Friday, 1 February 2013

Leah Goodman and her Visa

I've been looking into the ban on Leah Goodman, which has recently been lifted. I've sent her a few questions, and that may help to clarify matters further. I must say that I am surprised about the JEP's use of the word "banned" in quotations, as if it did not exist or was merely a technical matter. In part, I think it was a technical matter, but that's hardly the whole story. Regarding the UK, a two year ban was definitely in place, and it is rather foolish of the JEP to claim otherwise.

I should add that I regard her interview on Russian television as full of exaggerated hyperbole, not least in respect of banned books, but it should also be noted that the JEP headlines often exaggerate for effect; it is not a trait to which local journalism is immune. My fellow blogger James Rondel has a certain amount of amusement at her expense over this exaggeration, and also highlights the deficiencies in American society which she doesn't mention, although I imagine she is perfectly well aware of.

Like Ms Goodman on Twitter, I too was rather taken aback at the JEP's decision to run a story on illegal immigrants alongside her own case, which she rather delightfully says is a "nice use of 'editorial adjacency'". Of course newspapers do run stories with a similar theme together; that can be seen from a perusal of any papers from the Mail to The Telegraph, so it is not uncommon practice, but it does rather stand out like a sore thumb in this instance.

She commented on her Blog:

"I began to travel to the UK on a regular basis to conduct interviews with the victims, senators and law-enforcement officials. A couple years into my research, my trips to the UK were becoming frequent enough to justify my renting a flat for overnight stays and an office for my paperwork. Jersey has strict rules about outsiders renting property, so I arranged to meet with Jersey's Customs and Immigration officials in July 2011 to make sure my accommodations passed muster. I was told they did."

"The first officer I met with, Jim Griffiths, told me not to worry and that as long as I did not intend to live in Jersey or take a job there - and my trips did not exceed the six-month time limit for visitors - I could proceed with my work. When he asked what I was researching, I was completely honest. He quickly excused himself and then returned with his superior. The two men proceeded to shout at me. I was told that I needed to get a long-term entry visa to conduct my work on the island. I asked if they had changed their minds due to the nature of my research. The two men would not answer the question and immediately escorted me out."

As readers may know, I tend to investigate matters applying principles of historical method. And this has a number of features of truth. In particular, the mention of a named individual is a strong marker of a genuine source. It mentions an incident, although what "proceeded to shout at me" means is unclear; it certainly indicates some kind of forceful verbal altercation, perhaps with raised voices.

I'm inclined to believe her narrative, although of course, it may be failing to mention pertinent facts, which I will return to later. The way she puts it, it was when she said she was researching Haut de La Garenne that problems began.

It is entirely possible, because this has been a very politically sensitive area, that there was an internal directive to flag up any journalists on this. I have anecdotal evidence, as yet unconfirmed, of a customs officer being involved in another visa ban on what was clearly a short stay for what appear to be spurious reasons; that was nothing to do with Haut de La Garenne or any related matter. It seems that Customs and Immigration on occasion have taken decisions which suggest a rather rigid frame of mind, and a hermeneutic of suspicion which borders on the zealous.

Looking at the requirements for a six month stay (available on the States website), it doesn't seem as if she was breaking any of the rules, but it is an unclear document, as is the website:

"As a visitor you must show that you are genuinely seeking entry as a general visitor for a limited period, as stated by you, not exceeding 6 months or not exceeding 12 months in the case of a person seeking entry to accompany an academic visitor, provided in the latter case, the visitor accompanying the academic visitor has an entry clearance"

A "Business Visitor" is a person granted leave to enter or remain in the Bailiwick of Jersey under paragraphs 57G-57L of these Directions, which also mention the six month rule.

Does that mean 6 months in every year? Or that if you leave for a month, the clock starts again? In fact, you have to dig deeper. Exactly what the six month rule implies is not found in that section, but only by way of contrast, on the section on "long term stay".  This really isn't clear, and I think the whole section should be rewritten.

