amman as far as the press can prove!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:18 PM on September 19, 2007


From the article:

After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem or mistake. [...] As Ms. Ghuman tells it, the officers said they did not know why she was being excluded.

IANAVisaExpert, but if it were a (relatively) simple visa problem, why the silence from DHS, State Dept., etc.? Her visa was good through May 2008, and she'd applied for renewal; ICE presuambly knew where she was and where she worked - if they're so hot to crack down on visa violations, why not just go arrest her where she lives? It's not like she was a nomadic tomato picker with no fixed address.

I mean really folks, CBP turned her away because she had an invalid visa...

Where does it indicate her visa was invalid?
posted by rtha at 2:59 PM on September 19, 2007


why the silence from DHS

Because visa issues are State Department issues and anything DHS could say on the matter would be speculative.

Where does it indicate her visa was invalid?

From the article: After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked Only State can revoke a visa. CBP would/could just deny you entry.

ICE presuambly knew where she was and where she worked - if they're so hot to crack down on visa violations

You might start to see a pattern forming in my answers here, but her problem was a revoked visa. That is a State Department issue, not an ICE issue, not a USCIS issue, not even a CBP issue, and ,in general, not a DHS issue at all other than that CBP (mostly) does not allow entry for people with visas that have been revoked for whatever reason.

Here's a diagram:

Visa=State.
Immigrant/Nonimmigrant Status=DHS.
Undocumented tomato picker in the USA=DHS.
Someone trying to get permission to enter USA but hasn't actually come in yet=State.

There will be a quiz later. Anyone (in the US) who doesn't get at least a D gets deported.
posted by Pollomacho at 3:44 PM on September 19, 2007


*goes off to study, and feels weirdly grateful to be a citizen, and thus have fewer impenetrable bureaucracies to deal with.*
posted by rtha at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2007


Um, I can see several potential problems. She had an H1-b and had been here working for over 10 years. Perhaps they considered her to have "immigrant intent?" Maybe she's a tax dodger? Maybe she has outstanding criminal warrants either here or in another country with whom the US has treaties?

Bullshit, with all due respect. I don't care who you work for, you're talking nonsense here. She was employed as a tenure-track professor, and her H1B was approved. The US government approves H1Bs for professors all the time, in the full knowledge that "tenure track" means possible eventual permanent residency (of the kinds of immigrants the US is eager to have, public sphere blather aside -- highly educated professionals, especially in the sciences but in other fields as well). The University has to vouch for the visa holder, and there are a lot of lawyers involved. I've worked through it with a number of colleagues over the years. So the "immigrant intent" is a given, and a well known one. They knew exactly what they were doing when they issued the original H1B.

Tax dodger? Please, she is an assistant professor from a family of modest means. She's a musicologist. She makes, I would venture, about $55-60K a year at Mills, and has to live in the SF Bay Area, a place where that kind of income gets you shit. She's a true intellectual, a total scholar, and eveyrone who knows her considers her a good and ethical colleague. You have no basis for putting words in the government's mouth here. Anyway, I'm sure Mills College withholds taxes. This can't have anything to do with money.

Perhaps she is flagged as part of an ongoing criminal or national security investigation?

Yeah, well, "flagged" isn't a justification for anything. I am as sure as I can be that she could not possibly be involved in anything that would be a threat to the national security of the US. But even if you're not, what kind of bullshit is it where they can "flag" an upstanding professional and ruin her life without explainging why for over a year, when hundreds of people who know her are saying what the fuck?

I mean really folks, CBP turned her away because she had an invalid visa, not because of the reasons the pedants above accuse them of.

LOL. OK the government is racist and ignorant. The various agencies have divided up the dirty work very precisely, no doubt, to avoid accountability and make it that much harder to discern the logics of the bureaucracy. Hell, y'all can't even deliver passports to citizens in a few months, for a high fee.

This is totally justified, after all, because all the CBP did was turn her away because the state department revoked her visa. So why did the state department revoke her visa? Maybe she did something wrong.

Precisely what most of us "pedants" are saying is that that is not good enough as an excuse for ruining the life of a good person. She may not be a citizen, but she's a member of American society and has been for years. She's been denied any due process. If you think that's just OK because the government always only has our best interests at heart, operates in a pure ethical stratosphere, and never makes mistakes or acts in vindictive or capricious ways, then you might as well sign on with the sheep. Or else maybe you work for the governent. . . oh yeah. We never fuck up here at the Department of HeimatSeküritat.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:49 PM on September 19, 2007


fourcheesemac, as I said, anything that DHS could say would be speculative, so, I speculated. I don't know what State's reason for revoking her visa was, I gave a few possibilities. Perhaps she did not properly file her US taxes and the IRS made claims against her. Perhaps having been on an H1-b for 4 years longer than maximum duration had something to do with it (again speculation, I do not know her nonimmigrant status history or even how long she was actually on an H1-b). There are any number of reasons that this could happen. She could have lied about something on her application. I don't know, for all I know she's could be a living saint or she could be Pol Pot or, more likely, somewhere in the vast range between.

