a running tally of all the artists and intellectuals hassled by border agents or actually kept out of America under Trump

freethinkerIt’s been a while since I updated this page: the crimes and outrages of the Trump administration have been keeping us busy elsewhere. But with all the SJW movies making a splash this awards season, right-wing hackles were bound to be raised, and these indignities were bound to crop up again.

Jan 27 2019: “Netflix Working to Get ‘Roma’ Actor to U.S. in Time for Oscars” (Variety). “Jorge Antonio Guerrero, the Mexican actor who played Fermín in “Roma”… has applied for a U.S. visa three times, and has been denied each time. … [He] had been unable to attend the Golden Globes or gala screenings. He said that he had a written invitation from the producers, but that didn’t help.”

Perhaps someone at the State Department saw that, er, remarkable martial-arts demonstration Fermín performs in Roma and figured Guerrero for a threat to national security…


Attacks on intellectuals are among the first campaigns fascists wage, because they know that knowledge, curiosity, asking questions, and nonconformity are the enemies of authoritarianism. America has long embraced anti-intellectualism, so the cultural ground in the US was already fertile for such an attack before Donald Trump was elected president… indeed, he was elected precisely because many Americans are suspicious of intelligence and expertise.

Trump’s “Muslim ban” was overtly designed to exclude only certain people from a handful of Middle Eastern nations from entering the US based on nothing but religion and national origin. This is horrendous enough on its own, but it seems to have unshackled immigration agents at US borders in airports and on land, who have been harassing and denying entry to people of all races and religions and from many additional nations… including, sometimes, legal American residents and citizens. Not all of these people have been artists or intellectuals — or, at least, the stories about their experiences have not mentioned such a connection to their problems at border crossings — but many have been.

You don’t make a nation “great” by making it difficult or impossible for writers, historians, scientists, artists, and other intellectuals to enter the country to give lectures, perform, do research, teach, or promote their work. This diminishes a nation, and limits its citizens’ exposure to new ideas… which may well be the intent of the Trump administration. It’s difficult to see another reason, actually, why the federal government would work to actively discourage creative and free-thinking smarty-pantses from entering the country.

So, at the suggestion of reader Danielm80, I’m going to start keeping a running tally of all the artists and intellectuals who are either turned around at the US border, hassled when trying to enter the country, or who are denied visas. I hope the list doesn’t get too long. Feel free to email me with links to related news stories, or you can leave them in comments.

Jun 17 2017: “ACLU Claims Customs Agents Violated Artist’s Constitutional Rights” (Artnet News). “[Aaron] Gach was briefly detained at San Francisco International Airport while returning from Belgium, where he had been included in an exhibition at the STUK House for Dance, Image, and Sound. According to the artist, CBP officers conducted a search of his belongings, including searching his phone while it was out of his sight, and questioned him for about 90 minutes about his activities and contacts while he was traveling. Gach claims CBP officers provided no information on why he was detained.”

Jun 09 2017: Thanks to Kat Diablo in comments below, I learned of three more exclusions from the US for no good reason (or any reason at all).

“Icelandic Singer Barred From Entering U.S.” (The Reykjavik Grapevine, Mar 01 2017). “‘[The ESTA official] said he wasn’t authorised to tell me why I wasn’t allowed to come,’ Júlia [Hermannsdóttir, singer with Oyama] told RÚV, after spending over three hours on hold with US Immigration. ‘[Traveling to the US in the past] has always gone really well. I’ve never had any issues in the States before, neither broken the law or been arrested.’”

“Spanish Rock Veterans Denied Entry to US” (IQ, Apr 13 2017). “Veteran Spanish rock band Medina Azahara have become the latest act to fall foul of ever-stricter immigration controls in the US, having been forced to cancel an American tour after their keyboardist was denied entry at the border. According to local daily Diario Córdoba, Manuel Ibáñez erroneously answered ‘yes’ a question on the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) visa waiver form asking if ‘you have ever committed fraud or misrepresented yourself or others to obtain, or assist others to obtain, a visa or entry into the United States’. Ibáñez, who says he made the mistake when filling in the form on the flight over, sought to redress the error at the consulate but was deported after a two-hour interrogation.”

“Did TRUMP’s New Immigration Policies Cause Cancelation Of LOUDNESS’s U.S. Tour?” (Blabbermouth.net, Apr 20 2017). “LOUDNESS frontman Minoru Niihara confirmed in a post on his blog that the tour was scrapped. He wrote: ‘I stayed in Chicago for three hours and returned home.’ The singer added that neither he nor the band as a whole had ever before been denied entry to the United States. LOUDNESS’s agency Katana Music told Japan Today that the band was able to enter the United States in the past with proper invitation letters but that the immigration this time requested visas for the musicians.”

Jun 04 2017: UK doom band Warning has had to cancel US performance dates because of immigration hassles. From the band’s Facebook page:

Apr 28 2017: “Tribeca Film Festival’s Top Awards Go to Female Filmmakers” (The New York Times). Kaveh Mazaheri is male, though… and Iranian. “Mazaheri’s short film ‘Retouch’… was chosen best narrative short, but the director sent a statement explaining that he could not give his acceptance speech in person ‘because of Mr. Trump’s fascinating decisions.’”

Mar 17 2017: “Africa Trade Meeting Has No Africans After US Visa Denials” (VOA). “One of those denied a visa was Prince Kojo Hilton, a Ghanaian artist whose work includes special effects and graphic art. He paid his $500 fee to attend the event and was asked to lead a session on filmmaking.”

Mar 14 2017: “Danish artist traveling to SXSW says he’s latest to be denied entry to U.S.” (Dallas News). He is Eloq, an electronic dance music artist from Denmark.

Mar 13 2017: “Three More SXSW-Bound Bands Denied Entry Into The U.S.” (NPR Music). This includes musician brothers Yussef, Ahmed, and Kareem Dayes, impacting the duo Yussef Kamaal and the band United Vibrations, both of which are London-based; and the Canadian–Egyptian band Massive Scar Era.

Mar 10 2017: “Italian Band Soviet Soviet Denied Entry To The U.S., Jailed And Then Deported” (NPR Music).

Mar 02 2017: “Owner of NYC design gallery detained at airport, denied re-entry to U.S.” (Curbed). He is Juan Garcia Mosqueda, and he is a legal permanent resident of the US.

Feb 28 2017: “French Holocaust historian detained for 10 hours at US customs” (CNN). He is Henry Rousso, and he was going to speak at Texas A&M University.

Feb 27 2017: “Mem Fox on being detained by US immigration: ‘In that moment I loathed America’” (The Guardian). Fox is an Australian children’s author who was giving a keynote address at a Los Angeles conference.

Feb 26 2017: “The White Helmets cinematographer Khaled Khatib had a visa to attend the Oscars. He never made it.” (Vox) He is Khaled Khatib.

Feb 12 2017: “A US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone” (The Verge). He is Sidd Bikkannavar, and he works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Feb 01 2017: “British Composer Missing Rehearsals of Her Opera — About Immigration — Due to Trump’s Ban” (The Hollywood Reporter). She is Soosan Lolavar.

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