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Ann Wright

Ann Wright

Posted: August 24, 2009 09:09 AM

Could U.S. Officials Please Treat a Nobel Peace Laureate with Respect?


Less than a month ago, in late July, 2009, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire was traveling from Dublin, Ireland to Albuquerque, New Mexico to meet Peace Laureate Jody Williams to participate in peace events there. As she arrived at Dulles airport near Washington, DC, from Ireland on July 30, 2009, she passed through the regular immigration line, but then was detained in a special processing area over two hours causing her to miss her connecting flight to Albuquerque.

This is the second time Maguire has been detained by US Immigration in the past three months. On May 14, 2009, she was detained at the Houston, Texas, International Airport as she was returning from a 3 day conference in Guatemala, hosted by four Nobel Peace Women Laureates. During the detention in Houston, immigration officers questioned her about her visit in April, 2007, to the Palestinian village of Bil'in where she was injured by a rubber-coated bullet shot by Israeli military forces during a protest at the fence built by the Israelis in the village.

In Houston, Maguire asked the Immigration officials what she could do to prevent future detention and was told to get a 10-year visa to the United States.

She immediately applied and obtained a 10-year visa in early July from U.S. Consul in Belfast, Ireland. She presented that visa to the Dulles Airport Immigration official. Maguire had had an indefinite visa to the U.S. in a previous passport and had never had any problems traveling to or through the United States.

Three months later, when she told the U.S. immigration officer at Dulles airport that she was a Nobel Peace Laureate and showed him the documents concerning the Peace Laureate meeting she was attending in New Mexico, the immigration officer sarcastically said that detention "is going to happen every time you enter the United States," and "you should get used to it."

Maguire has been publicly outspoken and critical about Israeli treatment of Palestinians and has a long history of non-violent acts of civil disobedience against war and against nuclear weapons.

Not only was Maguire hit in 2007 by an Israeli military rubber-coated bullet and tear-gassed while participating in a protest against the construction of the Israeli fence dividing the Palestinian village of Bil'in, on June 30, 2009, but also the boat that Maguire and 19 others were on in international waters off Gaza was boarded by Israeli military and all the passengers and crew were put in an Israeli prison for seven days. Maguire was deported from Israel on July 7, as was fellow passenger and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

Earlier, in 2004, as a part of her work against nuclear weapons, she traveled to Israel to meet Mordechai Vanunu as he left prison at the end of his 18-year sentence imposed for his revealing Israel's nuclear program.

Because of her detention by U.S. Immigration on July 30, 2009, Maguire had to stay overnight in Washington, DC, at her own expense, as United Airlines said they were not responsible for her missing her flight. The next day, she ended up on a flight to New Mexico with 3 stops before getting to Albuquerque at 4pm, missing all the day's events.

Maguire said that the harassment by U.S. Immigration began in 2009, after the change in U.S. Presidential administrations.

I wonder if the Secretary of State might wish to have discussions with the Secretary of Director of Immigration and Citizenship about how to treat Nobel Peace Laureates, unless, because of her outspoken criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, the treatment Maguire got on July 30, 2009 was exactly what the Obama administration wants her to have.

About the Author: Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

Wright is still banned from Canada as a result of the Bush administration placing her name on the FBI's National Crime Information Center database for arrests for misdemeanor violations resulting from peaceful, non-violent protest of Bush administration policies, including the war on Iraq and torture. She, with six other citizen activists, were detained by Israeli immigration for eight hours, following a trip to Gaza, but eventually was let in, although with restrictions on their travel in Israel.