Artist Barred Entry Into The US For Comics
Canadian comic artist Gisèle Lagacé, known most recently for her work on Jem And The Holograms, Archie Meets The Ramones and Betty Boop, was scheduled to be at Artist’s Alley and the IDW table at C2E2 in Chicago this weekend. Unfortunately, she won’t be there due to problems she encountered at the US Border with Canada. Here is the full recounting she shared on her Facebook page.
Welp, no C2E2 for me. Was refused entry at the border. They kept pressing about the comics I had and the sketches, and well, I had to be honest and said that I did get paid for commissions but before hand, but since they weren’t complete, it was considered work in the us. Comics wise, I had maybe $700 in value if I had sold everything. Honestly, it’s not a lot.
Was asked if I was the only one doing this as I looked surprised to be refused entry. I said no, many artists from around the world attend these to promote themselves. I don’t think they cared.
My car was searched and is a mess. And to top it off, I was body searched and finger printed too (they do that when you get refused entry apparently.) It was an awful experience.
Things then went worse when they searched me throughout and found 2 white pills in my wallet. There was no identification on them and I wasn’t sure what they were. Once I calmed down after being touched all over, I remembered they were generic acetaminophen from the dollar store that I carry around in case Marc gets a headache as it sometimes happen. I forgot they were even in there.
Anyway, I wasn’t turned around for the 2 acetaminophen, as they found those after I was refused entry for the comics in my car and the unfinished sketches but they kept us longer there until they were convinced they weren’t narcotics. I never took drugs in my life!
And to think we drove close to 2 days to get there. For nothing. (No, I didn’t get anything from that body search. Maybe Zii would think it’s a good deal.) Anyway… Driving back home.
Now that I’ve been refused entry in the US for this, it’s on file. Don’t expect to see me at a US con until I can figure out a way to get in and being absolutely certain this won’t happen.
The Zii that Lagacé mentioned in her post is a character from her mature themed webcomic Ménage à 3. The reason she was denied entry is apparently due to the fact that she would be charging for artwork drawn in the US, thus working without a Visa. Other cartoonists coming from out of the country could conceivably be stopped for the same reason. Fortunately, she wasn’t stopped for any of the content of her books, which could have meant a much more serious charge against her had the border agents determined that they were obscene, assuming that they pertained to her webcomic. This type of stopping at the border has happened in the past, albeit not in a high profile case lately.
Apparently according to US law, if a foreign artist brings anything to sell into the country or does private commissions, it is a violation of law, and can get you turned around at the border or the airport. Please take care if travelling into the country to attend a convention.
UPDATE: Gisèle Lagacé cleared up the sequence of events on Facebook via comments.
The body search happened before they found the generic Tylenol. A body search, finger printed and photo is apparently standard procedure if you’re refused entry. During the body search, one of the guards looked in my wallet and found the 2 generic Tylenol. Since I carry those for my boyfriend in case he gets a headache (he gets migraines on occasion) I wasn’t familiar enough with the look of the pills. I was too nervous while being body searched (hey, not like this happens all the time you know) to put the two and two together and remember they were Tylenol. Once I calmed down, I remembered what they were, but it was too late. They didn’t trust me and we were held up maybe an extra 45 minutes until they were SURE they were Tylenol. But again, I had already been refused entry, and the body search was being done regardless. I’m just glad they finally believed me they were Tylenol, or I would’ve ended up in a second body search that would’ve involved a little more than checking the inside of my bra and panties.
There also have been numerous comments on her Facebook page giving advice to artists when entering the country for conventions. Of course, these should not be confused for legal advice.