Henry Rousso, French Jewish Holocaust era Historian was detained by US immigration officials in Houston’s George Busch International Airport this past Wednesday for more than 10 hours.
Rousso, one of France’s preeminent scholars and public intellectuals, was en route from Paris to lecture at an academic symposium at Texas A&M University’s Hagler Institute for Advanced Study.
The Egyptian-born French citizen, who authored “The Vichy Syndrome”, was deemed an illegal alien, and awaited deportation to France when the university received notice and intervened.
The incident was blamed on an inexperienced customs officer, but other than the fact that someone successfully intervened on Rousso’s behalf, his experience is not unique. It is not unusual for a foreign passport holder to be detained by customs for many hours, and it only takes one overzealous U.S. Customs officer to result in a visitor’s removal from the country.
Perhaps the confusion stems from the vagaries of Tump’s new policies.
United Nation’s World Tourism Organization recently issued a statement, stating Trump’s travel ban could damage the image of the U.S. to foreign travelers. American tourism is already suffering from changes in policy. These changes project a perceived hostility by America toward all foreigners. An editorial featured in the Toronto Star Newspaper last week advised Canadians to hold off travel to the U.S. until Trump is out of office.
It is easy to trace a decline in U.S. tourism to the beginning of the travel ban. Airlines ticket sales have declined – this January vs last are down 17%, and online travel searches to the United States have declined by 47 percent, compared with the same period a year ago.
The way the United States is viewed by the world influences everything from the number of foreign students enrolled in American universities, to Disney World admissions. America’s 2 trillion dollar travel industry has a far reaching impact the nations economy, so the treatment of travelers when they first arrive merits consideration.