The Immigration and Naturalization Service yesterday offered Canadian author Farley Mowat a "parole" to come to the United States to promote his new book, but Mowat quickly rejected the offer, calling it "totally unacceptable."
"I want total clearance or nothing," Mowat said in a telephone interview from his home in Port Hope, Ontario. "Parole! My God, it sounds like I'm a criminal. I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole."
INS Commissioner Alan C. Nelson said the offer, which officials acknowledged is limited, was being made "in the interest of international harmony" after requests from the Canadian government and consultations with the State Department. But immigration officials also said Mowat would be halted at the border again if he tries to make another trip. "When we 'parole' somebody, what we're saying is you have a right to move about the United States, but you haven't been admitted. You haven't passed inspection," INS spokesman Duke Austin said. "The conditions that were deemed to make him inadmissible have not been resolved."
A prominent writer on wildlife and conservation, Mowat has been dueling with U.S. authorities since they refused, for unstated reasons, to let him board a Los Angeles bound flight at Toronto International Airport Tuesday.
INS officials said later that he had been listed in their so-called "Lookout Book" of individuals considered inadmissible to this country for widely varying reasons. The State Department added that Mowat had been denied entry because of information indicating that he fell under a section of the 1952 McCarran Act barring communists, anarchists and like-minded individuals.
Author of the best seller "Never Cry Wolf," Mowat denied ever being a member of any subversive organization and demanded an apology "delivered to Toronto by Air Force One." He said it is "not up to me to prove my innocence" and rejected an INS proposal for a meeting on the Peace Bridge over the Niagara River bordering the two nations to discuss allegations against him.
Why Mowat is listed in the "Lookout Book" remains unclear, although the listing apparently dates to 1968 when Mowat was quoted in a Canadian newspaper as saying that he had fired at Strategic Air Command planes "with a .22-cal. rifle from his Newfy Newfoundland back yard" and that he was declining command of what he said was an about-to-be-formed volunteer brigade because "they will only use blanks."
Mowat said he was only joking to publicize his objections to SAC overflights of Canada with what he believes to be hydrogen bombs.
The debate continued yesterday on NBC's "Today" show where INS District Director Benedict Ferro said U.S. authorities took his remarks much more seriously. "Those are the very things that we'd like to sit down and talk with him about," Ferro said.
Mowat said he never fired at U.S. planes. "I'd be scared to do that," he said. "They might drop something on me." He said he suspects that he is the victim of what he called "our good neighbor policy" -- a dossier "compiled by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police" supplied to the INS.
Yesterday's carefully worded INS statement emphasized that Mowat could "come" to the United States "for the purpose of completing his business," a West Coast tour to promote his latest book, "Sea of Slaughter," about the destruction of wildlife along the two nations' northeastern seaboard.
Austin said the word "come" was used because "enter" has "a legal connotation which our people are very sensitive about." Mowat's name, Austin added, will remain in the "Lookout Book" unless and until "we meet with Mowat and see if the situation can be resolved."
Mowat replied that he would, "in the interest of international harmony," forget about having an apology delivered by Air Force One and settle for "unencumbered rights to cross the American border . . . . If I am not granted this, I will remain in my native land and weep no tears."
A similar dispute, over a visa for a Nicaraguan cabinet minister, poet-priest Ernesto Cardenal, was resolved yesterday when the INS granted him a waiver, for the third time in recent months, to begin a truncated tour of poetry readings and talks. Nicaraguan Embassy spokesman Roberto Vargas said the trip would not be political. "We're bringing poems and prayers of peace, that's it," he said.