Friday, November 28, 2008

Waiving the flags?

The Department of Homeland Security hates tourists. That's the reality we face when we read (Gov. Benigno R.) Fitial to continue pressing for China, Russia visa waivers (Saipan Tribune)

The Christian Science Monitor tells us that Tourism rises globally, but not to U.S. The article notes that "In fact, the annual number of foreign visitors to the US is about 2 million lower than in 2000, leading travel-industry experts to figure that from 2000 to 2007, the US economy took a hit of about $150 billion." Security trumps tourism.

The article quotes Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association about the reasons there are far fewer foreign visitors to trade shows:
On a recent trip to China, Mr. Shapiro met the owner of a chain of 1,200 electronics stores who said he'd love to visit the Las Vegas show – but can't get a visa. While Shapiro may not know why that particular visa request was denied, he does know about the process a Chinese businessperson, tourist, or student has to go through to get a visa.

As he describes it, the applicant must first get to the US Embassy or a city with a US consulate, wait in what can be a long line, and pay a $100 application fee, giving a full accounting of all financial assets. The applicant must then return to the embassy or consulate for a two-minute interview that results in approval for a visa or rejection.

Foreign students face a similar problem. That's probably going to be the next local headline when the regulations are finalized.

There's certainly a connection to the Marines moving to Guam, with some spillover expected to the Northern Marianas. China and Russia are hardly hotbeds of terrorism, though some Chechens have been among the 'foreign fighters' in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military security, visa fraud and other criminal activity are more likely to be the "security concerns" cited in the proposed regulations.

As I so persuasively argued in Immigrate Expectations, the CNMI is likely to get lost in national immigration issues. From recent discussions on ILW.COM, it appears that Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation is very likely early in the next U.S. Congress. Any exceptions for Guam and the CNMI would be seen as precedents and it's hard to see bureaucrats sticking their necks out in that political climate.

Maybe the Governor can bring it up if he meets President-elect Barack Obama while attending the inauguration.

Okay, my tongue is firmly in cheek on that one.

No comments: