Passport Control Out of Control

My Facebook and Twitter feeds this week have included the thoughts of many people who have been openly debating the likelihood that they will not vacation in the United States for the next four years.  In addition, some of my former academic colleagues in Canada are rethinking their plans to attend conferences here. Most of these people are not Muslim and none of them comes from one of the seven countries that were barred entry. They are simply people who disagree with the need for the President’s executive order relating to travel and resent the atmosphere of mistrust. There are conferences in Canada and overseas where they will be very welcome, and they will go to those instead.

Airport Passport Control
Airport Passport Control via Pixabay (CC0)

The province of Ontario has cancelled school trips to the United States because many of their schoolchildren come from the seven named countries. They do not want groups of students held up at the border, and they do not want any child to be subject to interrogation by passport control officers. If there is a chance that this might happen to anyone, or that a child may be prohibited from travelling, then it has been determined that no child should go. So, many Ontario students will not be attending sports competitions, or music festivals, or the Detroit Opera House, or the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the near future.

A school in Richmond, British Columbia, has similarly cancelled a school trip to New York, and schools throughout Canada are having to address the uncertainty created by restrictions to travel into the United States.

Cross-border Students Passport Control
Cross-border Students Passport Control by Chris via Flickr

Recently, a British school math teacher was ignominiously taken off a plane on which he was supervising a school trip. The party, which included 39 children, went on to New York without him, and the school paid for his flight back to the UK from Iceland. He cannot think of any reason why he was not allowed to travel to the US, except that his first name is Mohammed. He was humiliated, justifiably upset, and bewildered. He has asked the British foreign secretary for clarification, and in the meantime his story was on the front page of several British and some US newspapers. It seems likely that many British schools will now be re-evaluating any plans they had to visit America.

Passport Control @ DXB
Passport Control @ DXB by Mark Blacknell via Flickr

Some university students who are in Canada and are from the seven countries included in the travel ban had planned to attend American universities. They have been invited to continue their studies in Canada instead, and recently the University of Alberta has offered to waive application fees for 132 such students. There are probably other universities offering similar enticements. Canada is happy to welcome international students and hopes that many of them will stay after graduation. They are considered to be ideal immigrants.

All of the stories here have come to me through my newsfeed and social media, which is a narrow range of sources. If I had a larger group of friends and more time to read additional newspapers, I expect I would find more examples.The new restrictions create a significant and sudden change of international relations.

It was always stressful going through US passport control, but now it is downright daunting. Even though it is hard on travellers, it seems to me that the biggest losers are going to be Americans who will lose out on a lot of travel and hospitality dollars. Sad!


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