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Bernadette Devlin McAliskey: Threat to US Security???

Oread Daily | 24.02.2003 22:11


Irish activist and former Member of Parliament, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey was detained by immigration officials in Chicago, February 21, and denied entry into the United States allegedly on "national security" grounds. According to her daughter, Deidre, two INS officers threatened to arrest, jail, and even shoot the legendary civil rights campaigner when she arrived at Chicago's O'Hare airport. McAliskey (56) was then photographed, finger-printed and returned to Ireland against her will on the grounds that the State Department had declared that she "poses a serious threat to the security of the United States."

"I'm a 55-year-old granny with a gammy leg after years of to'ins and fro'ins, and I'm here on a cheap holiday in New York, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey was saying yesterday. "We were going for our luggage. We were in Chicago. The cheap flight takes you to New York that way. We didn't have to go through immigration, they pass you through in Dublin now. The loudspeaker calls out 'McAliskey.' We go up to your man and say yes, and we're immediately surrounded by three men and a woman. They grab the passports out of our hands. One of the men says to me, "We've a fax from our agents in Dublin. It says you're a potential or real threat to the United States.'" She told them to look at the name on the passport, which says Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. "I've been coming back and forth to this country for 30 years," she told them.

"You've evaded us before, but you're not going to do it now," one of the immigration people, the oldest one, said.

"Look at the passport. Read the name. I was a member of Parliament."

"What year?"

"Nineteen sixty nine."

"That made you 21 years old," one of them said. "Come on."

She remembered that she said, "This is crazy."

The older agent said, "If you tell me one more time that this is crazy, I'll put handcuffs on you and throw you into a cell."

"All right, I won't say one more time that this is crazy. But it is crazy," she said.

"I'm going to throw you in prison," the older man said.

He tried the wrong party. "You can't do that," she said. "I have rights. I have the right to free movement. I have human rights. I have the right to be protected under the Constitution of the United States."

Her daughter overheard one of them say, "After 9/11, nobody has any rights."

Bernadette was told she was being refused entry because she was illegally using the "Visa Waiver" form knowing she was ineligible because of her conviction for rioting in 1969. When she pointed out that she had been using the Visa Waiver since 1989 on the advice of the US Consulate given that the conviction was "spent" after 20 years and had visited the US literally dozens of times without any problem the senior INS officer J.E Squires said " if you contradict me I will slap the cuffs on you and haul your ass off to jail"

In a particularly bizarre moment McAliskey, 56, was approached by a junior officer who sat face to face with her and said "Don’t piss my boss off. I saw him fire a shot at a Russian in here last week. It went past my ear. He has the authority to do that".

McAliskey says she is now in the process of making a formal complaint through the US consulate in Belfast and the Department of Foreign Affair in Dublin about what she considers a violation of her right to freedom of movement and her personal security given the finger printing, photographing and threat by the junior INS officer. McAliskey said her detention and expulsion from the US was symptomatic of George Bush’s abuse of authority and of the total lack of due process under the guise of national security in their headlong rush to war with Iraq.

The McAliskeys, who have a long history fighting government repression on both sides of the Atlantic, are concerned about the denial of all visitors' rights. Perhaps, says Deirdre, they are a position to raise a ruckus that other people can't. "However INS is required to deal with things, and whatever their protocol may be, it is not part of their legal procedures that you should be threatened with jail and threatened with being shot," says Deirdre. At this point, she is urging visitors to the US to think twice, "if the state this jumpy, I'd not advise anyone to come here unless absolutely necessary," she says.

A tireless advocate for the Irish nationalist cause, at the age of 21, McAliskey was the youngest person ever to be elected to the British parliament. A witness to the deaths of 13 civilians shot dead by British paratroopers during a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1972, McAliskey narrowly avoided death a second time when she and her husband were shot in their home by a loyalist death-squad in 1981.
Sources: Interactivist, Newsday, Irish American Unity Conference

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  1. Bernadette Devlin — ANTONIUS CLIFFUS JNR.