Rob Halford's personal manager John Baxter has issued his own commentary regarding the postponement of HALFORD's West Coast dates after the singer was denied entry into the United States from London, England due to his work visa not being thoroughly processed by The United States Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS).
Baxter's statement is as follows:
"Let me start by saying Rob and I are stunned and embarrassed with what has taken place re: this matter. Furthermore, everyone's critique — pro or con — is justified and deserved.
"For more than 25 years we have never experienced a difficulty in obtaining Rob's necessary work / visitors visas for any country he has visited.
"As a point of reference re: this matter, I've posted below — Rob's case status with the INS — taken from their web site.
"As you'll note, Rob's application was submitted in early September. Over the last 10 years, the application process ran roughly 20 - 30 days, but I'm told the 9/11 crackdown on the INS department is the cause for applications taking longer than normal to approve.
"Our immigration attorneys and I reviewed this matter on October 25th and again on October 30th. We were told both times by INS that Rob's visa would be processed immediately, and he was legally qualified to work in the U.S. Because of the INS assurance — the matter fell off our radar scope.
"What we didn't know was that when Rob departed the U.S. for England in early December to visit with family during the holidays, the protection Rob enjoyed while in the U.S. as his case was pending was immediately revoked upon his departure from the U.S.
"Jumping forward to Friday, December 27th, Rob, band & crew were traveling into the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas for the scheduled dates. In Rob's case, he was confronted by a very aggressive INS agent that didn't care how many O-1 Visas (U.S. Outstanding Performers Class Visa) Rob possessed in years past, and he didn't care that Rob's current visa application was in pending status w. INS. The agent (who was clearly doing his job) took the position that Rob's visa renewal had not yet been approved, and he was attempting to re-enter the U.S. on an expired visa.
"Rob was fingerprinted, retina scanned, photographed, and interrogated. He was given the voluntary option of boarding a flight to London in 20 minutes. If he refused, the INS agent told him he would deport Rob, place him on the same flight, and with the deportation status — Rob would not be allowed back into the U.S. for up to 5 years. Rob gladly accepted the terms to immediately return to London — and enjoyed as best he could the round-trip 25 hour journey in and out of the U.S.
"I was notified of the matter after Rob's plane departed (he was not allowed to make telephone calls while in INS custody). I worked 20 hours straight in trying to secure the processing of Rob's visa w. his immigration attorneys. There were several optimistic moments during that period which led myself, and others involved, to believe Rob would be granted his emergency visa and could re-board another flight to the U.S. Ultimately, however, we were told we would have to wait until January 2 when the California INS processing office could address the matter.
"By taking the INS offer, Rob avoided the heavy deportation penalty, but will be delayed from entering the U.S. for a period of 7 - 15 days.
"This matter has inconvenienced dozens (financially and otherwise) within / associated w. HALFORD — as well as each individual that made plans to attend the shows. The weight of everyone's losses has made this matter that much more difficult to stomach.
"But we will move forward by having Rob's matter resolved in the next 2 weeks, and we'll reschedule the existing dates for late January and work on adding Los Angeles to the routing as well. Those of you that traveled in for any of the shows, HALFORD will provide you w. free admission to any one of the rescheduled dates, or a future HALFORD show date that may be closer to your home city.
"Again, we are red-faced, but determined to make up for our lack in judgment re: this matter. We apologize to each person inconvenienced and ask that you allow us to make matters up to you as best we can.
"Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.