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January 29, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Japanese musician, hoping to join local jam, denied entry, sent home

A Japanese man, who flew into Seattle on Tuesday, saxophone in hand, hoping to rehearse and rock out with Jay Thomas at his weekly Jazz Jam Session, was denied entry and sent home on a flight Wednesday after immigration authorities at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport concluded he was really here to work.

Thomas said Soichiro Hayakawa, from Nagoya, was a student at his annual jazz camp in Port Townsend two summers ago and had hoped to play in the jazz event Thomas hosts every Wednesday night at the Ship Canal Grill on Eastlake.

The jam session is open to musicians of all ages, and there’s no pay.

Apparently Hayakawa was unable to convince Customs and Border Protection officers as he stood before them at Sea-Tac on Tuesday morning. A presumption in U.S. immigration policy is that all arriving foreigners intend to stay, unless they are able to demonstrate otherwise.

Thomas, a well-known Seattle jazz musician and educator, said he tried by phone to explain to officers the nature of the event – “but no amount of explaining”  could convince them. He wasn’t able to talk to Hayakawa because officers had confiscated his cellphone.

“I was feeling very embarrassed yesterday,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t feeling very proud of the U.S.”

Comments | Topics: Jazz, seatac airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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