Bernadette Devlin US Security risk
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey barred entry to the United States
by Laura Flanders Irish activist and former Member of Parliament, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey was detained by immigration officials in Chicago on February 21, and denied entry into the United States allegedly on "national security" grounds. According to her daughter, Deidre, two Immigration and Naturalisation Services (INS) officers threatened to arrest, jail, and even shoot the legendary civil rights campaigner when she arrived at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Bernadette was then photographed, finger-printed and returned to Ireland against her will on the grounds that the State Department had declared that she posed "a serious threat to the security of the United States". The two were travelling together from Ireland to the US to attend a christening. According to Deirdre, the McAliskeys cleared US immigration in Ireland prior to boarding, and received routine permission to travel, but upon their arrival they were stopped at the baggage claim. Detained by two INS officers, they were told that the order to bar Bernadette McAliskey had come from US officials in Dublin. During the dispute that followed, Deirdre said one INS officer used "very thinly veiled threats" against her mother, including, "if you interrupt me one more time I'm going to slam the cuffs on you and haul your ass to jail." One officer, said Deirdre, "pulled his chair right up to mommy and I heard him say 'Don't make my boss angry. I saw him fire a shot at a guy last week and he has the authority to shoot'." Bernadette was denied access to a lawyer and sent back to Ireland. A tireless advocate for the Irish nationalist cause, at the age of 21, Bernadette was the youngest person ever to be elected to the British Parliament. She witnessed the deaths of 13 civilians shot dead by British paratroopers during a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1972, and she narrowly avoided death a second time when she and her husband were shot in their home by a loyalist death-squad in 1981. Bernadette has been frequent visitor to the US for the past 30 years, although this was her first visit in over 18 months. She has been awarded the symbolic "keys" to several US cities, including New York and San Francisco. On her first trip, in 1971, the young Bernadette made civil rights history when she refused to be met by Chicago's Mayor Richard J Daly on account of his treatment of opponents of the Vietnam War. The McAliskeys, who have a long history fighting government repression on both sides of the Atlantic, are concerned about the denial of all visitors' rights. "However INS is required to deal with things, and whatever their protocol may be, it is not part of their legal procedures that you should be threatened with jail and threatened with being shot", said Deirdre. At this point, she is urging visitors to the US to think twice, "if the state this jumpy, I'd not advise anyone to come here unless absolutely necessary," she said. Bernadette McAliskey is now in the process of filing a formal complaint with the US consulate in Dublin.
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