Last week, I noted Glenn Greenwald’s piece on the ongoing troubles that Laura Poitras, a documentarian who’s chronicled the lives of people impacted by the American War on Terror, has had with Homeland Security, which has repeatedly detained her and confiscated her equipment on her return to the U.S. after reporting trips. But she’s not alone. Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan was just detained for the second time by immigration officials on his way into the United States, this time to give a lecture at Yale:
Khan’s arrival for his Yale lecture – preceded by a brief press conference – was delayed by over three hours. The actor did not comment as to why he was detained but before he began his Yale address, Khan smiled and took a witty dig at the incident, “It was nice, as it always happens… Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself I always take a trip to America. The immigration guys kick the star out of stardom.” Known for his characteristic humor, Khan further added, “They (immigration officials) always ask me how tall I am and I always lie and say 5 feet 10 inches. Next time I am going to get more adventurous. (If they ask me) what colour are you, I am going to say white.”
You might think that one of the advantages of integrating all of the government’s security functions into a single bureaucracy with unified databases might be that, when you wrongly detain and question someone, you could put a note in their file to so immigration officials who deal with this person in the future know to be polite and careful, and try not to repeat those same mistakes. Hassling artists because they’re brown, or because they question the outcomes of U.S. policy is not an efficient and effective way to ensure the security of America, or to win supporters for American policy.