The Story Of Erla Ósk Arnardóttir

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Little did this young Islandic woman know, the painful reality she would find herself in when, 12 years ago, she overstayed her VISA for 3 weeks in the USA.

During the last twenty-four hours I have probably experienced the greatest humiliation to which I have ever been subjected. During these last twenty-four hours I have been handcuffed and chained, denied the chance to sleep, been without food and drink and been confined to a place without anyone knowing my whereabouts, imprisoned. Now I am beginning to try to understand all this, rest and review the events which began as innocently as possible.

Last Sunday I and a few other girls began our trip to New York. We were going to shop and enjoy the Christmas spirit. We made ourselves comfortable on first class, drank white wine and looked forward to go shopping, eat good food and enjoy life. When we landed at JFK airport the traditional clearance process began.

We were screened and went on to passport control. As I waited for them to finish examining my passport I heard an official say that there was something which needed to be looked at more closely and I was directed to the work station of Homeland Security. There I was told that according to their records I had overstayed my visa by 3 weeks in 1995. For this reason I would not be admitted to the country and would be sent home on the next flight. I looked at the official in disbelief and told him that I had in fact visited New York after the trip in 1995 without encountering any difficulties. A detailed interrogation session ensued.

I was photographed and fingerprinted. I was asked questions which I felt had nothing to do with the issue at hand. I was forbidden to contact anyone to advise of my predicament and although I was invited at the outset to contact the Icelandic consul or embassy, that invitation was later withdrawn. I don't know why.

I was then made to wait while they sought further information, and sat on a chair before the authority for 5 hours. I saw the officials in this section handle other cases and it was clear that these were men anxious to demonstrate their power. Small kings with megalomania. I was careful to remain completely cooperative, for I did not yet believe that they planned to deport me because of my "crime".

When 5 hours had passed and I had been awake for 24 hours, I was told that they were waiting for officials who would take me to a kind of waiting room. There I would be given a bed to rest in, some food and I would be searched. What they thought they might find I cannot possibly imagine. Finally guards appeared who transported me to the new place. I saw the bed as if in a mirage, for I was absolutely exhausted.

What turned out was something else. I was taken to another office exactly like the one where I had been before and once again along wait ensued. In all, it turned out to be 5 hours. At this office all my things were taken from me. I succeeded in sending a single sms to worried relatives and friends when I was granted a bathroom break. After that the cell phone was taken from me. After I had been sitting for 5 hours I was told that they were now waiting for guards who would take me to a place where I could rest and eat. Then I was placed in a cubicle which looked like an operating room. Attached to the walls were 4 steel plates, probably intended to serve as bed and a toilet.

I was exhausted, tired and hungry. I didn't understand the officials' conduct, for they were treating me like a very dangerous criminal. Soon thereafter I was removed from the cubicle and two armed guards placed me up against a wall. A chain was fastened around my waist and I was handcuffed to the chain. Then my legs were placed in chains. I asked for permission to make a telephone call but they refused. So secured, I was taken from the airport terminal in full sight of everybody. I have seldom felt so bad, so humiliated and all because I had taken a longer vacation than allowed under the law.

They would not tell me where they were taking me. The trip took close to one hour and although I couldn't see clearly outside the vehicle I knew that we had crossed over into New Jersey. We ended up in front of a jail. I could hardly believe that this was happening. Was I really about to be jailed? I was led inside in the chains and there yet another interrogation session ensued. I was fingerprinted once again and photographed. I was made to undergo a medical examnination, I was searched and then I was placed in a jail cell. I was asked absurd questions such as: When did you have your last period? What do you believe in? Have you ever tried to commit suicide?

