The United States really detained a nice Italian lawyer – a man not of Arabic descent, not visibly Muslim, and in fact quite innocuous and was guilty only of trying to visit his girlfriend. There is no indication that he overstayed his visa or was in any way disruptive, and in fact Italy is one of the countries that we permit people to visit from for as much as 90 days without a visa.
He was apparently detained because the ICE* officer thought it was strange that he was asking for asylum from Italy under threat of death at the hands of the government. I would have thought such a remark was strange, too, if I believed that it had been made. I don’t; I believe the detainee that he never said such a thing because a well-to-do lawyer from Italy with experience visiting the U.S. isn’t going to be dropping those kinds of remarks trying to get through Customs. (I might believe that a prosecutor from Italy might legitimately fear being killed by organized crime syndicates, either foreign or domestic, but this guy sounds like he has private clients or the news would undoubtedly have mentioned if he was a prosecutor or otherwise an employee of the Italian government.)
But even if the guy did make such a bizarre request, a ten-day detention in a county jail in rural Virginia is hardly a reasonable way to deny an asylum request. Don’t people who request asylum have to be given a form or something to turn their informal request at the airport gate into a formal request, documented on paper?
Anyway, once again we’ve managed to give ourselves a black eye with respect to the goodwill of one of our very close allies the Italians, because somebody was really stupid. It’s bad enough that we kill their skiiers and get their journalists shot. Now this. Soon enough no one will want to be friends with us, not even the Canadians.
* ICE is what used to be called the INS.