You have no basis for putting words in the government's mouth here.

No, I don't, neither does anyone in this thread really. I offered potential answers. Again, anything I could come up with would be and is speculative, I am simply trying to give some possible examples. Maybe, just maybe, she did do something wrong, maybe not, I do not know, I do not work for the Department of State.

I cannot speak to her particular case, but when an investigation is ongoing and contains information that is of a sensetive nature, agencies are not permitted to disclose that information. It's not something I necessarily think is great, but it is the law and has been for a long time, longer than the current administration has been in office and certainly longer than the often blamed USA PATRIOT act.

The various agencies have divided up the dirty work very precisely, no doubt, to avoid accountability and make it that much harder to discern the logics of the bureaucracy. Hell, y'all can't even deliver passports to citizens in a few months, for a high fee.

No, actually the ball is pretty firmly in State's court on this one. Incidentally, the passport fuck-up, yeah, that's State too.

She's been denied any due process.

No, actually I think the problem here is that she has been given all the processing that she was due under current laws as a petitioner to enter the US. I believe what you are calling for is to give her more processing options. I'm not going to argue with you there. The system sucks. It is a bureaucratic morass where good people get shafted and bad people get loopholes and it needs a hell of a lot of retooling. Are all DHS employees working perfectly ethically in a moral vacuum? Fuck no. Do all foreign professors that appear to be perfect model humans turn out to be model humans? Again, fuck no. Maybe she did do something wrong, maybe not, I don't know.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:59 AM on September 20, 2007


As I said above, it then comes down to a question of a) justice and b) where one gives the benefit of the doubt.

I know Nalini Ghuman. She is an innocent victim of our government. I can't give the benefit of the doubt either to an inept bureaucracy that is ruining her life or to a shadow state that is actively discriminating against her for racist reasons.

Those are the only real possibilities. You obfuscate them in your posts above.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:18 AM on September 20, 2007


I do not know Nalini Ghuman (and if I did I would probably post an article like this on my own blog). I do however have first hand knowledge of the movivations of DHS employees. I can most assuredly tell you that no one has told me nor, to the best of my knowledge, my colleagues to actively pursue the persecution of individuals or classes of people based on a racist, xenophobic or political agenda outside of the laws established and supported by our representative democracy. Yes, the laws of the United States are often racist and xenophobic and need to be changed, however there is not a conspiracy to screw people operating beyond that. Change the laws, the bureaucracy will follow, fail to change the laws and we will continue to see innocent victims.

What is a little disturbing is that you seem to continue to have absolute loyalty to your friend beyond (and perhaps this paints me as a cynic) what I would have even for a member of my own family. It is entirely possible that she failed to fill out a form correctly (speculation). It is entirely possible that your friend is not 100% forthcoming to everyone she knows about that year she spent out of status after completing her dissertation and getting her work permit for her first professorship because she dropped a deadline or left the country while the application was pending (speculation). Maybe she doesn't like to talk about the contributions she made to the International Fund for Better Armaments for Hamas last summer (speculation). Again, I don't know her, but I do know what sorts of things usually get people into these situations and while inept bureaucracy would be among those more likely probabilities, vast right-wing conspiracy of CBP officers is not high on that list. Inept bureaucracy is not particularly known to be on the list of things covered up by legacy INS, I believe that is fairly common knowledge at this point, so I find it a little hard to believe that if that is the reason she continues to be shut out that she continues to told that she cannot have access to that information.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:39 PM on September 20, 2007


and if I did I would probably post an article like this on my own blog

I don't know her very well; I know her as a colleague who is respected by colleagues who do know her well. Her story was featured in the New York Times and, judging from the number of comments in support here, your slightly subtle snark about "getting my own blog" is not appreciated. I have my own blog. This post has nothing to do with whether I know her or not. Actually, now that I think about it, up yours.

And I do begin to wonder what *your* agenda is in defending the ineptness or evil of the US immigration authorities.

What is a little disturbing is that you seem to continue to have absolute loyalty to your friend beyond (and perhaps this paints me as a cynic) what I would have even for a member of my own family. It is entirely possible that she failed to fill out a form correctly (speculation).

