Letting Terrorists in and Keeping FreedomFest Attendees Out
Maybe there is a “common core” of competencies that border control and U.S. consulates should have. On the task of keeping terrorists out, here is a famous story from 2002:
On Monday, Huffman Aviation in Venice, Fla., received student visa approval forms for Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, two of the terrorists who flew hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center. The two trained at Huffman in 2000 and early 2001 and applied for visas to attend technical schools.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Thursday that the approvals offer new evidence why the Immigration and Naturalization Service should be abolished. [Source]
Ideally, some or all of the 9/11 terrorists would have been identified and turned away. But after they were all identified in the wake of the attacks, one would hope their visa applications could have been identified.
Another type of visa error is to keep out visitors from Middle Eastern countries for arbitrary reasons or due to incompetence. Mark Skousen discusses U.S. government mismanagement of the visa process:
At last month’s FreedomFest in Las Vegas, we had six delegates from Poland. We should have had more than 20. But the U.S. embassy in Warsaw refused to grant more than a dozen tourist visas to these Polish people who wanted to come to the big show. These were top-quality citizens and good people who have the financial means to come to the United States. They love America and wanted to participate in our festival. There’s not a terrorist among them. But my government, in its infinite wisdom, turned them down for no good reason.
It is worse for foreigners who might have an Arabic name. Take Mehmet Koksal, the project officer for the European Federation of Journalists. He’s a Turkish citizen with a Belgian passport who regularly had visited the United States and frequently attended meetings at the U.S. embassy in Brussels where he has met Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, among others. He has no criminal record.
He bought tickets for his wife and children to visit New York and Florida, but then he suddenly was turned down by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Despite “in-depth interviews” and numerous requests for an explanation, he never got one and was forced to cancel his trip at a huge cost.
Denial of the visas for Polish visitors wanting to attend FreedomFest were perhaps a consequence of anti-market views like those that motivated Lois Lerner at the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service to stall, turn-down, and harass pro-liberty organizations applying for government approval to organize and petition government for redress of grievances. (Evidence for IRS claims has been hard to secure due to technical difficulties with IRS hard drives and email backup systems.)
These and thousands of other bureaucratic bungles could be reduced or avoided by engaging security firms to manage visitor visa requests.
Helen Krieble, writing in The Guardian, argues for private firms to process and monitor guest-worker permits, and that such a reform would be the key to resolving today’s immigration reform battles.
Opportunity, protection and fairness are in the eye of the beholder, which is why I support a market-driven plan called the Red Card Guest Worker Permit. This plan would let private employment firms set up databases, in which employers can post job listings and workers can post qualifications. Then the employment firms can match workers and jobs, run criminal background checks, and issue work permits. With smart-card technology that allows tracking, updates, renewing or cancelling as needed, these firms would be able to keep pace with the private sector, ahead of the government agencies playing catch-up. This plan has answers for both sides of the aisle.
Now, it’s true that visiting a country is not the same as going there to work. For rich people, why mix up a vacation with trying to find a job in a distant country? But what about people who can’t easily afford to visit foreign countries and live in hotels or hostels for a few weeks or months? Governments the world over limit opportunities for visitors to work, unless in limited teaching and au pair jobs, or with foreign aid or missionary projects.
Work and Travel USA programs allow foreign students to secure J-1 Visas to work at certain jobs each summer (often in hotels cleaning rooms and at amusement parks). These programs are less than ideal, due in part both to State Department mismanagement and abuse by private recruiting firms (according to this 2010 AP story):
The AP interviewed students, advocates, local authorities and social service agencies, and reviewed thousands of pages of confidential records, police reports and court cases. Among the findings:
• Many foreign students pay recruiters to help find employment, then don’t get work or wind up making little or no money at menial jobs. Labor recruiters charge students exorbitant rent for packing them into filthy, sparsely furnished apartments so crowded that some endure “hotbunking,” where they sleep in shifts. …
But it’s not hard to find exceptions. Most of the nearly 70 students the AP interviewed in 10 states, hailing from 16 countries, said they were disappointed, and some were angry.
“This is not what I thought when I paid all this money to come here,” said Natalia Berlinschi, a Romanian who came to the U.S. on a J-1 visa hoping to save up for dental school but got stuck in South Carolina this summer without a job. She took to begging for work on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk and sharing a three-bedroom house with 30 other exchange students.
“I was treated very, very badly,” Berlinschi said. “I will never come back.”
• The State Department failed to even keep up with the number of student complaints until this year, and has consistently shifted responsibility for policing the program to the 50 or so companies that sponsor students for fees that can run up to several thousand dollars. That has left businesses to monitor their own treatment of participants.
The program generates millions for the sponsor companies and third-party labor recruiters. [Source.]
Economist Ben Powell at Texas Tech University, in a study for the Independent Institute, also recommends guest worker visas: Powell notes that the current politicized and bureaucratic visas for tech and agricultural workers, are a mismanaged mess:
The H2-A program, for temporary agricultural workers, has faltered for different reasons. Before visas can be issued to guest workers, this program requires potential employers to prove that no native-born workers are willing to take their jobs. But that’s almost impossible to prove. As a result, only about 30,000 foreign workers are in the United States under this plan.
The need, however, is much greater. The Western Growers Association, for example, has estimated that 80,000 acres of fruit and vegetable production moved out of California because of labor shortages. Perhaps the greatest evidence of the program’s inadequacy is the large number of illegals involved in agricultural work.
The Senate immigration reform bill would improve the existing system, nearly tripling the current H1-B visa cap and creating a new “W visa” for low-skilled workers—setting the initial cap at 20,000, increasing over time to as many as 200,000.
Despite these improvements, the bill still involves government micromanagement of the immigrant labor market, mandating visa caps for particular industries and dictating wage rates for particular job categories. Construction-related visas, as an example, would be limited to 15,000—in an industry employing some 5.8 million—and foreign crop-harvesters would have to be paid exactly $9.17 per hour.
Government planners have no way of knowing how many foreign workers an industry requires or the correct wage rate. Market forces need to set prices and quantities for labor markets to function efficiently.
There is a better way. It’s known as the “Red Card” guest-worker plan, an idea being promoted by Denver’s Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.
Rather than building border fences to keep job-seekers out, or regulating the number of workers through quotas, the Red Card plan would base the number and allocation of visas on labor market demand. [Source.]
I hope debaters can see opportunities here for visitor and guest worker visa reforms that would allows thousands from Middle Eastern countries to more easily visit friends and relatives now living in the U.S.. And would allow many to work for a few months or years. One of the greatest engine of economic development and political moderation overseas are the stream of remittances from those who have left to work in the United States. Money, news, and ideas flow into repressive countries from friends and relatives living and working in the U.S..
There are few if any better ways to share and communicate the nature of open societies and market economies than for allowing more people now locked in repressive Middle Eastern authoritarian societies an opportunity to live and work in the United States.