Isle entry refusals
jump after Sept. 11

Rejections of Japanese and
Canadian arrivals more than doubled

The numbers

By Tim Ruel

In the year that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the rate at which Japanese and Canadian nationals were denied entry to Hawaii more than doubled, according to data obtained by the Star-Bulletin.

The rejection rate still represents a tiny amount of the overall Japanese and Canadian visitor arrivals to the state -- a fraction of 1 percent. Japan and Canada are by far Hawaii's largest source of foreign arrivals, with 23 percent of Hawaii's 2002 visitors coming from Japan, and 3 percent of them arriving from Canada.

In the year leading up to Sept. 11, one of every 2,328 Canadians was denied entry here. In the year after, the Canadian rate of rejection rose to one in 1,000.

Before Sept. 11, about one of every 20,000 Japanese visitors to Hawaii was denied entry. Their rate of rejection is now close to one in 9,700.

Immigration officials, seeking to heighten security, have gained access to far more facts about a visitor's criminal and travel record in the United States, which is a primary reason the government rejected more people, said Donald Radcliffe, district director of immigration in Honolulu.

Simply put, more people are being caught lying about their criminal record in the United States, which is grounds for barring a person, Radcliffe said. "We're just getting a lot more information on people now," he said.

Also, after 9/11, immigration officials began checking out all passengers that fly through Hawaii, even those who are here only for a temporary airplane refueling. That wasn't the case before, Radcliffe said.

Visitors who are denied entry typically return home, without a refund for their flight to Hawaii. If they still want to come here, they will have to apply for a U.S. visa. Those who have a criminal record here must get a special waiver, Radcliffe said.

The data on denials of entry was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Honolulu. The records were then compared to visitor arrival statistics compiled monthly by the state.

From October 2001 to September 2002, a total of 135 Japanese nationals were denied entry at Honolulu Airport, a 55 percent increase from 87 people in year earlier. The growth rate of entry denials was compounded by a shrinkage in overall visitors. The number of Japanese who came to Hawaii in the year through September 2002 dropped by one-quarter, to 1.3 million people from 1.8 million people in the year before.

For Canadians, the growth in rejections was more pronounced, with 190 people denied entry through September 2002, an 85 percent increase from 103 in the year earlier. Meanwhile, the total number of Canadian visitors to Hawaii shrunk by one-fifth to 190,636 people from 239,713 in the year earlier.

From all countries, a total of 661 people were denied entry in Hawaii in the year after Sept. 11, a 46 percent increase from the year before.

Nearly every region of the world had an increase in its rejections to Hawaii, including Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Eleven nationals from the United Kingdom were rejected in the year after Sept. 11, compared with five rejections the year before.

Three nationals from Iran were rejected through September 2002. In the year before, there were no rejections for that country.

For New Zealand, rejections doubled to 34 from 17.

Some countries had a decrease in rejections. For the Philippines, rejections decreased to 11 from 13. For Indonesia, rejections fell to 10 from 13.

For nationals of Sri Lanka, an island country off the southern tip of India, rejections fell to 8 from 22.

But most of those markets do not send a large amount of visitors to the isles. Hawaii's international arrivals have long been dominated by Japan.

On the whole, denial of entry in Hawaii doesn't appear to be a problem for the Japanese, said Ryokichi Tamaki, vice president of tour agency Jalpak International Hawaii Inc.

A sense of security is important to Japanese travelers, he said.

The relatively low rate of rejection for the Japanese -- close to one in 9,700 -- is a result of that country's law-abiding, wealthy society, Radcliffe said.

Since the Japanese make up such a large bloc of Hawaii visitors, the state's overall rate of entry rejections -- one in 2,460 -- remains relatively low. At U.S. airports, ports and borders, one of every 625 people were turned away in the year after Sept. 11, according to the Associated Press.

The doubling of the rate of rejections of Canadians in Hawaii has not yet shown on the radar screen of the Canadian consulate's Ottawa headquarters.

"It's just something that hasn't been brought to our section at all," said Roz Wolfe, spokeswoman for the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles, which oversees Hawaii. The consulate may look into the matter, Wolfe said.


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