Again, bite me. She is not my "friend." My "loyalty" to her is based on the evidence of her career, slight acquaintance with her (but enough to judge her scholarship as superb and her character as collegial), and the published record of the case.

In a world where loyalty is "disturbing," insinuations (like yours, that Nalini is a threat to the US or deserves to have her life ruined for "filling out a form incorrectly") have a special McArthyite thrust to them.

This is not an issue of loyalty; it's an issue of justice. Nice to see where our government's henchmen employees are on the question of justice. Truly ugly words, Pollomacho, in defense of the indefensible. My opinion of you has gone way down. And my opinion of the government you work for couldn't be any lower, with people like you a major reason why.

Just consider that your employment might make you as biased as my slight acquaintance with Dr. Ghuman. Your words are special pleading at best, disingenuous excuse making at best. Calling me out for bias (about which I was explicit) is changing the subject. Perhaps this, perhaps that -- screw that shit. The government is ruining a prominent scholar's career without explaining why to anyone. That is not democracy. That is fascist.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:41 AM on September 21, 2007


Or do you think the government has no obligation to explain anything because of the "war on terra" bullshit that has been nothing but an excuse for the Bush administration to control political discourse and seize power?

I bet that if she were not South Asian ethnically, but a white British citizen, you would sing another tune. It's so easy to insinuate possible evil to someone with brown skin and a Sikh name, isn't it? All you have to do is say words like "disturbing."

Racist. That's what it is.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:44 AM on September 21, 2007


I'm with ya, fourcheese.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:49 AM on September 21, 2007


Fourcheesemac, please, take a deep breath. I think you may be taking this a little too personally. In no way, shape or form have I or do I defend the exclusion of innocent people, nor do I agree with the policies that do so, nor do I defend corruption or ineptitude in government, nor do I even remotely support the Bush adminstration or its policies. I believe if you will read my posts again you will see that.

I completely agree that my employment may make me biased just as you relationship with Dr. Ghuman might. I misspoke, judging from your strong defense, that you were closer to her than you are. I hope you would agree that a one link post to an article about a personal friend would be skirting the "get your own blog" guidelines. I think I understand your relationship better and if I crossed the line I appologize for the insenuation.

I did not post to defend the exclusion of innocent people, I posted to offer explaination of some of the numerous possibilities that might lead one to be in her situation. I pointed out that I found your loyalty a bit extreme because I thought that as an academic one might be more open to exploring all possibilities and you have stated that you are not open to other possibilities. You stated that you believe that the only possibility is that she is completely innocent and a victim of racism, I offer that there is a possibility that there could be an alternative to a vast racist conspiracy. I do not know her, I don't know if she is innocent, I'm not willing to judge her one way or the other frankly and if you look back you might notice that I don't actually make any statements condemning her, rather I offer possibilities.

I will say again that the system is beyond flawed. The system is based on racist and xenophobic laws implemented by racist and xenophobic representatives. Employees of DHS do (often) try and make things better through implementation of regulatory changes, but based on the framework which we are given there is little that can be done without real legislative changes. The State department and it's legislative and regulatory policy and practice are a different can of worms and governed by different laws (which in my opinion also are in need of change and these are the laws that are determining Dr. Ghuman's fate). Innocent people get screwed. Guilty people game the system as well. Do I like it? Is it justice? No, that is why I believe we need changes. That is why I support candidates that wish to change the system, I lobby for changes, I support protests for change and I work day after day to make regulatory changes from within DHS that make the system more fair (a drop in the bucket).

I bet that if she were not South Asian ethnically, but a white British citizen, you would sing another tune. It's so easy to insinuate possible evil to someone with brown skin and a Sikh name, isn't it?

Really, come on now. That is truly uncalled for. You do not know me. If you did I believe you would realize what a truly ridiculous statement that is.

Incidentally, as to your comparison between the US government's exclusion of a woman and forcing her to have to live freely and comfortably in her own country and the actions of Iran's government in detaining and imprisoning a critic, I can assure you that none of my family or friends have yet been tortured to death or machine-gunned in their beds or been shot by baliffs for voicing an objection in their kangaroo trials in the US, unfortunately that cannot be said of those that remained in Iran.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:57 AM on September 21, 2007


I can assure you that none of my family or friends have yet been tortured to death or machine-gunned in their beds or been shot by baliffs for voicing an objection in their kangaroo trials in the US, unfortunately that cannot be said of those that remained in Iran.

