DESCRIPTION OR OUR ORDEAL IN MIAMI
Friday July 17 ‘10
By Jack Laun and Cecilia Zarate- Laun
Upon returning to the United States from Colombia, where Cecilia and I were invited to accompany Noam Chomsky and others in the dedication of the Carol Chomsky Forest ( Bosque Carol Chomsky) in La Vega, Cauca, Cecilia and I were stopped at U.S. Immigration in the Miami Airport. We were told to proceed to a room where some 40 – 50 people sat waiting for their name to be called. We were forbidden to use our cell phones with threats of being confiscated. The immigration official that took us to the room told us that we should have at least 4 hours between our flight and connecting flights. We had about 1 hour between our Colombian flight and the connecting flight to Chicago, plenty of time to make the connection if we had not been detained by Immigration. As it was, we missed our flight while spending nearly 4 hours in the room to which we had been shown. After about 3 hours of waiting for our names to be called, we were called to the window of an immigration officer named Ms. Sewell, an Afro-American lady who was courteous and respectful toward us. She first questioned us together, then Jack separately and finally Cecilia separately.
She asked us what we were doing in Colombia. We said we were attending the dedication of a forest to the recently deceased wife of Noam Chomsky. Obviously unaware of who Noam Chomsky is ( Noam had continued through immigration and customs and on to Boston without incident), Ms. Sewell asked how to spell the name Chomsky. She made no further inquiry into our trip to Cauca.
However, she asked us a series of questions about one of the people we have visited and worked with in one of the sister communities of CSN. When we mentioned that for visa issues for persons we invite to come to visit sister communities in the United States we typically contact the human rights office of the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, who is currently Carolyn Cooley, she asked us to give her contact information for Ms. Cooley. She asked if Ms. Cooley was an attorney working for us on visa issues in Colombia and we said “no”, that she was the human rights officer of the Embassy and that she had been very helpful to us and responsive to our concerns for visas for Colombians we invite to visit us in the U.S.
Ms. Sewell pursued one other area of questioning. She showed us a piece of paper on which were listed two telephone numbers with a 312 exchange, and she asked if we knew where they were from (we said we thought Chicago was area code 312) and whose numbers they were. Neither of us recognized either of the numbers and neither of us could recall calling those numbers. We told her this.
She made extensive notes and finally thanked us for answering her questions and told us our passports, which she had in hand, would be ready soon. We then waited for about 30 minutes while she made one or two phone calls and appeared to be typing up an extensive report. When she was done, she called us up to her window, gave us our passports and said we could leave. We picked up our bag next to the carousel below and went on to the American Airlines counter, where they assigned us a new flight on which we left Miami about an hour later. An American Airlines representative in the immigration room had taken our baggage claim and flight number when we first arrived, telling us that American would receive information of our being held up and thus missing our scheduled connecting flight.
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