I was completely exhausted, tired and cold. Fourteen hours after I had landed I had something to eat and drink for the first time. I was given porridge and bread. But it did not help much. I was afraid and the attitude of all who handled me was abysmal to say the least. They did not speak to me as much as snap at me. Once again I asked to make a telephone call and this time the answer was positive. I was relieved but the relief was short-lived. For the telephone was setup for collect calls only and it was not possible to make overseas calls. The jailguard held my cell phone in his hand. I explained to him that I could not make a call from the jail telephone and asked to be allowed to make one call from my own phone. That was out of the question. I spent the next 9 hours in a small, dirty cell. The only thing in there was a narrow steel board which extended out from the wall, a sink and toilet. I wish I never experience again in my life the feeling of confinement and helplessness which I experienced there.

I was hugely relieved when, at last, I was told that I was to be taken to the airport, that is to say until I was again handcuffed and chained.Then I could take no more and broke down and cried. I begged them at least to leave out the leg chains but my request was ignored. When we arrived at the airport, another jail guard took pity on me and removed the leg chains. Even so I was led through a full airport terminal handcuffed and escorted by armed men. I felt terrible. On seeing this, people must think that there goes a very dangerous criminal. In this condition I was led up into the Icelandair waiting room, and was kept handcuffed until I entered the embarkation corridor. I was completely run down by all this in both body and spirit. Fortunately I could count on good people and both Einar (the captain) and the crew did all which they could to try to assist me. My friend Auður was in close contact with my sister and the consul and embassy had been contacted. However, all had received misleading information and all had been told that I had been detained at the airport terminal, not that I had been put in jail. Now the Foreign Ministry is looking into the matter and I hope to receive some explanation why I was treated this way.

(English Translation: Gunnar Tómasson, Certified translator)


this stuff gets blogged and therefore is true ?
Posted by SCOTT on 2007-12-21 12:19:54
who are the dolts that believe this stuff? heh
No, it's not "true because it was blogged."
Posted by Pamela Troy on 2007-12-21 14:04:40
It's probably true because it has resulted in a formal demand from Iceland for an explanation from the United States. The "dolts that believe this stuff" apparently include the Foreign Minister of Iceland.

Posted by SCOTT on 2007-12-21 14:28:43
he probably is a dolt, pammie. but all he's doing is trusting the lame-brain's claims on her blog. we'll see what the report says. I'm interested to see it myself. but I wouldn't go jumping to conclusions just yet, pammie. it's a foreign minister's JOB to investigate her "complaint". he wants to see the report, fine. let's get to the truth. probably she'll be exposed as someone who was treated within the rule of law but has an axe to grind. by the way, it doesn't appear she operated exactly LEGALLY here on her trip, does it? And WHO on EARTH goes on vacation to New York? heh
And you conclude he's a dolt because.....?
Posted by Pamela Troy on 2007-12-21 23:07:05
She overstayed her VISA in 1995. That hardly warrants keeping her in shackles or treating her in the manner she's described.

What kind of axe is it you imagine she's grinding? And why do you simply assume this foreign minister is a "dolt?"

For the record, my name is Pam.
Sources include Iceland Review, AFP and IHT
Posted by Peter Dearman on 2007-12-22 07:27:09
Disturbed by the strange absence of this sensational story in the MSM, I Googled away to find all the sources I could. There weren't many, but they were well-known. AFP ran a story that was used by just one paper - the Qatar Daily Times. IHT reported it, so why didn't the NYTimes (it's mothership)?

The most detailed English reports were three in the Iceland Review, that country's oldest English-language magazine. I'd bet there was plenty of coverage in the Icelandic -language press.

