Italian’s Detention Illustrates Dangers Foreign Visitors Face

by Volker Weber

He was a carefree Italian with a recent law degree from a Roman university. She was “a totally Virginia girl,” as she puts it, raised across the road from George Washington’s home. Their romance, sparked by a 2006 meeting in a supermarket in Rome, soon brought the Italian, Domenico Salerno, on frequent visits to Alexandria, Va., where he was welcomed like a favorite son by the parents and neighbors of his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper.

But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either ... he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out.

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I read this earlier the day and had to think about my USA-trip in late autumn this year. I hope they will believe me, that I'm a harmless and absolutely innocent whatever they may suspect me of.

Martin Hiegl, 2008-08-04

I have been thinking about my next trip as well. What do DHS's computers make out of my name?


and then there is the hidden "OSAMA" in "OLE SAALMANN":-)

But, I have an old visa which should still be valid. The will hopefully only detain my kids!

Ole Saalmann, 2008-08-04

Since Richard Schwartz helped us look at border controls from the other side's perspective, I wonder if there are similar incidents or stats for the German border.

Hanno Zulla, 2008-08-04

I find it very interesting that a Senator could not get Mr. Salerno out of jail but the New York Times apparently could. Powerful media.

Thomas Griesbaum, 2008-08-05

Obviously, if we have done nothing wrong, we have nothing to fear. Due process, etc.....


--* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2008-08-05

"3.300 people out of 8.000.000 were rejected at the border" it makes a probability of 0,4125 ‰

you can put it like you have to travel 2424 times to be rejected.
Or, like one person in every 5 flights is rejected (assuming 500 people on a plane).

in December there will be my 5th trip to the US - omg, i am doomed! (maybe I should shave of my beard before boarding the flight) :-)

Gregory Engels, 2008-08-05

Maybe you should.

Volker Weber, 2008-08-05

Gregory, even one person in 5 flights randomly jailed without charges is one too much. Of course, no system is perfect and immigration checks may lead to the wrong person being questioned more than necessary. That's acceptable. But even not letting him in after a thorough double check would already not be acceptable anymore, if you ask me. But jailing him without charges? No, certainly not.

Ragnar Schierholz, 2008-08-05

I haven't visited the US since 2001. I found it fairly distasteful when I arrived in SF and was grilled for 30 minutes by a border bureaucrat, apparently simply because I'd been to that city once before in the previous year (though as my passport showed, I'd only been there for two weeks). This redneck couldn't seem to understand that we Europeans actually get civilized holidays which enable us to travel across oceans twice a year.

I don't see myself going back there until my government starts finger-printing all Americans coming into the UK.

Bernard Devlin, 2008-08-07

@Bernard - You found a redneck in San Francisco, of all places?!? Well, now I think we know why he had his panties in a twist. Talk about a fish out of water. *snicker*

Rob McDonagh, 2008-08-07

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