By Charles Megginson | Staff Columnist
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, the liberal media has seized every opportunity to plague his administration with scandal. Throughout the past four months, the American people have been lambasted with clickbait article after clickbait article, demonizing Trump’s every move. One music group is hoping to take advantage of this anti-Trump sentiment by blaming the President for its deportation – a move that landed them on nearly every major news network in the country, earning the little-known band some relished publicity.
Last week, Italian indie-rock band, Soviet Soviet, attempted to enter the country after obtaining a visa waiver, a form of documentation that exempts individuals and groups from the requirement of obtaining visas so long as they are in the country for less than 90 days.
A condition of the visa waiver program, however, is that neither the group nor individuals within the group may profit from any work or activity while in the United States. While Soviet Soviet didn’t intend to garner profit from their shows, the venues at which they were to perform would have charged entrance fees. For this reason, Soviet Soviet’s plans would have constituted a violation of the law, regardless of intent.
After determining that Soviet Soviet was using the incorrect travel permit, the band was rightfully detained and deported.
The music group was invited to showcase their talent at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. Because the festival doesn’t compensate their performers, individuals and groups can perform while visiting the United States on visa waivers. But Soviet Soviet didn’t intend to exclusively perform at South by Southwest, even though their contract with the festival stipulates that “accepting and performing at unofficial events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport and denied entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at U.S. ports of entry.” In a breach of their contract and immigration law, the band planned a series of shows at commercial venues outside of the South by Southwest Festival.
While these laws may seem unfair at first consideration, they protect the value associated with the ability to work in the United States. For immigration officials to allow the band to enter the country would be a violation of the laws that have protected the interests of American and legal-immigrant workers since 1965.
While Trump’s rhetoric on the issue has cemented immigration’s status as one of the most contentious issues of our era, the application of our visa laws with regard to Soviet Soviet’s deportation would have taken place under any previous administration.
According to the U.S. Department of State, had the band wanted to perform at the festival, as well as outside venues, they would have been required to apply for either a business visa or performer visa. A business visa applies to “foreign travelers coming to the United States to conduct temporary business, for example business meetings and consultations, attending conventions and conferences, or negotiating contracts.” A performers visa applies to groups that have achieved international acclaim. The Department of State grants performers visas to individuals and groups that “are coming to the United States temporarily to perform as [members] of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.”
These visa classifications have been law since 1965 – long before Trump – when they were outlined in the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act.
That didn’t stop the International Business Times from publishing an article entitled “Band Soviet Soviet arrested, jailed and deported from U.S. under Trump travel order.” Nor did it stop thousands of anti-Trump Americans from apologizing to the band, blaming the new administration for their deportation.
Our laws must be applied equally. To allow Soviet Soviet a pass only because their intentions are good threatens the institution of law and order in this country, and it sets a precedent that our laws are flexible, subjective or even noncompulsory.
On their Facebook page, the band wrote, “We became three illegal immigrants and were treated like criminals.” While one can be sympathetic to their plight, our laws are applied indiscriminately without regard for emotions like sympathy. The fact is this: Whether or not they were acting intentionally, from the moment they attempted to enter the United States using the incorrect visa, they were committing a crime. They were criminals.
English philosopher John Locke, who was one of the most influential figures in the foundation of our republic, famously wrote, “Wherever the law ends, tyranny begins.” It was upon this guidance that our founders created the framework for America’s legal system. Our nation is one of many laws; laws to keep us safe, defend our property and protect our freedoms. The law is not compassionate; nor should it be. The law is to be applied equally to every person, whether that person have malicious intentions or inadvertently violated the law.
Their story proved successful in garnering attention for the band, earning them over 40,000 likes on their Facebook page. That’s likely a lot more than they would have received at their poorly-attended gigs.