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  • « The Week on GNW (Dec. 14-20) | Main | Watch the Warren bait and switch »

    December 22, 2008

    How to lose friends and influence

    Posted by: Chris

    USBrazilPride2 Unless you've traveled outside the U.S. and Europe, or have friends from places like Latin America, Africa and Asia, you probably didn't know that one of the biggest black eyes on America internationally is this country's arrogant approach to immigration -- on the temporary kind.

    As in so many other areas, the Bush administration used the horror of 9/11 and the specter of another terrorist attack to make temporary visas, whether for work, study or tourism, much much more difficult to obtain, even from parts of the world with no significant history of terrorism.

    I've been asked more times than I care to count why my partner doesn't just come to the U.S. to visit when I max out my Brazilian tourist visa. Would that it were so easy. For just a taste, check out this story by São Paulo native Jose Guzzardi, who managed to get one of those visas to study at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas:

    I personally invited [one of my best friends, considered part of the family] to come to my graduation from UCA. Even though she had work responsibilities, she made arrangements to come and scheduled her visa interview [with the U.S. Consulate]. …

    After her interview was over, she called me to tell me that the American consulate in Sao Paulo denied her visa because there was not enough evidence that she would come back to Brazil, even though she had already made flight reservations to return one week after my graduation. The person interviewing her rejected to even look at the flight reservations or any of the other documents that she brought with her, which included a letter of recommendation that I had written for her.

    Besides being saddened by not being able to come to my graduation, she was extremely upset with the “arrogance of the American people.” She told me, “I cannot believe how arrogant Americans are… she didn’t even look at my documents before denying my visa.”

    Consulate officers in the Bush State Department make it clear to citizens of most any country outside Western Europe that they are presumed liars who intend to overstay their visas and live in the U.S. indefinitely, until proven otherwise. So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants, but those who follow the rules and come prepared with documentation are treated with disrespect and disdain based on little more than their country of origin.

    The impact -- besides reinforcing an arrogant tone set from the White House down for the last eight years? The loss of billions in tourist tollars. Guzzardi explains:

    The U.S. travel Industry is worth about $713 billion dollars a year and creates 7.5 million jobs across the country. Tourism is one of America’s most important industries, and … a strong tool for public diplomacy and a great way to improve America’s image abroad.

    However, the number of foreign tourists coming to the United States has decreased considerably in the past few years. In 1992, 9% of people who crossed international borders came to the United States. In 2000, this number was reduced to 7.5%, and just last year, it went down to 6%. … One of the major reasons for this decrease is the difficulty for foreigners to obtain tourist visas to come to America. …

    In Brazil, the visa application process is very complex and time-consuming, taking an average of 100 days for someone to obtain a tourist visa. All Brazilians must be personally interviewed for the visa, and they have to pay a $100 dollar, non-refundable fee for the interview. These interviews last for about three minutes, and the interviewer at the consulate must determine whether the applicant is someone who is “eligible” to come to the United States.

    All of this hardship to obtain a visa has directly affected the number of Brazilians visiting the United States. In 1998, 1 million people from Brazil visited America. In 2000, this number was reduced to 750,000 and just last year, it dropped to 500,000. This has a direct effect in the American economy, since Brazilians are big spenders - the average Brazilian spends about $2,000 dollars per trip. This means that the United States just lost $500 million dollars from the Brazilians, who decided to visit Europe instead (the number of Brazilian tourists in Europe increased from 500,000 to two million in the past six years).

    Will Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton restore respect to citizens of Latin America, Africa, Asia who follow the immigration rules and apply for temporary visas? Hope But Verify.

    P.S. Don't forget to click on the "Change America" badge along the lefthand side of the blog and vote for "Equal Immigration Rights" as a policy priority for the Obama administration. It's still ranked No. 2 among all 121 immigration proposals on Change.org.

    (Pictured is "U.S.-Brazilian Pride" painted by the love of a certain blond blogger's life).

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    Comments

    1. Andoni on Dec 23, 2008 6:20:37 AM:

      Good post. Relevant post.

      As you know I travel to Asia a lot and am partnered with an Asian. I can tell you countless such stories of visa denials and mistreatment by the US Embassy officials of Thais applying for a visa.

      I know of one individual who was so rudely, inhumanely treated that he starts crying every time he passes the US Embassy -- or has to tell the story. It really sounded like a form of post traumatic stress syndrome.

      And as you point out, it would certainly help the tourist economy, which at this time of deep recession, would count as an economic stimulus package all by itself.

