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Silly Barriers at the Border

April 28, 1985

The anti-communist hysteria that swept this country in the 1950s has long since abated, but a vestigial remnant still exists in the immigration laws. Persons who are believed to be communists or anarchists or subversives, or who associate with communists, anarchists or subversives, can be barred from entering the country, even for a brief visit.

The latest victim of this foolishness in the law is Farley Mowat, the Canadian author and environmentalist who wrote the best-seller "Never Cry Wolf." He was on his way to Los Angeles last week to begin a promotion tour for his new book, "Sea of Slaughter," when U.S. immigration officials stopped him at the Toronto airport and told him that he could not enter the United States. The officials refused to tell him the specific reasons for their decision or to detail the contents of his dossier.

But an unidentified source close to the Immigration and Naturalization Service has reportedly said that Mowat was barred in part because of a newspaper article that he wrote in 1968 in which he claimed to have fired a rifle at an airplane of the U.S. Strategic Air Command. In response, Mowat told the New York Times, "There are some people in your State Department that don't have any sense of humor." As to his politics, Mowat told National Public Radio, "I have a lot of communist friends. At least I assume they're communists. I've never asked them."

Isn't it obvious that this man poses no threat to this country or to anyone here? By no stretch of the imagination could his appearance on talk shows be expected to incite an insurrection or civil disorder. Just what is the point of keeping him out?

It's not the immigration officials' fault. They are enforcing the McCarran Act of 1952, though no one would have objected if they had been lax in their enforcement. The real problem is the law, which Congress should remedy at its earliest opportunity.

In the meantime, let Mowat in. Keeping him out makes this country look silly, and serves no purpose.

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