Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


William Fisher: Secure Borders, Open Doors

Secure Borders, Open Doors

By William Fisher

As congress returns to Washington facing what promises to be a rancorous debate on how to protect U.S. borders, a leading immigration think-tank is charging that U.S. visa policies - a key tool in promoting national security - are in danger of compromising American economic competitiveness and foreign policy goals.

A new study by the Migration Policy Institute - "Secure Borders, Open Doors" - faults the government for lack of a strategic plan for the U.S. visa program, and "nebulous" coordination between the State Department (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), leading to duplication and poor information sharing.

The report says one of the visa program's "greatest challenges" will be "countering international perceptions that the United States has become more hostile to visitors. Losses to tourism and industry have been significant in recent years, with nonimmigrant visa applications dropping by 35 percent between 2001 and 2003, international enrollment in U.S. schools for 2003/2004 down for the first time in three decades, and the number of tourists visiting the United States plummeting by over 10 million people between 2000 and 2003. There are also reports of billions of dollars lost in foreign direct investment in the United States and contracts for U.S. exports".

The report, written by Stephen Yale-Loehr, Demetrios Papademetriou and Betsy Cooper, also calls on Congress to require the establishment of a comprehensive interagency evaluation process to review incidents of admitting people who present security risks.

It says that while the DOS "is working to address delays caused by additional checks and mandatory interviews", changes are still needed "to clarify the application process and make it more transparent; facilitate visa re-issuance from the United States; and waive interviews for travelers who have been issued visas recently."

The report also recommends improving the quality of interviews through the use of a secondary-like inspection at consular posts to target possible security risks.

It asserts that a "major weakness" continues to be variable access to information through different agencies' databases. "Improved intelligence-gathering, greater investments in staff expertise and training, and online access to all relevant information about applicants are essential."

The report recommends, "An integrated national watch list that is constantly checked for quality together with a stronger communications system between agencies for security advisory opinions, are essential domestic security priorities."

Since September 11, the report says, "the purpose of different visa classes and the process for getting a visa have remained the same, with the most frequent reason for denying a nonimmigrant application still being the person's inability to prove that they do not intend to stay in the United States permanently".

However, it adds, "Many administrative procedures have changed significantly, including a requirement for personal interviews with almost all visa applicants". "The government has more closely scrutinized visa waiver countries, curtailed airline passengers' ability to travel through the U.S. en route to other countries without visas, and established requirements for visa waiver countries to have machine-readable passports with biometric identifiers by October 1, 2005," it says.

The authors find that the security check process has improved, but urge better use of biometrics. "The State Department, DHS and the FBI must agree on a truly compatible fingerprinting system and adopt standards that can be used both among U.S. agencies and in conjunction with the development of biometric passports from other countries."

The impact of visa problems on higher education is a major concern. Ursula Oaks of the Department of Public Policy at the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), told IPS, "What we face today is not just a visa problem, it's an 'access' problem -- the myriad still-existing barriers to international students' ability to study here that, taken together, pose a serious challenge for our country."

At a recent symposium to discuss the MPI report, similar concerns were also voiced by Dr. Debra W. Stewart, President of the Council of Graduate Schools. She called recent statistics on international student flows "a sobering reminder of the importance of US visa policy."

Dr. Stewart said that last year international graduate applications declined 28% and another 5% this year. For the past three years, she said, first time international graduate student enrollment has declined. "With international enrollment in engineering approaching nearly half of the total and over 40% in the physical sciences, these declines raise serious questions about America's potential to continue its position of thought leadership in these fields."

She added her concern about the "unintended consequences of recent reform in the visa system," noting that "inscrutable delays do occur in the system."

In higher education, she said, "Global competition for talent is real….our competitors are not standing still." Other countries, she suggested, are capitalizing on "the negative image of the US abroad by advertising their programs outside US embassies. Perhaps more significant are the major investments in graduate education being made worldwide", particularly by the European Union, China and India.

U.S. consular staff, she said, "need more understanding of the American academic world that student applicants hope to enter", adding, "There appears to be a lack of scientific expertise in the consular affairs offices."

While noting recent improvements in the visa process, Dr. Stewart said, "Problems remain that are not likely to be solved by simply making the current system more efficient and seamless…It requires strategic thinking about the very purposes of visa policy -- its goals and desired outcomes."

She added, "America's national security, its intellectual security and its very capacity to compete, depend upon it."


Please click on the link below.


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news