It is only when you look at "continuous residence" - way down in section 234 - that you see what the six month rule really means:

"continuous residence" means residence in the Bailiwick of Jersey for an unbroken period, and for these purposes a period shall not be considered to have been broken where an applicant is absent from the Bailiwick of Jersey for a period of 6 months or less at any one time, provided that the applicant in question has existing limited leave to enter or remain upon their departure and return, but shall be considered to have been broken if the applicant....

Which suggests that you have to be away from Jersey for more than six months for it to count as short term, so if you are here for a maximum of six months, you then must be away from Jersey for six months before returning.

The earlier section on "business visa" nowhere mentions this; it is only if you read on that you find it. It is clearly written by someone who knew at the back of their mind that the six month rule implied this, but didn't spot that it was not explicit in the earlier section, and no one checked to see that made any sense. It doesn't.

Now bearing that in mind, and from her narrative, it seems that she broke that condition quite inadvertently, and was penalised for that.

Her narrative is confused, as she is on the one hand talking about visits to the UK and interviewing victims and Senators, and the need to rent, then in the next sentence suddenly about renting in Jersey. If it was just trips to the UK, what was she doing not renting there and suddenly looking to rent here?

The first part of her narrative makes no mention of trips to Jersey, but in fact, in the JEP article, she does mention that "I have been going to Jersey for years" and proceeds to give examples of her time here; it would make sense that if interviewing victims, Senators etc - as she says she was - that could add up to using up her six month "allowance" of time over here staying a guest house. In fact, it would be pretty likely that would be inadvertent, as the document on Jersey Visas is an absolute model of unclarity, with two distinct kinds of application (business, longer term), not adjacent but separated by almost half a document. It badly needs better cross referencing and rewriting.

What happened after the allegedly stormy meeting is that Jersey officers then put a record of their meeting on file, where it was picked up by the UK. As this record is not public, we don't know what was in it, but it seems pretty clear that this was the cause of her being flagged up and detained by the UK Borders Agency. This comes across by a reply given by Senator Ian Le Marquand in the States:

"It is understood that the U.K. officers did refer to a report of a meeting that had been held between Ms. Goodman and officers of the Jersey Service in July 2011 which meeting had been arranged after she had sought advice on her immigration status. At that meeting, she was advised that the most appropriate immigration category for her to come to and work was as a writer in the Island. As a matter of routine, a record of the meeting was placed on a national immigration database"

It should be noted (as can be seen from the immigration guidelines for a visa) that a writer should be applying under the sections relating to "continuous residence" rather than "business visa" of a journalist, and when she was returning, it was clearly more as a writer, to produce a book. This is reported on vaguely by the JEP as "the wrong kind of visa", which doesn't make this at all clear to their readers.

It is also clear that when the UK Officers detained her later, it was in a manner which was remarkable in its severity. As the petition notes:

"[Without] .any charges, Ms Goodman was fingerprinted, photographed and stripped of her passport, phone, wallet and possessions and held in the basement of Heathrow Airport for more than 12 hours - past the legal limit - without access to a lawyer or the US consulate.'

It should also be noted that CCTV footage which would have confirmed her treatment has either been destroyed or mislaid, but is anyway unavailable. Also answering questions in the Commons, citing Data Protection, the Minister in charge refused to shed light on this shabby affair. This is altogether unsatisfactory.

As for "as a matter of routine", we don't know what was placed on the national immigration database, and how it was flagged up for consideration. To cause the kind of over reaction in the UK, it must have been pretty forceful. Nor, from his reply, does Senator Ian Le Marquand: "I do not know anything about that whatsoever because I do not have the advantage of having seen the files" - presumably relating to this report. He cannot therefore state that she deceived the UK Border Agency, except by relying on hearsay rather than primary documents.

There's a place in the Agatha Christie's "Murder of Roger Ackroyd" where the murderer tells the reader "I did what had to be done", and the reader thinks nothing of it; it is just one of those matters of routine. In fact, in that instance, it conceals a swift murder.

I'm inclined to believe that in this instance, when a report was placed on the national immigration database, the contents of that, and how it was highlighted, was really very far from just a matter of routine in its implications and outcome. I have yet to hear a plausible alternative explanation for why the UK Border Control read the report, and treated her as if she was doing something illegal in entering the UK. I am sure that Senator le Marquand is reporting what he has been told by his officials, but only a view of the original report would show whether the customs officials responsible were being over zealous in how they presented the material.

