Welcome to America

The harrowing story of writer and journalist Elena Lappin, who flew to Los Angeles and promptly got detained, searched, held and deported under horrible conditions.

The handcuffs came off just before I was locked in a cell behind a thick glass wall and a heavy door. No bed, no chair, only two steel benches about a foot wide. There was a toilet in full view of anyone passing by, and of the video camera watching my every move. No pillow or blanket. A permanent fluorescent light and a television in one corner of the ceiling. It stayed on all night, tuned into a shopping channel.

I’ve previously traveled into the US quite frequently as a ‘visitor’, and I’ve been treated horribly (though, obviously not even close to Elena’s ‘special treatment’) every single time. Once, I was escorted to a small square office, where I was intensely interrogated and researched for more than an hour after a thirteen hour transatlantic flight. The attitude is very much that you’re a threat to the country, and it’s up to you to submit to intense interrogation and searches or face instant deportation.

When I came back from One More Thing and I skipped the ‘visitors’ immigration control line at LAX — at least 120+ bodies long — and walked through the ‘US Residents’ line with my wife, getting friendly and casual treatment was absolutely shocking to me.

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