A hostile environment for performing artists

Sackbut alerted us to this infuriating clusterfuck:

Immigration lawyers believe the State Department has been denying more artist visas after President Trump ordered heightened vetting for all visa applications earlier this year.

In a March 6 memo, released after Trump issued his second executive order on immigration, the president directed “immediate implementation of additional heightened screening and vetting protocols and procedures for issuing visas.” The memo, according to some prominent attorneys who specialize in artist travel, has further complicated the subjective process international artists must navigate to perform in the U.S., and in some cases, [had an impact on] programming for local arts organizations.

Programmers at the Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF), a Grammy-winning event that caters to Renaissance and Baroque music enthusiasts, were surprised and dismayed in May, when, for the first time, U.S. immigration services denied four of the 26 visa applications BEMF applied for. The visas were for the four young women of the German group, Boreas Quartett Bremen. The group, who plays handmade recorders, had to cancel their performance in Boston.

What.the.hell. What’s the thinking here? One of them might be a terrorist on the side? You just never can tell with people weird enough to play handmade recorders?

“I was rather shocked. Our audience has really missed out on a unique and beautiful performance,” said Shannon Canavin, the festival’s visa specialist. Canavin has been filing artists’ applications for more than 20 years and had not encountered a denial until this year.

In 2016, the U.S. issued more than 63,866 O and P visas, which enable athletes, entertainment groups or other people with extraordinary abilities in the sciences or business and those traveling with them to visit the U.S. for short term contractual employment and performances. In March and April of this year, the only months the State Department has released data for, the U.S issued only 697 of those visas. (Monthly tallies for visas issued in 2016 are not available.) A State Department spokesperson said the government released information on the number of visas issued in March and April after the president ordered the department to “quantify the national security work of our consular operations around the world.”

S0 last year the monthly rate was 5322, so 10,644 for two months, compared to 697 for two months this year. Bit of a drop.

It’s insane. It’s appalling. Cultural exchanges of this kind are good things, and piggy ignorant philistine vulgarian Trump is stamping them out, because he’s so stupid he thinks “foreigner=likely terrorist” – except of course for the citizens of our beloved ally Saudi Arabia.

“What we’re seeing right now is an awful lot more skepticism from officers,” said Matthew Covey, an immigration lawyer and the co-founder of Tamizdat, a nonprofit that advises and advocates for traveling artists. “The delays that you’re going to be experiencing in getting those visas are longer than they would have been a year ago… What is a broader effect, I think, is that there is a pervasive sense in the international community that the U.S. is becoming a hostile environment for performing artists.”

Of course.

He shames us all. He shames the country and he shames us.

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