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Local man refused entry into U.K.

A local Jewish student was denied entry into the United Kingdom late last month. After being detained for more than nine hours, he was put back on a plane to the United States by customs officials. During that time he was never told why he was being denied entry. He was told his photo and fingerprints have now been placed in a database that will make it difficult for him to obtain entry into the U.K. or any other E.U. country.

The U.K. man who had offered Louis “Chip” Cantor summer work experience and is not Jewish, Kevin Shilling, said the U.K. Border Agency agent he spoke to in his attempt to get Cantor admitted into the country made more than one anti-Semitic comment to him during the telephone conversation they had.

Chip Cantor told his story to two local television stations last week. On Tuesday, June 4, the 23-year-old student told KMBC he was traveling to the U.K. to visit and gain summer work experience and to participate in a fundraiser for a child who has cancer. He left Kansas City on Wednesday, May 29, on an early-morning flight and waited in line to go through customs after landing in the country after 10 p.m. London time. When he got to the front of the line, a female customs agent began looking at his passport and treated him courteously. The routine exercise ended when she noticed the two pages in his passport with Israeli visas.

“I spent my freshman year studying abroad in Israel,” he said.

Cantor is no longer speaking publicly about the incident.

“I am feeling ‘publicized out’ at the moment,” he commented via email.

In the same email, Chip wrote that he never really wanted to tell his story publicly.

“My only real goal with this fiasco is to get my fingerprints and picture removed from their database and the blacked out stamp in my passport removed as well,” he said.

Cantor said he understands people with Israel visas are frequently denied entry into countries all over the world.

“Usually with very little explanation as to why they are being denied entry. It is sad, but it is the reality we are living in. This will, of course, never change my love for Israel, it will only make it grow stronger,” he said.

The Cantor family has contacted the office of Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts for assistance in getting Chip Cantor’s name cleared.

The customs nightmare

Chip’s father Chuck Cantor said his son told him the female customs agent — who for some reason was not dressed in a customs uniform — was very pleasant toward him until she saw the Israel stamps in his passport. Then she simply walked away with his passport without speaking a word to him. Chip told his father he estimates she was gone 45 minutes to an hour. He never saw her again.

“He has a lot of Israel stamps,” Chuck said. Chip has been to Israel several times including two programs sponsored by Young Judaea — the six-week Machon program and a gap-year program. Chip Cantor graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School in 2009 and will be a senior in the fall at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Finally, according to Chuck, a different, uniformed customs agent came to see him. Chip was told they were taking his bags and detaining him for questioning. He was not told why.

Once in the interview room Chip told his father that he was told if he changed any of his answers to any questions, he was going to go to prison.

“He said, ‘Why would I change my answers? I told you the truth,’ ” Chuck said.

Chip wasn’t allowed to be in sight of his luggage and eventually was put into what he described to his father as a detention cell.

“At some point a woman who was wearing a burka came to the cell to photograph him,” Chuck said. At that point he was fingerprinted as well.

As she’s doing this, she said to him, “We’re putting your name and fingerprints and photos into a database. From now on it is going to be very difficult for you to ever travel in the United Kingdom or anywhere in the E.U. It will be up to each individual country to decide if they want to admit you,” Chuck said his son was told.

Chuck said Chip kept telling the customs agents he had not committed any crimes or done anything wrong. Eventually another agent came to tell Chip he was being deported. Now several hours after he was detained, Chip was given the opportunity to call his father.

Chuck said he advised his son to ask to speak to someone from the American consulate or the U.S. embassy. Those requests were denied.

At this point, Chuck asked to speak directly to the customs agent and was connected with Philip G. Yeomans.

“I was trying to get my son into that country. I was very calm. I called him sir, I was very respectful,” said Chuck, who continued to explain that he was sure his son had the appropriate paperwork to enter the country.

After Chuck spoke to Yeomans, he contacted Shilling in the U.K. for assistance. It was about 3 a.m. U.K. time. Shilling called Yeomans.

Shilling noted the conversation didn’t accomplish anything. Several times, however, Yeomans made anti-Semitic comments to Shilling. At one point, when Shilling was explaining the reason Chip was in the country, the customs agent told Shilling that Chip should have lied to the customs agent, adding, “A Jewish kid would find that easy,” Shilling reported.

Yeomans the custom agent also told Shilling any additional attempts to aid Cantor would be useless and “the little Jew will be on his way back to his rich daddy,” in a matter of hours.

Chuck Cantor said during the time Chip was in detention, he was given only a half of a sandwich and very little water. When Chip asked for more food and water over several hours, he was alternately denied, told to “stop pestering” them, and told he could have water “only if you say please.”

In the morning, Chip was escorted to the plane by another customs agent for a flight back to the United States. At this time Chip asked the agent for his passport and was refused.

“The guy walks him onto the plane and in front of everyone, like a prisoner, he says here is this man’s passport. Do not give him his passport until you land in the United States,” Chuck said he was told. The American Airlines purser told Chip that, in 17 years flying internationally, he had never seen anything like it.

Less than 36 hours after leaving Kansas City, Chip was back in town.

Shilling, Chip’s would-be employer in the U.K., is helping the Cantors try to clear the young man’s name there. When contacted by The Chronicle Shilling said, “I’m really so sorry for Chip and the way he was treated. I want to reassure all your readers that if they plan a visit to the U.K., once they get past the U.K. Border Agency they will find friendly, welcoming people, without prejudice.”