As an American, I am as appalled to read of the treatment of Erla Ósk Arnardóttir as you are. Her minor offense does not justify the extreme and inhumane way in which she was treated. I can’t apologize on behalf of all Americans, or of the American government, but only for myself. I’m sorry.
But you should know that many Americans like me do recognize the dangerous and absurd degrees to which our government has fallen, even as we do not understand its evolution, and we are frankly ashamed of it. It has escaped our grasp and become a monster we ourselves barely even recognize, and which we do not know how to contain. Our best hope is that the 2008 election will result in a more democratically minded administration, but to be quite honest with you, I fear we have gone a tipping point and that our future is dire. America will probably no longer we what it once was. We will need your help as much as you need ours.
To Ms. Arnardóttir: my apologies.
For some readers of the Grapevine, this might require some explanation. Erla Ósk Arnardóttir travelled to New York to do some shopping for the holidays. At JFK she was met with some very unfriendly Homeland Security officials for overstaying her visa by three weeks in 1995. She was interrogated for hours, jailed in New Jersey and shipped back Iceland in chains.
I think I am at liberty to accept you apology on behalf of Erla Ósk Arnardóttir. I think everyone realises that the treatment on her is not a testimony on the American people, but a testimony of a government that has long since overstepped the boundaries of common sense.
I first came to Iceland in June 2006. I was on my way to Europe for the Summer and was making a 5 day layover in Iceland before travelling on. After my first couple of days I knew I needed more time to see the country. 5 days became 2 weeks, which became a month, and before I knew it I stayed the full 90 days I am allowed as a visitor. I stayed because I fell in Love with this country, with its people and its culture. I could write pages about what made me feel this way, but lets just say I felt as though I had finally found my home.
I decided I wanted to apply for a work and residence permit to allow me the chance to share in this community. To offer what I can and contribute in a positive way. I began studying the langauge, and my friends here began teaching me about the customs. However, after 10 months of trying I was left with NO for an answer. The explanation I was given was “he is not European, and we will not issue him a permit”. (I am a citizen of the United States)
This did not deter me from following my passion of moving to Iceland. So, in April 2007 I came back for what was suppose to be a week. Again, 1 became 2, and all of a sudden I was here for the full 90 days allowed. I searched and tried dilligently to find a way to receive a permit, but with no luck. Every attempt I made resulted in a dead end. Thus, when my 3 month stay had expired I left with a heavy heart. Leaving my friends and the only place I have ever felt truly at home behind.
I have returned again, here now in December 2007. I came to see my friends and to experience the Holidays in Iceland. I am still pursing a permit, but still not having any luck. There is however a change that I have been witness to and I would like to share this. As I am trying to become an immigrant, I have been following the politics surrounding this issue since my first visit in 2006. I am aware of the problems that have been arising and the concerns this community has regarding the issue. I am also aware of the events both recent and past that have caused a not so positive view of the United States. What concerns me is that there has been a good deal of resentment vented towards me simply beause of where I was born and because I am trying to be an immigrant. There is no need for me to go into details, but I will say it has been a bit uncomfortable at times. I understand why these people feel as they do, but I would like to point something out to them. When you meet someone who is not native to this land, you must remember that they may love this country as much as you do.
Sadly, your story is not the only such example I’ve heard. Our opinion here at the Grapevine is that there is no justification for treating people badly based on their nationality, no more than you can justify treating people badly based on religion, race, or musical taste. Immigration laws in Iceland have been modified to the point where they are one of the harshest policies in Europe on the subject of immigration. Recently, we have witnessed a surge in anti-immigration attitudes among citizens and politicians, and a political party that campaigned on a platform of anti-immigration, and tougher regulations against foreigners. There seems to be little understanding for how immigrants have enriched our society. The Grapevine greatly deplores this development. It is time for the people of this country to stop viewing immigrants as a problem and start looking for ways to help people who choose to live here with their transition to Iceland. Otherwise, we will have a problem, not a ‘immigrantproblem’ but an ‘Icelanders-problem.’