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Locked up for Love

This is not your country, you have no rights

Here is a true story, a sad testimony as to how we treat our fellow human beings:

Thursday 16 November 2017

I flew from London and arrived at Las Vegas at 3.15pm to re-join Debra, my British born, green card holding girlfriend of seven years on our adventure of a lifetime, touring North America in an RV. But instead of getting on the shuttle bus at Las Vegas to travel 150 miles up to St George, Utah where we were parked up, I was refused entry.

I had my USA visa cancelled and my passport, phone and all personal belongings taken away including watch, ring, bracelet. I was searched in a private room, my bags emptied out, my photo and fingerprints taken, questioned over four hours and told to pay for a flight on the next plane to London (10 times the price of my flight there) which was at 4pm the next day. I was not allowed to make a phone call to anyone, though the officer said he could make one call on my behalf and went to separate room to call Debra who was distraught as she was expecting me to call two hours earlier to say I was on the bus. I could not see the stream of anxious messages, as I had no phone.

What happened next was completely unbelievable, a totally unnecessary, inappropriate and excessive response to the situation.

I was not only handcuffed, but wrapped chains locked with a padlock, escorted by two officers through the airport to a official car with a cage in the back, no space to put feet straight then driven for half an hour to a prison. There I was asked more questions and had my shoes, socks, belt and shirt taken off me (I still had a T-shirt on). I was then allowed to make one call from the prison wall phone and was handcuffed to a bar on the wall while I did it. I spoke with Debra who was obviously very upset and just could not believe it, I did not give her full details then as did not want to worry her even more, that was the last time I was able to speak to her until I was actually on the plane back to London.

I was then escorted to a cell. There were three of us in the cell, about 15ft square, no furniture, no clock and not only no bed roll but no beds, only a 15inch wide concrete bench. Too narrow for me so I lay on the floor with one blanket. I asked for another blanket to use as a pillow but was told the regulation is one; they would not give a second blanket unless the nurse gives a written note! There was stainless steel open toilet, with sink but no toilet paper or drinking water and the four fluorescent lights that had no switch so were on all the time.

Having just come off a 10-hour flight, some sleep would be welcome but clearly there was no chance of that. Not only was there constant banging, shouting, screaming and even singing from inmates in other cells in our section, but after an hour we were told to leave, as they wanted to use the room. So I was handcuffed to a bolted down bench in foyer area.

Friday 17 November

By this time it was gone midnight and after a couple of hours sitting, we were put back in the cell. Then after an hour they got us out again to do finger prints and medical inspection after which I was handcuffed to different bench. It was impossible to get comfortable to fall asleep in this position so I lay on the floor chained to a chair with people walking past and new inmates, clearly methheads and known to the officers were being checked in and having prints taken. After repeated asking and only vague answers, I was put back in a different cell.

But about an hour later, at 5.45am knock on door and three breakfast trays pushed in. Then about 11am, I got my shirt and shoes socks back ready to leave. But first I was up against the wall and searched again then had fingerprints taken yet again. Then the handcuffs were put on this time behind my back and I was then given back my belt and handkerchief (but in sealed bag, couldn’t put it on!), signed for stuff and together with my fellow inmate, accompanied by three officers marched off to a police car. With hands cuffed behind back (and bad knee and stiff back) it was very difficult to get in and get comfortable, while the two officers listened to Rush Limbaugh, the self proclaimed right wing talk show host talking complete bollocks full blast on radio. Once at airport I was held in immigration interrogation room (locked) for another five hours, after about an hour I got my case back so was at least able to read and write but not allowed to use computer! Eventually at about 4.15pm we were escorted to plane door by three officers! And my passport and phone passed to the steward in a sealed envelope. As soon as officer had gone I asked the steward if I could have my phone so I could make call to Debra, he gladly obliged and I was able to tell Debra the full story from the security of a British owned jumbo jet in 10 minutes before boarding was completed.

Saturday 18 November

I slept most of the Virgin Atlantic flight, had two welcome tasty meals, only watched one film: Their Finest, a story of Love, courage and compassion, about British wartime documentary makers with Bill Nighy who is one year older than me.

At 9.45am I stepped on to British soil at Gatwick and made my way to London and by 3pm I was watching England thrash Australia at rugby in the comfort of my daughters lovely home in Barnes.

Freedom is a very special thing but as one of the officers said: “This is not your country, you have no rights”

My “crime”? I was told I had overused my B2 tourist visa and was therefore considered an unauthorised immigrant. The last time I came in the female officer was friendly and welcoming, she herself had come to the USA from Poland 25 years before. The decision to refuse entry is at the discretion of the immigration officer. I was asked several times the reason why I came to the USA so much, I said I loved Debra, I just wanted to be with her and have an adventure.

This very same experience was shared with a friendly but equally pissed off 26-year-old Irish guy called Stephen who was refused entry to join his six friends on a four day stag party in Las Vegas, because he had come to the US twice for 90 days in the last year.

We are reminded of those that have to go through this sort of treatment and lack of respect every day. I am fortunate as I have a happy life to go back to, many don’t.

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