Friday, April 3, 2009

Germany's Castro

In the past few years, I have been thinking about visiting the states with my kids (currently eight and 11), but horror stories about the way foreigners are treated by immigration officials make me wary. While my daughter does have the right to a US passport, my son is from my ex-wife's previous relationship, and I have not adopted him yet. So he would have to enter in a separate line.

Back in 2003, I wrote this article (in German) about a sister-in-law who was almost sent right back home because she did not have the address of her American friend who was picking her up at the airport. Similar reports are quite common in Europe, and almost everyone I know seems to know several people who have had trouble.

I was hoping that things might change under the Obama administration, but there is no sign of that yet. A few days ago, German media reported that Cem Özdemir, current co-chairman of Germany's Green Party and a man of Turkish descent, was held up and questioned for an hour with his wife Pia Castro as described in this article in Germany's most prestigious weekly newspaper, Die Zeit. It must be remembered that the Green Party is not a fringe element in German politics like it is in the US -- the Green Party was part of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's coalition, and Foreign Minister Fischer was a member of the Green Party.

The most disappointing thing, perhaps, is that there has been literally no reporting in the US about this event. All I could find online in English was an article from this Turkish website. So while the issue is apparently being followed over here both in Turkey and Germany, Americans are oblivious to the way foreigners who try to enter the country are treated -- and judging from the lack of media coverage on this issue (imagine the uproar if a US congressman had been held up and questioned for an hour at the Frankfurt international Airport) Americans will remain oblivious for some time.

I cannot imagine putting my 11-year-old boy through such an interrogation after an overseas flight, when he will be suffering from jet lag and probably be both hungry and thirsty, with me and his sister not able to communicate with him while he is held incommunicado and possibly sent home alone -- and no one is informed of his whereabouts during any part of this. Until I hear that things have improved significantly, we are not coming. Get your act together, America.

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