PEN America Reports on Impact of Interrogation on Artists and Travelers

by Mickey Huff
Published: Last Updated on

A PEN America article titled “Aggressive Interrogation of Artists and Writers at U.S. Border” reported that in response to the Trump administrations immigration policies, artist and intellectual travelers have been detained and subjected to traumatic interrogations at American airports. Following Trump’s executive order travel ban targeting select countries, individuals with no criminal records were “subjected to aggressive interrogations at the border that leave them humiliated, angry, and bewildered.” Several prominent writers have spoken out and expressed critical views of the policy. Mem Fox, an Australian citizen, was detained in late February at the Los Angelos International Airport for nearly two hours. Henry Russo, a French Historian of the Holocaust from Egypt, was detained for ten hours. Aaron Gach, an American media artist, was detained after returning to San Francisco from Brussels. In only a few short weeks following Trump’s immigration policy changes, a waking fear has  prevented travelers from wanting to visit the US.

It is disheartening to hear the many stories of artists, intellectuals, and cultural figures who are being affected by this travel ban. The US has a reputation for being a diversified and welcoming country with open arms for new ideas and cultures. Mem Fox stated that her interrogation was so aggressive that she felt like she had been physically assaulted. Henry Russo wrote that “this incident caused me discomfort, but I cannot stop thinking of all those who suffer these humiliations and legal violence without the protection I was able to benefit from.” Artists and figureheads being detained and interrogated represent the arts and culture of their societies. In a letter written by more than 60 prominent writers urging Trump to not issue the travel ban, these authors stated that, “it is writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers who are often at the vanguard in the fights against oppression. Should it [the travel ban] interrupt the ability of artists to travel, perform, and collaborate, such an Executive Order will aid those who would silence essential voices and exacerbate the hatreds that fuel global conflict.”

While there has been some media coverage regarding Trump’s travel ban and how it is affecting Muslims and citizens stuck in other countries, the media coverage failed to report on how artists and cultural figures are being specifically affected. The United States has been famously called a melting pot as it has been known to welcome free thoughts and ideas from around the world. Because of the Trump administration’s policies, that reputation has been tarnished and may well have a negative impact on all those around us.


“Aggressive Interrogation of Artists and Writers at U.S. Border,” PEN America, 4 Mar. 2017,

Student Researcher: Anthony Ray and Aimee Casey (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)