My source links and summary/comments are all found in a headline repost I created at GNN here:
Posted by Michael VanDeMar on 2007-12-22 09:15:56
One of the reasons it may be hard to find more information on this story is that Pam apparently got her name wrong. It's Erla, not Eva, according to the other stories I see:
Posted by P on 2007-12-22 09:47:42
Thanks for the info. We've made a correction to the name.
I wasn't the one who posted the story.
Posted by Pamela Troy on 2007-12-23 08:11:36
So please don't blame me for the mistake in the name.
Posted by SCOTT on 2007-12-24 07:00:13

do you think it would might be a big help to the officers we've hired to enforce the rules for entry into the USA if we could give them a list of the "unimportant" laws that, at their discretion, they can dedide if they want to enforce or not ?

also, should we give them a list of what procedures they can abandon at will whenever they feel a particular foreign national is nice, or unthreatening ?

of course we'd probably have to issue some guidelines to define what constitutes "unthreatening" too...

hmmm... should these decisions be based on Sex? country of origin ? or just race and religion ?

would that nice ?

should we leave it totally up to each officer's discretion to decide which rules and which procedures to follow, which laws are the ones that really matter and which foreign nationals are the ones to apply them to ?

would that work for you ?

or do you think it might work a little better if we have them just enforce the laws, and enact the procedures as written, and treat everybody the same ?

ya know, the US has pretty liberal policy concerning entry here. that said, there ARE rules, and there ARE people hired to enforce them.
just like they have in every other country. (Yes even Canada and Iceland)

this girl was denied entry. she was held till the next flight, and she was sent back home.
she was given the opportunity to contact her consul. she was given the opportunity use a phone. she was even able to send a text message from her own cell phone at one point, so she was given access to it for at least part of the time.

considering the proximity to the United Nations Headquaters, and the sheer volume of traffic that goes through JFK International every single day from all over the world, how is it that one angry letter by some woman who by her own admission, got caught breaking the law, qualify this as anything close to credible ?

the USA is being slandered yet again by the usual cast that shows up in EVERY blog where there's a chance to sling a little mud at us. heh
I knew it.
Posted by Pamela Troy on 2007-12-24 08:50:21

So you've switched from saying "It never happened. Only "dolts" would believe "this stuff" to "Of COURSE they handcuffed her, shackled her, denied her food or water or sleep for a long period, and held her incommunicado. She was a LAWBREAKER." You've shifted from denying it happened to defending what you originally said didn't happen.

I think the response of officials to the infringement of rules or laws should be in proportion to the offense. Parking violaters, for instance, are not typically frogmarched away in handcuffs and interrogated for hours after their arrest. There does not seem to have been any compelling reason to assume that Ms. Arnardottir -- or anyone else whose sole offense is overstaying a visa over ten years ago -- warranted this kind of treatment.

She was merely denied entry. She was led away in chains, interrogated until she was exhausted, denied food and water for fourteen hours, and held incommunicado. The US has apparently since apologized for treating her in this manner.

Her claim was apparently NOT BS, and your defense of the treatment she described qualifies as an admission that her claim was apparently not BS.
Posted by SCOTT on 2007-12-24 11:07:37
please, tell me exactly where I unequivically said "It never happened," pam.

yes, I believe those jumping on this bandwagon before all the facts are fully verified ARE dolts. heh

and on the original blog this was 'reported', ya gotta love the headline: "A young blonde Icelandic woman´s..."
all the relevant information first. now, had it been an old brunette man from Greece... heh
a joke
Posted by who cares on 2007-12-24 12:09:59
I love how this is big news when it happens to a rich lady (blonde and white, not coincidentally), but no one give a shit any other time.

Wow...she was *nearly* denied entry!

The story is basically saying that the things that happen to normal people everyday, might sometimes carry over into the world of the affluent who do things like travel to New York for Christmas to "shop and enjoy the Christmas spirit".

Its like a warning to the upper middle class. The warning says, "You might think its alright to treat poor people like criminals, but one day you might be mistaken for one yourself, and your holiday will be ruined!!".

LOL @ all of us.
You made it quite plain,
Posted by Pamela Troy on 2007-12-24 13:35:36
Scott, that in your opinion "it didn't happen" when you responded to the piece with "who are the dolts that believe this stuff? heh." I don't see much equivocation here.

