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July 27th, 2017

Insight

Ebola Yes, Bagpipes No

Mark Steyn

By Mark Steyn

Published Oct. 6, 2014

HazMat workers look at an ambulance upon its arrival at Island Hospital in Monrovia

Thomas Eric Duncan has the distinction of being America's Patient Zero - the first but not the last person to develop Ebola symptoms in the United States.

Is he a US citizen? No, he's Liberian.

Is he a resident of the United States? No, he landed at Washington's Dulles Airport on September 20th, in order to visit his sister and having quit his job in Monrovia a few weeks earlier.

So he's a single unemployed man with relatives in the US and no compelling reason to return to his native land. That alone is supposed to be cause for immigration scrutiny.

In addition, visitors from Liberia have the fifth highest "visa overstay rate" in the United States. That's to say, they understand very clearly that all that matters is getting in. Once you're in, they'll never get you out.

And, of course, Liberia is one of the hottest spots of Ebola's West African "hot zone". It's been all over the front pages, except apparently in The US Customs & Border Protection Staff Newsletter, where it rated a solitary "News In Brief" item at the foot of page 37.

Just to give you an example of how hard-assed the boneheads of America's immigration bureaucracy can be when they want to:

The legendary Gord Sinclair, longtime news director of CJAD in Montreal, had a ski place near Jay in northern Vermont, and he invited his engineer on the show to come down and visit him. "What's the purpose of your visit?" asked the agent at the small rural border post.

"Oh, just a relaxing weekend at my boss' place," said Gord's colleague affably, and then chortled, "although I don't know if it'll be that relaxing. He'll probably have me out in the yard chopping wood all day."

So the immigration agent refused him entry on the grounds that he would be working illegally in the United States.

They all had a good laugh about that back on the air on Monday, but it took forever to straighten out. A single man with contacts in the United States: He says he's coming for the weekend, but we all know any Montrealer would willingly trade a job at Quebec's Number One anglo radio station for casual yard work in Vermont, right?

And yet the unemployed guy from an Ebola hot zone gets in.

Every day CBP agents pull stuff like that weekend-in-Vermont thing, screwing over perfectly obviously law-abiding persons - tourists, businessmen, legal residents and, indeed, citizens.

But the Ebola guy gets in.

What is the priority of America's deranged border regime right now? As I wrote two months ago:

This weekend [Campbell Webster] was returning to New Hampshire from a competition in Canada, which is how a newspaper story comes to open with a sentence never before written in the history of the English language:

'BAGPIPERS have expressed their fear over a new law which led to two US teenagers having their pipes seized by border control staff at the weekend.'

They can chisel that on the tombstone of the republic. On the northern border, bagpipers are "expressing their fear", while on the southern border gangbangers have no fear and stroll through the express check-in.

As do Ebola-bearing Liberians at Dulles. US border security devotes more time and resources to Campbell Webster of Concord bringing in a bagpipe than to Thomas Duncan of Monrovia bringing in Ebola.

Come to that, US border security devotes more time and resources to my kid bringing in a Kinder chocolate egg from Canada than to Thomas Duncan bringing in Ebola. Speaking of which, I recount the Great Kinder Egg Showdown, which comes out this month.


If you're wondering why the seizure of my kids' chocolate eggs is in the same book as war and terrorism and all the big-boy stuff, the answer is it's part of the same story. To function, institutions have to be able to prioritize - even big, bloated, money-no-object SWAT-teams-for-every-penpusher institutions like the US Government. You can't crack down on Kinder eggs, bagpipes and Ebola: At a certain point, you have to choose. My line with the Homeland Security guys is a simple one: every 20 minutes you spend on me, or my kids' chocolate eggs, or Cameron Webster's bagpipe is 20 minutes you're not spending on the guy with Ebola, or Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The price of bagpipe scrutiny is a big hole blown in the lives of American families attending the Boston Marathon, or a bunch of schoolkids in Dallas having to be quarantined for a vicious, ravaging disease with a high fatality rate.

But, of course, giving additional attention to West African visitors would be racist. Not like terrorizing Scotsmen over their bagpipes.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security expands its curious priorities from raiding Boston strip clubs for selling knock-off Red Sox T-shirts to raiding private homes to seize vintage cars that don't meet EPA standards. And yet more emission creep:

Homeland Security Is Now Helping To Protect Communities From The Effects Of Climate Change

Big Government is, inevitably, stupid government. The bigger it gets the more it will focus on trivia, and the less it will even be able to discern the few things it should be doing. But something more pathological is going on here: "Homeland Security" is more interested in controlling law-abiding Americans than protecting them.

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Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human rights activist.

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