PEN American Center, the national organization of writers, this week fired off a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, asking them to reverse the exclusion of British writer Sebastian Horsley from the country.
Horsley, author of a memoir called "Dandy in the Underworld," was stopped at Newark Airport week before last, questioned by U.S. customs agents about his writings and their revelations about his past involvement in prostitution and drug use, then barred from entering the United States. The reason given was "moral turpitude."
The PEN letter, signed by president Francine Prose and Larry Siems, director of PEN's freedom to write program, expressed "our shock and disappointment" at Horsley's exclusion, pointed out that he had never been convicted of criminal wrongdoing and therefore had apparently been excluded because of his writings, and asked Rice and Chertoff "to review this decision immediately so that he can join us in New York for PENís World Voices Festival of International Literature at the end of April."
Border officials can be extremely hard-nosed about foreigners not known to be in love with America. As described by ACLU counsel Caroline Fredrickson in 2006 testimony before Congress, the list of writers and artists blocked from entering the United States, usually for their political views, at one time or other over the years includes Doris Lessing, Farley Mowat, Graham Greene, Dario Fo, and Jan Myrdal.
Not one was suspected of a specific crime or criminal intention. Our intrepid protectors just didn't like what they thought, said, and wrote. You can't be too careful.