Nick Bertke, aka Pogo, is an Australian mashup artist who has a major beef with the American visa system. Back in 2011, the then-touring musician was banned from the US for traveling without the proper work and travel visa. The punishment -- jail time, deportation and a 10-year sentence of prohibited travel to the US -- is now keeping Mr. Bertke from pursuing his career as an artist in what he claims is "the last place on earth I wanted to be banned from."
The artist recently launched a campaign on YouTube, accompanied by a petition on WhiteHouse.gov outlining his plight. The video, which has been viewed nearly 1.2 million times by this morning, explains how the artist traveled to the US several times under the Visa Waiver Program -- at one time participating in a Guggenheim exhibit -- but only encountered problems when he accidentally left and reentered US territory two years ago. (Maybe he should have visited Erika Harrsch's passport office first.)
Pogo is now working to rescind the ban, soliciting advice on YouTube after initially approaching lawyers and embassies. Here's what the official petition has to say:
It is not in the United States' interest economically nor culturally to ban artists from entering the United States, simply because they have failed to file the correct paper work. A 10 year ban is unjustifiable for such an offense committed. We risk losing the economic and cultural benefits that international artists, like Pogo, bring by visiting the United States.
Now, we know Pogo is not without blame -- the Visa Waiver Program clearly states on its website that visitors "may not be paid by any source in the U.S." while traveling in the country. But the situation does provide a new angle on the present visa and immigration debate.
What do you think, readers? Is a 10-year ban justified for an artist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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