It is my opinion that the evidence suggests they probably were over zealous, although in terms of the visa required for a longer stay, they were simply upholding the law, without much in the way of common sense discretion. And in the film "Les Miserables", and the character of Javert, we see how that kind of rigid mindset is by no means a new one.


Leah McGrath Goodman said...

I am impressed with the time you have obviously spent researching this. For the record, I had not spent the prior six months in the UK or Jersey. I broke no rule, nor was accused of breaking a rule. As is established, I was on fellowship the 12 months immediately prior at the University of Colorado. You are quite correct that in the UK and Jersey, you cannot stay 6 months, then go back to your home country for a short time and fly right back and stay another six months. This is seen as gaming the system and with good reason. This also is a rule of which I have always been aware. (On all my movements, I have always checked with my immigration advisers at a London law firm.) You also asked about my renting of property. I had never rented in Jersey before summer 2011. Prior to that, I had always rented in the UK (primarily London) while undertaking my research. Hope that clears some of your 'musings' up. Best regards, LMG

TonyTheProf said...

Thank you. In this instance, it looks as if they were deciding on your future intentions as fitting more a longer term visa for a writer than a journalist. Quite why they should decide on the basis of potential future intent is rather strange. However, it does appear that guidelines on granting of visas to Jersey appears to be ultimately to some degree discretionary, namely with regard to the following two directions:

"The power to refuse leave to enter the Bailiwick of Jersey or to cancel leave to enter or remain
which is in force is not to be exercised by an Immigration Officer acting on his own. The authority of
a Senior Immigration Officer or an officer of a higher grade must always be obtained."

That was clearly why he sent for his superior, and we also have:

"Where a person has arrived in the Bailiwick of Jersey with leave to enter or remain which is in
force but which was given to him before his arrival he may be examined by an Immigration Officer
under paragraph 2A of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971. An Immigration Officer examining
a person under paragraph 2A may suspend that person's leave to enter or remain in the Bailiwick
of Jersey until the examination is completed."

Which means that if they raise a question mark about purpose of entry, and duration of stay, they can prevent you coming here until they are satisfied, and quite what "examination" means in these circumstances is not detailed.

Leah McGrath Goodman said...

That sounds as close to accurate as we're going to get. My initial disclosure that I was working on a book and traveling to the island whilst doing interviews was OK by Jersey Immigration -- until I mentioned what my book was about. It was like I'd flipped a switch. One minute, the Business Visitor's visa was all well and good; the next, it was not. Prior to this, my professional junkets to Jersey were easily approved under the Business Visitor's visa (read: the normal visa used by most journalists who are not from the UK but travel to the UK for work). After that run-in, I returned on my own to New York and consulted with the British Consulate General about whether this advice was accurate (I suspected it was not). The Consulate told me there was no reason a Business Visitor's visa should not suffice for my purposes unless I planned to live in Jersey (which I did not and still do not). As the UK runs Jersey's border checks, I listened to them. Unfortunately, Jersey flagged me at the border and the flag was hardly routine. I was placed under de facto arrest, led to a search-and-seizure lockup and forced to do things I did not consent to do without representation (such as the series of bizarre and bewildering interviews accusing me of all kinds of things). This, despite meeting with both Jersey and UK immigration authorities so that I could make sure all was in accordance with the rules. As for the visa I have now, this is the first of its kind. It did not exist before it was granted to me. The UK Border Agency held it up partly because it did not have a stamp it could find for it. I am thankful to have this visa now, but no other journalist I know needs an 'Offshore Worker' visa to do work as a professional in the Channel Islands. (Happy to be dissuaded of this conclusion, if anyone else has contradicting information.) There is a reason why I have been made to turn into pretzel shapes. As you can imagine, my legal team finds this whole things unprecedented and bizarre. The head of the firm told me he has never seen anything quite like it. He believes any advice his firm might give me may mean very little, considering those who are pulling strings re my access and egress to the island. As for Jersey, one of the kinder officers who helped me obtain my visa told me, "I have done hundreds of visas and this is the most nightmarish one I have ever done." Slow curtain, the end.