But the US is to be held to a higher standard (a much higher standard) than Iran in matters such as these. Of course things are worse in Iran. Far worse. That's no excuse for the situation we're seeing here with this (and similar) cases in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 AM on September 21, 2007


That's no excuse for the situation we're seeing here with this (and similar) cases in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

No, it's not so let's change the way we do things.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:08 AM on September 21, 2007


Pollomacho, your comment includes about a dozen "maybe" and "probably", which is precisely the issue that everyone's complaining about: There is no way to ever find out why this happened, and that's the problem. The complaint has nothing specifically to do with her, or this particular event, but rather with the disturbing pattern emerging in all types of interactions with the government where it feels no need to share its reasoning. That is not how a democracy functions, and if you think this complaint is somehow small, you're very mistaken.
posted by odinsdream at 5:51 PM on September 21, 2007


if you think this complaint is somehow small, you're very mistaken.

I don't that is why I believe we need to change the system. I'm not really clear where people are reading my comments to dismiss calls for a change to the system? My comments use the term maybe and probably because I was speculating on possibilities, that is all.

You know if there was as much energy focused on writing members of congress as there are painting me as some sort of racist bush appologist for admiting where I work and offering alternative explainations to this woman's plight than a vast conspiracy to specifically target her then she might actually have a chance to have something done about her plight. Face it folks, I am simply not worth your efforts! Write Barbara Boxer and send her this article. Better yet, write her American lawyers and tell them to write Boxer and specifically ask that she inquire in Dr. Ghuman's name (without specifically asking for that Congress members can't do much).
posted by Pollomacho at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2007


I can assure you that none of my family or friends have yet been tortured to death or machine-gunned in their beds or been shot by baliffs for voicing an objection in their kangaroo trials in the US, unfortunately that cannot be said of those that remained in Iran.

Well, they may not be your friends, but the US is certainy machine gunning innocent people to death in Iraq, regularly, and imprisoning citizens without counsel or trial (Jose Padilla, until recently). Anyone who thinks our fundamental rights and freedoms -- as citiziens, even -- are not imperiled by the actions of the current US government is not paying attention.

And to re-emphasize: Nalini Ghuman is not a friend of mine. I don't know her well. I know her reputation and I have met her and heard her give papers, and once had an occasion to interview her. I posted the story because it was big enough to make the New York Times, because it is a story of a patent injustice characteristic of our xenophobic times, and because it is a fine example of something happening to a lot of people, though often in less drastic ways than Dr. Ghuman's case. I have no personal stake in the story other than a personal sense of outrage at the unjust treatment of a colleague.

An open, democratic society should not conduct its judicial affairs in darkness, without recourse or due process, even when its victims are not citizens. In this case, its victim is a contributing, accomplished, and widely-respected scholar. She happens to be of South Asian descent, and I find it impossible to believe that has nothing to do with the harsh and unjust treatment she's received, or the government's apparent expectation that no one will care how they treat her.

I'm not picking on you personally, Pollomacho, or didn't mean to. But your defense of the government's good intentions - or excuse of their actions as merely typical bureacratic nonsense -- rings very hollow to me, special pleading at best. If you were Dr. Ghuman's fiance, or colleague, you might see it differently, is all.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:24 AM on September 23, 2007


Anyone who thinks our fundamental rights and freedoms -- as citiziens, even -- are not imperiled by the actions of the current US government is not paying attention.

Yes, that's very true and I agree with it. I hope that no one would believe that I think otherwise.

In this case, its victim is a contributing, accomplished, and widely-respected scholar.

Just for the sake of argument, I don't see how the victim's occupation makes her any more deserving of help. Does a contributing, accomplished and widely-respected illiterate fruit-picker deserve less? I'd say actually that she may have actually gotten better treatment than said fruit-picker, who would be shackled, placed in an overcrouded detention center and subsequently thrown into a van with 30 of his new friends. She was simply turned away at the port of entry.

She happens to be of South Asian descent, and I find it impossible to believe that has nothing to do with the harsh and unjust treatment she's received, or the government's apparent expectation that no one will care how they treat her.

While I agree that the whole system sucks, judging by immigration statistics there simply aren't the numbers to back up the claim that there is a pattern of exclusion of South Asians. For example, in 2006 India ranked 4th in numbers of F, M, or J classes of students and exchange visitors admitted and ranked number one for the numbers of Temporary Workers admitted (see table 29, first link), which would include H1-bs such as Dr. Ghuman. If the policy is to exclude South Asians, they don't seem to be doing a very good job at it.

I have no personal stake in the story other than a personal sense of outrage at the unjust treatment of a colleague.

I am sorry to have even implied such. When you said you knew her I suddenly had a flash of a personal agenda, I understand now that there was not.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:16 AM on September 24, 2007


« Older Legendary tremolo guitar king Link Wray discovered...  |  Barbie Doll Electric Chair Sci... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments