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A French exchange student describes being denied entry into U.S.

A French exchange student describes being denied entry into U.S.

A French exchange student describes her experience of trying to enter this country to attend school in Traverse City, Michigan and take part in the youth group at the local parish, Grace Church.

I am a 14-year-old exchange student, visiting the Blondia family from France. There are six children in my family, and it has become a tradition for us to come to Traverse City as teenagers. Two of my brothers have already been here, one in 2012 and one in 2013….

…When I arrived in Detroit after an eight-hour flight from Paris, I got in line with my father and mother to go through Customs. The agents asked to see my documents, and my parents showed them my paperwork, explaining that I was an exchange student who would be studying in the United States for a few months.

The agent looked at my passport and then he looked at me. At first I wasn’t worried, but when he asked for documents that I did not have, I started to feel nervous….

Read her whole story here.


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Marshall Scott

Actually, I have a somewhat different question, based on the assertion in the article that TSA would be less – difficult? – in Chicago. Detroit has the highest concentration of Muslim residents, and the highest concentration of residents of Arab heritage (lots of overlap, but not identical) in the United States. Many of these folks are citizens, born and raised in Detroit (it’s an interesting history, actually!); and they still have connections in the home countries. And, of course, some of them are immigrants. So, I wonder if there is not pressure (for good and for ill) for agents to be rigorous in Detroit that is not there (for good and for ill) at other ports of entry.

I do agree that in the article it appears this stay was less than 90 days, perhaps in preparation for a longer stay. So, I would also have the question whether the student visa was appropriate for this stay. For a longer stay, certainly.

Marie Bagwell

Also, in rereading the article it appears that his stay was planned to be within the three-month window. “Late March through June 26.” If that is the case it is either overreach by border control or the policy has changed.

David Allen

As a foreign national who has crossed the US border at land, sea and air points of entry, the first thing you are usually asked is, “What is the purpose of your visit to the US?” When a European has, who has a friendly nation status, has filled out a visitor permit, the correct answer would be for a vacation, to attend a wedding, to attend a funeral, or such. The correct answer is not, I’m a foreign exchange student and the purpose of my visit is to attend school. Regardless of whether it is for 1 semester and is within the 90 visitor limit.

David Allen

First off, as I read the story in the link, the young man in the photo is the exchange student from France. His name is Cyriaque Gilbert. The girl is a member of his host family.

And I have to agree with Mr Lewis, I made doubly sure that I had the correct visa when I came to the US to attend graduate seminary. Yes, it took a little time to file and receive the proper documents, but the US Consulate cheerfully walked me through the process. And coming from Mexico, it was much more strict, with more hoops to jump through than someone with preferred status from a European nation!

The complaint appears to be, that because his older brothers were able to game the system, that he should be able to as well.

Robert E. Lewis

This is not a discrectionary matter. It is a matter of law. The rules for visas are very specific, and they are very clear. I repeat what I said earlier.. It is totally inexcusable that no one in this matter made a simple google search about what is required to stay in the US for an extended period.

It is somewhat like getting married for a second time without ever getting a divorce from your living first spouse. Or like driving a big semi-trailer on a long distance haul with only an ordinary passenger car license. As long as no one questions you, you are fine. No harm done. But once what you have done comes to light, there are serious consequences. And claiming ignorance is not going to help. Any reasonable person would have known to get the proper paperwork in the first place.

Michael McDowell, Washington, DC

We shall agreed to…disagree. I am a US citizen, but previously was a UK one, and also lived in Canada and became a Canadian citizen. I was also a journalist for 25 years. I was once refused entry by US ICE officer for no good reason and I had to involved our broadcasting corporation’s legal advisor to correct this but it delayed my getting to Washington to cover the US election. I was asked who was paying for my time in DC! Well, I was with the CBC, and I was on Canadian territory at Toronto airport (ICE agents are there and in other large countries to “speed” entry). Well of course the CBC was paying. Who else would have been. This happened to a colleague a year before. There IS discretion among ICE agents, like there can be for any law enforcement officer who stops you and does or does not issue a ticket. That is my point. Trump has as his minions said “taken off the shackles” on ICE agents and some of them just love this and put them on innocent foreign travellers, including this young French woman. The matter is NOt black and white. I have never had discourtesy from Canadian, French or any other border control officers except….yes, in the US. They can be forbidding and arrogant and on a power trip. Innocent travellers like this young woman get caught in the trip. We are not yet in a police-like state and we must be welcoming to perfectly innocent and legit imate visitors to our country. THAT is my point and it is, well, a Christian point, in an administration today which proclaims its “Christianity” but is bogus and self righteous.

Michael McDowell, Washington, DC

Agents have too much “discretion” now to err ridiculously as they have done in this case. A French (France is an ally) teenager with her parents! Trump has “taken off the shackles” of these agents who are like policement and think far more in black and white than they did before and they have tremendous power. Exchanges are what create friendships and young people like this are ambassadors for their country and ours when we go to France, etc. I don’t buy the “paperwork” argument. I think the argument above that this paperwork snafu is “inexcusable” is over the top.

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