    1. jpeckjr on Dec 23, 2008 11:18:43 AM:

      Great post, Chris. Our immigration system needs to be overhauled in every aspect. Legal immigration is so convoluted and difficult that it is almost impossible. The treatment of tourist visa applicants is arbitrary and capricious, which I learned in administrative law are not valid bases for public policy. That said, every country has a compelling interest to manage immigration and secure its borders. Our current law, policies, and practices are not resulting in either well-managed immigration or secure borders. They are resulting only in contempt for America.

      The only policy initiative of the Bush Administration I supported and encouraged people I know to support was his immigration reform effort. But by that time, he had created such a climate of fear of "them" (meaning everyone not a white native-born American) that it was impossible to garner public support.

      My greatest hope for the coming days under a new president is that we will stop being so damned afraid all the time.

    1. the troll on Dec 23, 2008 1:25:27 PM:

      We should give immigration priority to people of finicial means or people of a high level of education. We should end the extended family route into the USA.

    1. Chris on Dec 23, 2008 2:47:17 PM:

      Ahh, don't ya just love liberal elitism? I can just see the new Statue of Liberty: "Give me your well-rested and well-fed,
      Your pedigreed intellectuals yearning for an even higher salary and a better 401(k)..."

    1. Chuck on Dec 23, 2008 2:56:15 PM:

      Chris, you wrote: "Consulate officers in the Bush State Department make it clear to citizens of most any country outside Western Europe that they are presumed liars who intend to overstay their visas and live in the U.S. indefinitely, until proven otherwise. So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants, but those who follow the rules and come prepared with documentation are treated with disrespect and disdain based on little more than their country of origin."

      At last. Someone finally has the courage to say what I have been saying for the past six years. Only, when I say it, I get called a capitalist pig, a bigot and a racist who has no heart and doesn't care about other, less fortunate people.

      I could not agree with you on the comment. With the frightening rise of theocracy and the systematic infiltration of religious influence in our secular government, this country is returning to pre WWII isolationist policies that smack of utter contempt for “feriners” and everyone and everything outside of it’s borders. This administration we have suffered under for the past 8 years has not missed one single opportunity to display its brazen contempt and hostility toward everyone, starting with France shortly after the invasion of Iraq.

      Apparently, we are now living in a country that looks down on those who are educated, work, pay taxes and are able to take care of ourselves themselves financially, with scorn and derision while rewarding the mostly uneducated, poor illegal aliens and their progeny with every form of financial assistance known to mankind. A modern version of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest….steal from the rich, to give to the poor. It’s still stealing, no matter how noble the cause, especially when practiced by the ignoble people in Washington who are the ones doing the stealing.

      Like Chris and Andoni, my Philippine partner and I are one of the some 32,000 multinational couples who cannot marry, get a green card or even a student visa for our partners to come to this country to study. As American taxpayers, we subsidize the education of illegal aliens progeny, including huge discounts offered by American universities to illegal aliens, yet we are denied the right to support our significant other in a legal, loving and caring relationship. Let's hear it for preserving the "institution of marriage" and the "reservation of the family" ala American-style.

      It’s no great secret, that the overwhelming majority of the Latino community voted in favor of Proposition 8, which is even more maddening. This quote is taken directly from the Los Angeles Times.

      “More than half of Latino voters supported Proposition 8.”

      http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2008/11/70-of-african-a.html

      Mind you, my partner, a teacher in his hometown university, already holds two degrees, one from the university he taught in and another from the University of Sydney in Australia. Three times now, we have paid the $100 USD application fee to The American Embassy in Manila, (that is more than a month's pay for many Filipinos), made the six-hour trip by car to Manila with gasoline at $6.000 Gal. USD, plus a $100 USD hotel room for the night, only to have the application tossed back in my partners face without even looking at the documents as you described. The answer is always the same and printed on a sheet of paper that they just shove at you at the end of the three-minute interview.

      Despite the fact that I had my partner registered and enrolled in a prestigious university here in Florida and that I would be guaranteeing the payment of his tuition, books and living expenses for four years, a hefty sum of money that would have been of great benefit to the economy as you have already pointed out, they blew him off with the following statement on all three occasions.

      "We do not have sufficient evidence to believe that the applicant has compelling reasons to return to the country of his origin after completing his studies in the US."

      I guess seeking yet another degree is more "larnin' than anyone person should be entitled to, according to Bush thinking, which is not surprisin' with an administration that seems to be committed to the concept of dumbing down America.

      People like Bush don't want educated, well-informed people voting at the polls. They want religious idiots who will believe anything they are told, and who will vote for them simply by throwing some more money and benefits at them.

