Accused of having an incorrect visa, Mem Fox detained by immigration officials at LA airport
DEBORAH BOGLE, Books Editor, The Advertiser
February 22, 2017 9:33pmhttp://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/accused-of-having-an-incorrect-visa-mem-fox-detained-by-immigration-officials-at-la-airport/news-story/aa712d3867d1509c52c3608798e19db5
AUSTRALIA’S best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport.
Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay”.
President Donald Trump had created the climate for this sort of behaviour, she said, adding: “This is what happens when extremists take power.”
Mem Fox. Picture: Matt Turner
En route to Milwaukee for a conference on February 9, where she was to deliver the opening keynote address at a literacy conference, Fox was ushered into an airport holding room and told she was travelling on the wrong visa. This was incorrect and the US Embassy in Canberra has since apologised. Fox, 70, said that by the time she checked in to her hotel she was shaking and sobbing.
“I am old and white, innocent and educated, and I speak English fluently,” she said. “Imagine what happened to the others in the room, including an old Iranian woman in her 80s, in a wheelchair.
“The way I was treated would have made any decent American shocked to the core, because that’s not America as a whole, it really isn’t. It’s just that people have been given permission to let rip in a fashion that is alarming.”
The irony that the two most popular of her more than 25 books published in the US, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Whoever You Are, are both about diversity, was not lost on her. Nor was the fact that the theme of the conference she was attending was inclusivity and diversity.
Fox has visited the US more than 100 times since 1985, and is widely known there as an author and literacy educator.
After returning to Adelaide, she made a complaint to the US Embassy in Canberra, and received an emailed apology. An embassy spokeswoman told The Advertiser consular cases were not discussed with the media for privacy reasons.
Her experience has confirmed in Fox the importance of her new book, I’m Australian Too, about multiculturalism, illustrated by an Indian-born Australian, Ronojoy Ghosh. Fox wrote the book in late 2014 in response to what she saw as a rising tide of antagonism towards immigrants and refugees. “And it’s got worse since then,” she said. “I just feel that the hate speech that is going on is trying to change that aspect of our national character and it would be heartbreaking if that happened.”
Originally published as Mem detained in Trump’s America