This kind of story makes headlines back home and makes the US look like a barbaric banana republic. Nalini Ghuman, a world renown musicologist specializing in the works of Edward Elgar, was recently subjected to the kind of treatment I described in my blog post of earlier today.



Ms. Ghuman, a professor at Mills College in Oakland, California had her H-1B visa was revoked last year upon her returning the country to participate in New York in the Bard Music Festival featuring Elgar's work.



The case is interesting because there is no known reason for the trouble and attempts to get to the bottom of it have proven fruitless. The only thing known is that her visa was revoked by the State Department:

After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College
lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly
revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she
know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last
October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem
or mistake.

Bard College president Leon Bottstein expressed his institution's frustration:

This is an example of the xenophobia, incompetence, stupidity and then
bureaucratic intransigence that we are up against. What
is at stake is America's pre-eminence as a place of scholarship.

Ms. Ghuman's lawyer released to the NY Times an account of her experience with CBP:

In a written account of the next eight hours that she prepared for her
lawyer, Ms. Ghuman said that officers tore up her H-1B visa, which was
valid through May 2008, defaced her British passport, and seemed
suspicious of everything from her music cassettes to the fact that she
had listed Welsh as a language she speaks. A redacted government report
about the episode obtained by her lawyer under the Freedom of
Information Act erroneously described her as "Hispanic."

Held incommunicado in a room in the airport, she was groped during a
body search, she said, and was warned that if she moved, she would be
considered to be attacking her armed female searcher. After questioning
her for hours, the officers told her that she had been ruled
inadmissible, she said, and threatened to transfer her to a detention
center in Santa Clara, Calif., unless she left on a flight to London
that night.



Outside, Mr. Flight [Ms. Ghuman's American fiance] made frantic calls for help. He said the British
Consulate tried to get through to the immigration officials in charge,
to no avail. And Ms. Ghuman said her demands to speak to the British
consul were rebuffed.



"They told me I was nobody, I was nowhere
and I had no rights," she said. "For the first time, I understood what
the deprivation of liberty means."

[Thanks to reader babaganoush for this link]