Well, just when I thought the extraordinary missteps and bungled results of the Bush administration's catastrophic failure to grasp even the basic fundamentals of migratory policy were near their end, he did it again: amidst much pomp and circumstance in the Rose Garden yesterday, and utterly oblivious to the consequences of his actions, the President announced the following :
of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to
be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of
these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or
tourism without a visa." [Emphasis supplied]
You would think that after eight years, SOMEONE in the Administration would have figured out what has been obvious since the inception of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP): the notion that the VWP is an across-the-board gift to be given to our trading partners without a careful consideration of their migratory realities spawns illegal immigration.
When the VWP was first started, the main beneficiaries were Western Europeans. It made perfect sense given the fact that, historically, Western Europeans rarely overstay their visas. The 90 day visa-less entry was a great way to facilitate U.S. travel for these folks and it worked fine. [Remember, folks: while the myth of the illegal alien conjures up a Mexican leaping a fence, the truth is that the majority of those Mexicans leap that fence back the very same day, having done their day's manual labor in a job no American would touch; the true measure of illegal immigration is not border jumpers, but those who enter legally with visas and never leave.] So the little green cards were issued, visa lines in Europe went down, and all was good.
But then others started clamoring for participation, and the VWP criteria effectively became simply a checklist which, when completed, meant the U.S. automatically gave the country VWP benefits...without so much as a moment of pause to consider its potential migratory consequences on the U.S. But since the U.S. remains one of the very few countries in the world which
only tracks inbound visitors and not outbound, we don't know who's left
and who's overstayed until it's late. In fact, given the haphazard
collection of entry documents (which is handled by airline counter
personnel), we don't know until it's WAY too late...and we have no clue
where these folks are.
Soon came Argentina, asking for Visa Waivers, and BOY did we give them Visa Waivers. In Miami alone I would estimate that there are thousands of Argentine nationals who entered on the Visa Waiver program, never having been interviewed by a visa officer, and who have been here 5+ years, working illegally with fake social security numbers. The vast majority of these folks -- all of whom willfully overstayed the 90 day limitation -- are decent, hardworking people just trying to make a living. I would further add that the majority of these folks fill the countless jobs which (again) American workers shun, in food service, in construction, etc.
But they are illegal aliens.
When it became glaringly obvious to the federal government that although it was issuing many, many little green I-94Ws to these arriving planeloads of Argentines (all Disney-bound, naturally) extremely few of the cards werer making it back to the authorities...they figured it out and took Argentina off the list. And back for the visa interview they had to go. And it was quite clear: just because Argentina was improving politically and economically and was a valued trading partner, the VWP was terribly abused and thousands of these folks are illegally in the U.S., without recourse or the ability to normalize status in the vast majority of cases.
So now we are giving the Visa Waiver to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea. I don't know how this will unfold as far as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, but I can tell you this much: Florida, New York, and much of the East coast have significant numbers of Czech, Hungarian, and Slovak citizens who are illegal aliens, by virtue of overstaying their B1/B2 visas. And getting a visa in Seoul is hardly a piece of cake, even these days. What do YOU think is going to happen?
It blows my mind that in this climate of triggerpoint, across-party-lines demand for migratory controls (both for the sake of protecting U.S. jobs and to keep terrorists out of the U.S.), President Bush is so out of touch that he is granting Visa Waivers to nations whose citizens will do EXACTLY as the Argentines did: bolt to the Land of the Free for a quick trip to Disney...and never, ever leave.