The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Uncle Sam's Need To Know

Americans really are different, aren'’t they? I countersigned someone'’s passport application the other day, and we got to talking about the US border control and visa regimes. I had a look at visa application form and it contains, among a great deal more:-
Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty or other similar legal action? Have you ever unlawfully distributed or sold a controlled substance(drug), or been a prostitute or procurer for prostitutes?
It is of course up to the Americans whom they choose to admit to their country, but a couple of questions crossed my mind. Firstly, why the focus on arrests? That encompasses millions of people including such people as suspected drink-drivers and the endless parade of public-order offenders who are picked up every Saturday night. Most are released swiftly, in many cases without charge. And (at least until we get the ID database!) how will anyone know? If somebody is arrested and de-arrested within say half an hour, and the only record is in a PC's notebook, how will Uncle Sam ever know about it if the applicant tells a wee fib? As for the second half of the question, it doesn't ask about convictions, but only a straight question as to whether you have done the things they ask about. So presumably there should be a rider saying:- "and for which you were not caught". Then there is:-
Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?
There is a story about a famous person (and it is attributed to a number of people, so probably apocryphal) who wrote "Sole purpose of visit" in answer to that question. We all know that mainstream America doesn't do irony (the response to a Brit daft enough to try it is usually incomprehension followed by a contemptuous "Wise Guy, huh?" when the penny drops, but seriously guys, what sort of answers do you expect to those questions?

We truly are two peoples separated by a common language.