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John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
"Mr. Queen, who has held a Swiss passport for thirty years, was informed this week that, due to a run-in with the law as a youth, a half century ago, while a minor, he would have to apply for a Waiver from the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, despite the fact he was born in the USA. This would take months, making it virtually impossible to participate, barring Presidential decree, and we know that’s unlikely. But this is not “fake news.”
“Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me one bit,” comments Mr. Queen, 67, from his home in Geneva. “I’ve spent months preparing for this concert. Dozens of others are also implicated in its planning. Funny thing, I gave up my U.S. passport to make life simpler at tax time. I never dreamed I would one day be denied entry, and with such ridiculous reasoning. I am frankly disgusted to be disrespected in this way, after a half century devoted to music.”
Mr. Queen, who until 2016 held dual citizenship with the United States and Switzerland, has previously worked numerous times for the US State Department as a Cultural Ambassador, and participated in numerous tours of Brazil, Africa and Japan. Queen also performed at the American International Jazz Day in Paris several years ago.
Mr. Queen has held a U.S. passport, and regularly worked under the auspices of the American government, for over fifty years of his life. Like many citizens, he’s had brushes with the law, but these have never impeded his ability to enter and exit his native country. A one-time DWI charge and a minor drug offense both resulted in not guilty charges.
For this occasion, the US State Dept had only to apply for an “O1B Work Visa” in order for Mr Queen to enter in the United States. This was done correctly, but after the process was completed, fingerprints matching a 1967 FBI file were dredged up and presented as a reason to prevent him from entering the USA. So now we can see that the infamous “travel ban” is not limited to citizens of Sudan, Syria, and Iran. It extends to a then 16-year-old drummer who once sat in with John Coltrane.
How can you process someone fifty years later for charges that occurred when they were a youth, a mere child? And why punish this now acclaimed adult, a leading light on the international jazz scene, who is now 67 years old? He obviously forged a path and created a fabulous life for himself. Adds Queen, “I feel this is more about racial profiling than anything. It’s all about trying to control everyone. I am not a criminal and in fact never was. When I became a Swiss citizen, I “became a criminal” again in the eyes of US law enforcement. If I was undesirable fifty years ago, why have I been issued a fresh passport every ten years for the past six decades?” Indeed, this is the question."
Jazz great, former Oscar Peterson drummer Alvin Queen, denied entry into USA.