At the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, a leading and prominent French historian was detained for more than 10 hours because of a misunderstanding of visa rules. The French historian, Henry Rousso, was going to a conference at Texas A&M University after the 11 hour flight from Paris. After being detained, Rousso contacted the Texas A&M’s director of the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Richard Golsan. When asked about the occurrence, Golsan stated, “When he called me with this news two nights ago, he was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out.” After receiving word from Rousso and Golson, the University’s president contacted the director for Texas A&M Immigrant Rights Clinic, Fatma Marouf, who had experience with the regulations needed to get Rousso out of custody.
Rousso released a statement on Twitter, saying that he was detained in Houston for 10 hours by an inexperienced officer. Rousso had a visitor’s visa with which one cannot engage in work and other work activities in the country; however, it does have some exceptions when pertaining to academics. Fatma Marouf, a Texas A&M University law professor, speculated to The Guardian regarding the “inexperienced” border patrol, saying “my best guess is that it was his honorarium, I don’t think the officer who decided to detain him really understood the visa requirement and the technicalities on getting an honorarium which are permitted under his visa.”
In addition, Marouf attributes the airport’s action to last month’s presidential travel ban and President Trump’s platform of restricting and enforcing border control. In regards to the situation and the presidential order, Marouf states that “it seems like there’s much more rigidity and rigor in enforcing these immigration requirements and the technicalities of every visa”.
The Guardian in regards to the detention of Rousso and Trumps immigration orders reports that “Golsan added that there was concern in the academic community that Rousso’s predicament was a sign that the anti-immigrant ‘spirit of Trump’ has emboldened enforcement officials to behave overzealously”. In this case, the executive order may have been the cause of the detainment of the French professor. The presidents order may also have added to Roussos treatment at the airport. The Guardian reports that “The professor said that even though an immigration agent called him to confirm details in Rousso’s story at about 4.30pm on Wednesday, he was not released for another eight hours or so and grew anxious that he might be shackled and handcuffed if forced to fly back to France”.
The French Presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, is using Rousso’s detainment as a means to gain press as well as to reiterate previous statements on the treatment of scientist and researchers in France. Macron released a statement via Twitter that “There is no excuse for what happened to Henry Rousso, our country is open to scientists and intellectuals”. While Rousso is flying back to France after his symposium at Texas A&M, two more French Scientist are set to arrive later this year to attend another convention at Texas A&M.