The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Knowing Too Much and Saying It Too Well: Bernadette McAliskey Barred from US

You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
And all they will call you will be deportee - Woody Guthrie

Anthony McIntyre • 23 February 2003

This morning I received an e-mail from a writer in New York. His anger was evident. Bernadette McAliskey had just been prevented from entering the United States and had been returned to Dublin from O’Hare Airport in Chicago. He pointed out that the former civil rights activist who was once elected to Westminster had been travelling to the States for the past 34 years and that this was an unprecedented move against her. Saying that he was not fully aware of the details he advised The Blanket to hold off on any story until the dust had settled somewhat. Then, word came through that a report of the matter had been carried on Counterpunch.

With the issue now set to traverse the public domain I rang Bernadette McAliskey to get her view. When she came to the phone I greeted her with, 'so I am speaking to a bona fide deportee.' Her laugh, the offspring of an indomitable spirit, wasted little time in persuading me that while she may have been angry she was undaunted by her ordeal.

‘So what did you do to fall foul of Uncle Sam?’ I asked. She didn’t look Arabic and they hardly thought she was French. ‘Just did things the way the Americans ask that they be done,’ she told me. She had travelled to the States with her daughter Deirdre intending to stay a week. She had completed her paperwork in the same manner that she had been doing since 1989. Everything was in order and she expected the trip to be pretty much like the numerous others she had made.

On arrival in O’Hare, she sensed trouble when her name was announced over the tannoy system. ‘I was told right away that I was being treated as if I was Mrs Al Qaida.’ A ‘very jumpy’ immigration official approached her and she was advised to accompany him, not to lift anything, nor try to escape. A fax had been sent to O’Hare from an American immigration official in Shannon wrongly telling US officials that Bernadette was not entitled to a visa waiver and that she had fraudulently filled in her documentation. She found the behaviour of the O’Hare immigration officials ‘very threatening and aggressive.’ She was informed that she had no rights to which she responded that she had human rights and the US government was obligated to uphold those rights. This was greeted with contempt. Those detaining her told her that there were no rights for anyone not of US nationality since 9/11. When she insisted on her rights she was informed by a Mr Squires, ‘if you tell us again that you have rights you will be handcuffed and led to prison.’

Mr Squires’ gofer, obviously not impressed with the refusal of Bernadette to emulate himself and slavishly take orders from Mr Squires, warned her, ‘don’t mess with my boss as he can shoot you. He shot over the head of a Russian last week.’

The officials then insisted on photographing and fingerprinting the detained woman. She objected and was told that it would be imposed upon her by force. After her demeaning experience, throughout which she was denied access to a lawyer, she was escorted to the plane by an armed guard and sent back to Ireland.

Bernadette says that she is lodging complaints and what she wants to know from the Irish government is who is responsible for protecting her rights from abuse by an American official on Irish soil. The Shannon based immigration official arbitrarily sent information to Immigration and Naturalization at O’Hare which led to her rights being violated. These included freedom of the security of her person, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. ‘I want to know what is my right. I want to know who is going to protect me from the actions of a foreign government official working in my own country.’

McAliskey said her detention and expulsion from the US was a symptom of President George Bush’s abuse of authority at a time when he was preparing the country for a war on Iraq - all dissenting voices had to be shut down. A woman who has travelled consistently to the US over the past three decades has arbitrarily been deemed by the State Department as someone who ‘poses a serious threat to the security of the United States.’

Her daughter Deirdre rubbished such a notion: ‘I can't imagine what threat they could think she poses to US security. Unless the threat is knowing too much and saying it too well.’




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

23 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Knowing Too Much and Saying It Too Well: Bernadette McAliskey Barred from US
Anthony McIntyre


A Unity of Purpose Against the War
Aine Fox


UK Complete Me
Jimmy Sands


The Left Isn't Listening
Nick Cohen


The Letters page has been updated.


20 February 2003


The Shadow of the Gunman
Paul Dunne


'Ulster Says No!' to a Bush Bomb Blitz
Newton Emerson


The Rally
Anthony McIntyre


Impressions of the NYC Anti-War Demonstration
Sandy Boyer


In Praise of Father Mc Manus
Congressman Ben Gilman


"Just Get Out!"
Gabriel Ash




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