The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to protect the United States from threats to its safety and security, such as (checks notes) a play about a disabled man living in rural Newfoundland:
An award-winning local play has been denied entry into the the United States on the grounds it is not “culturally unique.”
The play Crippled has received rave reviews, being named the Overcast’s “Best Thing to Happen in 2018” and awarded Best Production at the 2017 Fundy Fringe Fest.
But a two-year attempt to take the show to San Francisco has been denied by Homeland Security on the grounds that the show is not culturally unique.
St. John’s playwright Paul Power who wrote and performs in the play says they had a number of letters from nationally recognized artists and experts, but this does not seem to have been enough.
Power says the play is an autobiographical piece about a man living with a disability coping with the death of his partner, which makes it personal and a unique expression on stage, but apparently US Border Security disagrees.
The decision can be appealed, but San Francisco’s EXIT Theater has decided to pull the plug:
…the denial letter Augello received from USCIS reads, “The contract, electric correspondences and itinerary you provided is insufficient because it did not provide any details to demonstrate that all of the performances or presentations will be culturally unique events.”
“For them to be in charge of saying Paul can’t bring his show there—they don’t have their expertise,” Augello says. “These [artists] are able to come here [as tourists]. They’re not a threat to our safety.”
The denial letter Augello received from USCIS stipulates that EXIT Theatre has a month to appeal the decision, but Augello says the opportunity has already passed to produce Crippled this season. She says that current policy for allowing international artists to perform in the United States is too restrictive for independent artists like the ones she works with.
There’s nothing “culturally unique” about Justin Beiber, either, but he’s allowed to perform in the United States all he wants.
(Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they’re trying to keep more Canadian performers out.)
Canada has its own rules about foreign entertainers trying to enter the country, but EXIT Theater’s founder says they aren’t applied nearly as strictly:
“We have a difficult time getting indie performers in the country,” she says. “But as an indie performer myself, all I need to go to Canada is an invitation letter—and there are some restrictions, financial, et cetera—but it’s very simple to go to Canada and work the fringe circuit.”
The United States has a particularly ignorant xenophobe in the White House right now, but there’s nothing new about the labyrinthine rules to be followed if you want to enter the country legally. If Trump wonders why so many people try to enter illegally, he could start by reading his own country’s immigration laws. Or have someone read them to him.