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Comic Artist Turned Away at US Border for Carrying Work in Progress

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 24, 2017

On April 20th, Canadian Marvel comic book artist Gisele Lagace posted to her Facebook page that she had been denied entry to the United States when attempting to cross the border to attend Chicago’s C2E2 comic convention. According to her post. she was refused entry by US Customs and Border Patrol because she was planning to complete some commissions while in the US; the unfinished works were in her car. Additionally, she was carrying about $700 worth of comics, which she had intended to sell while at the convention. That put her in violation of US immigration law, which prohibits visitors from working in the US without a proper visa.

Her post generated sympathy among colleagues, and was shared several hundred times. The Hollywood Reporter picked the story, and documented the sympathetic response from fellow comic book creators. They cited Australian comic writer Tom Taylor’s Twitter account, in which he commented that he has pulled out of US conventions since he no longer feels safe or welcome here, and that he knows of many colleagues who feel the same. 

Despite the unease generated by the recent increased vigilance of US border patrols, artists have been turned away in the past for bringing work with them to comic cons. CBR reported in 2012  that Canadian artist Craig Wilson was turned away when work he had hoped to sell in Phoenix Comicon’s Artist Alley was discovered by board guards.  Marvel writer Charles Soule (who also happens to be an immigration attorney) responded to Legace’s situation by cautioning comic artists to consult with an attorney before coming to the US for trade shows.

Artists intending to exhibit at a trade show or comic con in the US can also check the US Customs and Border Protection’s FAQ sheet for tradeshow attendees. 

For Legace, a seasoned pro who has traveled frequently to the US, the ordeal was unexpected: “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.” Her experience was made all the more excruciating by the discovery of two unidentified white pills in her wallet (most likely acetaminophen), which precipitated a body search. She’s decided she’s not reattempting entry into the US until she’s “absolutely certain this won’t happen again.”

Below: The Detroit-Windsor border crossing between the US and Canada.
Photo: public domain.

US Canada border crossing at Detroit-Windsor.

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