      Is this a great country, or what?

    1. the troll on Dec 23, 2008 5:07:56 PM:

      Don't knock liberal elitism. It was what keeps the whole country from looking like the very non elite Deep South, your turf. I just have to say that you will have a tough time making a case that we are not generous enough with south of the border immigration. Over represented much?

      Here is how Canada does it, and so should we:)

      http://www.yourlibrary.ca/citizenship/

    1. Chuck on Dec 23, 2008 7:16:25 PM:


      Chris on Dec 23, 2008 2:47:17 PM:

      Ahh, don't ya just love liberal elitism? I can just see the new Statue of Liberty: "Give me your well-rested and well-fed,
      Your pedigreed intellectuals yearning for an even higher salary and a better 401(k)..."


      Umm, Chris...Austrailia and Canada, among several other countries are doing exactly that. They are welcoming and encouraging the best minds that this country has to offer, to come to their shores and offering them incentives to do so. The Film Industry, is but one example among many.

      I just don't follow your logic at times, Chris. In one breath, you make the comment "So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants" and in the next breath, you defend them with your above quoted comment. You appear, more often than not, to be purpose-driven to keep everyone on this blog partitioned and disunited.

      You might like to pick up a copy of Richard Florida's The Flight of The Creative Class, who makes exactly this point.

      Taking in all of the "poor, huddled masses" in exchange for all the intelligent, best educated, best minds and productive people, is nothing more than a "Brain Drain" to the US as a Canadian newspaper article called it.

      The "Lotus eaters" that Ayan Rand predicted would eventually take over American society have become a reality and arrived by the tens of millions in 2008 America. We call it "Social Welfare" to make is sound PC, but it is really nothing more a deadly disease that is tearing the fabric of our society apart, destroying the middle class and dividing us into a nation of haves and have-nots.

      When there is no middle-class left to pay taxes, who will be paying for the Social Welfare programs that this country is rife with? Somehow, I doubt that Corporate America and the very rich will give a damn, just like in the Philippines where I spent a good part of my year. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the Philippines are a Third-World Nation with so many poor people.


      And it doesn't take an Ayan Rand to see that what she predicted in 1957 in her book Atlas Shrugged, is happening right here in America.

      Depression, hell. We are plummeting into a Third-World status with the speed of a lead balloon.

      At the rate things are going in this country, we can stick our heads up our asses and kiss it goodbye.

    1. Chuck on Dec 23, 2008 7:19:38 PM:

      Oops...in my earlier comment, I should have said, "I could not agree with you more on the comment."

    1. jomama on Dec 23, 2008 8:49:29 PM:

      You need to understand where Chris the elitist is coming from. He need not care about unskilled labor pouring into our borders because; well he is an Ivy League graduate. There are not many people immigrating to the USA competing with Harvard grads in American law. American citizens, like my friend, a house painter, are concerned with cheap, often illegal, immigrant labor. For Chris these illegals mean an inexpensive kitchen remodel to show off to his elite friends at cocktail parties. For others it means low and lowering wages.

    1. Gordon on Mar 28, 2009 11:20:31 PM:

      Hi, found your very interesting site and have enjoyed going through the contents. I have so many comments...I know the problems about getting an American visa for Brazilians. My partner is Brazilian and we wanted his sister to visit us here in the U.S. First visa was denied because the consular officer thought she had not established sufficient ties to show she would return to Brazil. So, I marked another interview for her (she had to pay the fees again), and told her instead of telling the truth to lie because that's the only way. I told her to get a fake deed to a home, fake income tax records, everything. Well, she got it the second time. The consulate gave her a visa valid for two weeks. Better than nothing, but goes to show that honesty is not the best policy when dealing with American immigration.

      Another thing I wanted to comment on, or more ask is about your situation, Chris. I, too, am involved with a Brazilian. I lived in Brazil from 2004-2008. I read several of your posts where you say you "maxed out" your stay in Brazil. My partner sponsored me for a permanent visa in Brazil, why don't you get one so you can stay? For me, I had enough of life there..still waiting for a solution so my partner can live here in the U.S. Best of luck.

    1. Mark on Apr 22, 2009 11:52:28 PM:

      American consulate officers abroad are career foreign service personnel. They are the same people serving at U.S. diplomatic postings regardless of who may be the President of the United States. The strict U.S. clearance regime is not a "Bush policy" or even an "Obama policy." It is U.S. foreign policy. Stop your whining please and be grateful for a diligent civil service protecting our interests.

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