Aboriginal activist refused entry to US

Australian - 20th february 2003
Author: Jim Buckell, Robert Lusetich * Los Angeles correspondent

ABORIGINAL activist and University of Melbourne professor Marcia Langton has been barred from entering the US, allegedly for supplying false information on her entry papers.

Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Australian that Professor Langton indicated on her entry papers that she did not have any prior criminal charges. However, Immigration and Naturalisation Service agents are believed to have checked and discovered prior charges from the early 1970s, when Professor Langton was living in New York.

A friend of Professor Langton said she maintains the charges were quashed and she has no standing conviction against her.

Professor Langton, 51, was held and returned to Australia on the next flight, on Sunday night.

She was travelling to the Santa Cruz campus of the University of California to deliver tomorrow a lecture on culture wars for the Centre for Cultural Studies.

Professor Langton, who is on six months' study leave, is back in Melbourne, but has refused to comment. Despite requests over two days for a response, the University of Melbourne has also refused to comment.

Sources said that she had entered the US without trouble several times over the past 30 years. The Australian understands she was arrested during a raid on a house she was sharing with others in New York in the early 1970s. In the aftermath of September 11, the INS has toughened its resolve as part of a crackdown on border control.

The INS was blamed by many critics for allowing known terrorists, including some of the September 11 suicide bombers, to enter the US.

INS Los Angeles spokesman Francisco Arcaute would not be drawn into the particulars of Professor Langton's case, but said that ``especially in the aftermath of 9-11, we strongly urge people not to lie'' on their documentation.

He said entry could be denied because of past criminal convictions.

``But I underline could,'' Mr Arcaute said.

In recent months, several Australians have been turned away because of long-ago criminal convictions.

``What's happened since 9-11 is that we are now better connected than we have ever been and we have access to police databanks, access to far more information,'' Mr Arcaute said.

``Just because you've been in and out of the US over the years without a problem doesn't mean that it will continue to be like that if there is something in your past which could result in entry denial.''