Anonymous said...

Sir, Would you be willing to state for the record your view on the motive behind Leah McGrath Goodman's banning, unique visa requirement and frightening detention?

She is a highly credentialed international journalist who has, as you are well aware, written for Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, ABC News, USA Today, National Public Radio, Bloomberg served as a visiting faculty member and Ted Scripps fellow at the University of Colorado from 2010 to 2011.

Well funded efforts to protect and enhance Jersey's reputation as a clean and well governed finance centre demonstrate sensitivity for, and careful attention to, any hint of scandal which could lead to unwelcome international scrutiny. Her mistreatment creates the appearance that high level fear of her research on the orphanage scandal was the most logical motive for this hostility.

Would an outside observer, familiar with those verifiable fact known and publicly available, be likely to form any other conclusion?

Nick Palmer said...

Obviously at the nub of this case is the "why" LMG was flagged or banned or black-listed or whatever you want to call it. Digging into and trying to interpret fine gradations of the law is probably a bit of a wild goose chase.

What seems to be too much the Jersey Way is that "they" will charge/prosecute/obstruct/discriminate against you if they don't like you or what you have done or are planning to do (obviously I'm not referring to "ordinary" black-hat criminal activity here).

Remember the somewhat similar case of the holidaying musician who got hauled over the coals by Immigration because he didn't have a work visa when he took part in a local jam session?

As some smarter people pointed out at the time, would they have ejected a professional photographer on holiday here if he had taken any holiday snaps and, amusingly, would they also have ejected a foreign sex worker on holiday here for getting jiggy with it with some local on the town?

It all seems more likely to be just small minded discrimination by jobsworths. I don't see any Machiavellian organised plots here.

Many years ago, when I used to be the coordinator of the Friends of the Earth local group, we occasionally posted reports or questionnaires to all States Members. We asked if we could hand them in at the desk to be put in the pigeon holes by the ushers but were told that this was not allowed, so we had to post them at our expense.

I found out later that the Concern environmental group, who were seen as "establishment" - not like the dangerous foreign revolutionaries FoE - had been allowed to do just what had been refused us, by the officials, without a grumble.

We've seen the Honorary Police simply making up that they had a legal right to park next to the Town Hall until it finally got challenged - they even had marked parking bays, remember?

I'm sure if you asked any islander with a memory and more than zero cynicism you would get dozens of similar examples. It all comes down to the old belief that you'd get away with almost anything if you had a cousin in the honoraries, but if you were a townie "come-over" they didn't like they'd throw the book at you as hard as, and sometimes harder than, they could.

Leah might be speculating about some deep dark conspiratorial dirty tricks which were sanctioned to frustrate her by people who know of and/or tacitly allowed deep dark behaviour to occur without let or hindrance.

I think she might save some time if she realises that anything that happened is more likely down to the actions of maverick individuals, swayed by the MSM's reporting, using whatever power they have, and favours they can call in, to make things difficult for someone who is unlikely to fully understand the Jersey Way yet.

TonyTheProf said...

I'm asked to speculate on the "motive behind Leah McGrath Goodman's banning, unique visa requirement and frightening detention"

The detention was with the UK Borders Agency, and I simply do not know enough about how the operate to speculate on motivation. I'd need to look at other cases etc. Given the scale of illegal immigrants etc in the UK, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the staff became fairly brutal in their handling of anyone flagged up on their systems. That kind of job probably has a pernicious influence on how people behave and respect the people they interview.

I'm not wholly convinced about a unique visa requirement until I know of other writers renting in Jersey and writing books who have not had that requirement. Remember, Leah is coming to Jersey primarily to research and write a book, and not therefore as a journalist coming to cover a story (like those who came over to Haut de La Garenne in 2008).

But there is a case that at least one individual may well have been overzealous, without stepping bhe law. That they are all not overzealous can be seen in how she praises officials there for being very helpful to her recently.

Quite honestly, any profession such as policing and customs probably attracts some people who enjoy throwing their weight about a bit. I'm not saying that is the case here; I don't have enough evidence. But that is at least as likely as a vast conspiracy.