The Bush Administration has reversed its decision to deny a visa to Amy Winehouse due to allegations of drug abuse. However, the visa’s issuance will not result in her attending the Grammy Awards. The entire incident demonstrates the disturbing degree of discretion in the visa system, discretion that can lead to the arbitrary and capricious use of the laws governing entry into the United States.
Ironically, I am staying at the Beverly Hills Hilton where much of the Grammy Awards parties are occurring. (I am here to speak to the ABA convention). The decision to deny entry to Winehouse was reportedly based on U.S. While she has not been charged on that matter, she was previously convicted on a drug charge. Despite her popular song, she was in rehab before the trip.It is hardly a great background, but it is also not unique in this industry. She was not convicted of being a dealer and her one charge is minor. Obviously, thousands of entertainers go in and out of the U.S. with reputations of drug abuse. The element that is troubling is that lack of consistently and the fluidity in these decisions. Tens of thousands of people who have prior drug issues are allowed to enter either because they are minor or not the subject of tabloid media. Moreover, where is the risk to the nation in this background. Finally, this country benefits from being a world center of music and the arts. The Winehouse incident has suggested to the world that we may deny artists on an arbitrary basis, causing media frenzies. Whether it was the delay caused by the appeal or her still questionable health status, Winehouse will not be performing live at the show.
The question is who was responsible and how the laws should be clarified to remove this level of discretion. The use of visas to punish unpopular individuals has long been a source of abuse in the United States. Often this is due to political intolerance. For example, Paul Robeson, the American singer, actor, and political activist, was denied a passport and visa to restrict his travels. Winehouse is obviously no Robeson who was targeted for his political views. However, her case shows how the system is still ripe for abuse.
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