As for "jumping on the bandwagon before all the facts are fully verified" did you even bother to verify any facts before you dismissed the Foreign Minister of Iceland as a "dolt?"

The account was not merely "reported" on the blog. It was covered by at least one news agency, and those in the Icelandic government who investigated the claims found enough verification to demand an explanation from the United States.

NOW you've shifted from dismissing anyone who believes the account as "dolts," to defending the actions you were earlier implying were too outrageous to be believed, to complaining about the headline.

Is there any point at all where you say, "Okay, I guess her account ISN'T BS. I jumped the gun when I responded to it as if it were?"

You still haven't explained what axe you imagined this woman was grinding.
Umm.. what the f*ck?
Posted by Meghan on 2007-12-24 18:33:51
Why do some people feel the need to be assholes just because they think people are being "anti-American" or whatever? I've encountered plenty of bullshit laws in my lifetime and I'm only sixteen. For example once I walked into a courthouse with an unopened bottle of Snapple White Tea in my purse, and it was confiscated for security reasons. Frankly, I think that security can blow it out its own ass. It causes more harm to people than whatever the f*ck they're looking for does.
Posted by TheSimulacra on 2007-12-26 08:57:24
"off-base" it should read.
Speaking of Dolts...
Posted by Ian Hesse on 2007-12-27 01:17:10
"I believe those jumping on this bandwagon before all the facts are fully verified ARE dolts. heh"

As if you aren't jumping on the opposite traveling bandwagon before the facts are fully verified? Sounds to me like you think yourself a dolt? But, really, why use the term dolt? I was showing you how it comes back upon you. Instead, let's consider your actually claims. I'll just pick one of the many errors in your thinking and you can either honestly admit to yourself (privately if you wish) that you shouldn't open your mouth so often without thinking about the actual facts.

You stated, "this girl was denied entry. she was held till the next flight, and she was sent back home." Sounds innocent enough. However, in all truth, she wasn't just held till the next flight. No. That would have been setting her down in a room until she could be safely boarded. Instead, it sounds like she was shackled, moved around, interrogated rather than merely questioned and all sorts of things, which if we were to believe even part of, would be far from setting her aside to await the return deportating flight.

The only way these facts will be confirmed would be for a member of Homeland security to reveal their secret techniques that seem to be using on civilians, or else for more civilians who experience this to report it. Thus, we will compose an undeniable and consistent record of what people experience when whisked off into the black box, where they technically no longer exist as a human among us.

I think it's clear from all the other evidence that has been accumulating that our State has begun to severely overstep its bounds. You cannot say this is the America our forefathers envisioned when they set things up to avoid exactly these kinds of unforeseen threats to individual liberties.

May I remind you, one's innocence is assumed until proven guilty.
Posted by Anonymous on 2007-12-27 10:13:12
If you think its right or wrong its still a violation of civil rights and the Constitution.
Moral Confusion
Posted by Clay on 2007-12-27 10:36:07
You seem to be confused about the nature of morality and the law.
The law does not determine what is moral. It is the duty of those who write and enforce the laws to ensure that laws are in keeping with morality.
Yet you seem to believe that BECAUSE something is law, that makes it moral; you assume the conclusion.
Even if this woman HAD been "processed" properly - which I doubt - that does not make what happened to her acceptable.
Wrapping yourself in the flag does not draw any sympathy from me. As an American, I will say that people who lack basic moral reasoning and are willing to quietly accept whatever decrees the government hands down have nothing to contribute to the national discourse in my country.
Read the work of the founding fathers and explain to me how it is that your view of government power is in any way consistent with their vision for a free America.
I had a similar and equally disturbing acceptance of tyrannical action when I was your age, which I estimate at between 14 and 16. Since then, I've learned how dangerous and unhelpful government action of this kind is. I can only hope that you will learn as well, because the vision of America you've supported here is not an America I think you'd like to live in.
Posted by SpringHillVoice on 2011-01-16 06:36:24



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