Sunday, August 23, 2009

Asking for a Rethink on US Immigration Diplomacy

By Krishna Hari Pushkar

The US immigration diplomacy is ridiculous and inimical for the developing world. It fuels anti-American anger in the developing world, and it assists terrorists who always keep an eye open to see weakness in the US position. Therefore, urgent reform is needed to address the horror of the exiting immigration diplomacy.

The enduring US immigration diplomacy has become frosty for non-US citizens. Every time, foreigners have to pass through a hapless screaming while facing the visa process or to get immigration clearance at the port of entry in the United States. Foreigners are not against the existing law and process but the behavior by US Immigration authorities. It is sad to describe that most of the travelers are not happy and get upset while they face the US officials. Foreigners clearly experience the racism, humiliation, domination and discrimination while passing through US visa and immigration processes.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the US applied and enforced all possible powers and strategies for better national security, which is appreciated in many ways. However, to tighten up and maintain the dignity and rights of travelers during the visa and immigration clearance process at the point of entry does not require lowering of proper manners and professional ways of the US officials. The US is being highly criticized abroad for its actions. There are plenty of examples that the US has extended direct and indirect apologies for such wrongdoings in many cases, but there has not yet been any serious reform to address the issues.

The process should be delivered in a professional and courteous manner as Americans have been enjoying and expecting in other countries. A US official may examine the documents and conduct needed inquiries in a decent, disciplined and respectful manner. Almost all developing countries have experienced that even their VIPs were insulted during the visa obtaining and immigration clearance process.

There are international laws and universally accepted diplomatic norms concerning the immigration and border security policy, approved and accepted by almost all international communities and nations.

It is always sad to hear a US spokesperson reporting that outsiders were detained or inhumanly interrogated, refused or delayed or barred from visa or clearance due to some security or technical reason, which often is questioned by others in the world. Human rights defenders and international communities question US authorities about their conduct of immigration and security clearances. Many say the US visa and immigration clearance procedures are unacceptable. Poorly designed processes and procedures are an assault on the dignity and rights of sovereign people.

The US immigration process is like a curfew for foreigners. It is well accepted that continuous "curfew" cannot be a perfect tool to control violent groups or to protect life, liberty and property of the people. The curfew is one of the most important tools for security. Curfew cannot be imposed for long term because when security is tightened, public freedom is kept under strict control. This is why the US visa and immigration clearance procedure seems like a curfew. The US authority must transform the curfew into a professional regular process otherwise it will be tagged like the ineffective curfews during ethnic insurgency.

The currently imposed visa and immigration procedures degrade the national and public prestige of the US. Such policies increase the anger against the US and it's Government. There are many examples the US visa and Immigration policy have turned foreign people and experts to act against the interest of the US. Consequently the time will come when few foreigners will remain to work in and interest of the US and finally the lonely US will be in the global enemies list for rest of the world. Supremacy is nice but loneliness is painful, so the US must understand this horrible symptom and should be careful to guard against this vulnerability. The growing population of anti-American foreigners could be assistive to the terrorists' strategy, whose principal goal is to create an anti American environment across the world and to depose the US from it's existing prosperous position.

Some experts raise a question to the immigration and border security officials, asking how they can judge the profile of a person in so short a time? Physical profile may be examined by submitted or presented documents but psychological or mental status may not be judged until the traveler speaks during their inquiry, which is almost impossible that any people wants to be fail by his/her own causes.

How can an official judge someone in a minute or even in an hour? Researchers claim that security is mainly related to psychological affairs rather than physical perspective. Document examination and a short FAQ are not enough to judge someone on their affiliation with anti-security activities. If it was so, then why were terrorists able to obtain visas successfully, through tight and sophisticated visa interviews? If the visa and immigration offers can judge properly then why do they not deny the visa application rather to conduct inhuman and insulting behavior during the immigration and security clearance at the port of entry in the US? Sometimes, if there is strong proof against someone then there might be some exceptional cases that they have to pass through very strict and abnormal process in the port of entry.

The developing countries have many examples that the US embassy helps their citizens even when doing punishable acts. US authorities extend official protests when US citizens face delay, or a hard time while clearing security and visa even in normal manner. US citizens enjoy privileges in terms of visa and immigration clearance process in many countries. There are very rare incidents of visa refusal or refusal from the entry clearance of US passport holders. The US seems to consider visa refusal and entry refusal of its citizens as a national insult. It also considers as a big question over the national prestige and poor-ranking of its diplomacy.

The US often refuses citizens of developing countries in the visa and entry clearance processes. It is not a matter whether the visa or entry seekers is minister, parliamentarian, celebrity or approved vip, they just see the passport book, if it is found issued by any developing government. The US authorities should keep in mind that what happens if the developing countries also ask for equal treatment or "Tit for Tat? Does the US accept and ready to face similar cost? Of course not, so the US authorities also need to think about such pitiable situation that how they are acting against the people of developing countries.

Most foreigners are neither in negative list nor have bad intentions, so the people who have no bad intentions should not be terrorized in the name of security provisions and immigration diplomacy. Normal travelers should be handled normally. The US is very prosperous, exemplary and the richest country in the world. So, the US may develop special tools, techniques and mechanism to control the activity and movement of the foreigners while they are in the US.

Hong Kong and Singapore are good examples for immigration diplomacy. It is hard for foreigners to get a visa and immigration clearance in Hong Kong, Luxemburg, Norway, Macau and Singapore but the manner of the officials with foreigners is not so rude. These have the lowest crime rate in global ranking index but are considered most successful for their immigration diplomacy. In these places, foreigners are controlled with laws and they keep foreigners efficiently and tactfully under security surveillance. For the US, it is hard to get visa and clearance from the immigration at the point of entry, but once you enter, foreigners are not stressed for further activity. Foreigners who enter often live there for a long time, if they live in a normal way. There are many foreigners living in the United States breaking visa laws but the authorities are silent.

For example, people obtain tourist visa but they work or study, students obtain study visa but they work indefinitely after completion of study, no matter whether you are living without having the proper category of visa stamped in the passport. Even in the US Bank, the over stay or illegal alien do not requires visa strictly for banking transactions. People can join and continue the academic and training institution without obtaining the respective visa.

There are no authorities who have exact and updated records and files on the foreigners' activity. Of course there are many institutions and mechanism developed by the US laws however they are limited in formalities. There is minimal supervision and control over foreigners' activities, once inside the US.

It is totally erroneous to know the US authorities still believe that only tightening visa and immigration clearance at the border security point can save the country from possible danger. To outsiders, this seems unbelievable.

They should also think immediately about the negative impact of such terror that how general foreigners may react over such behavior. The US is a country of prosperity, opportunity, power and freedom. People have extreme craze to travel, live, work, study, and stay in the US. Such charming and attraction continues only while the US maintains and offers the minimum standards of humanity towards the outlanders.

The US universal commitment and avowal towards pluralism, diversity and broader human rights will be broken if the US is unable to pay attention and transform into a friendly and acceptable immigration diplomacy.

The US must introduce and practice universally approved norms of immigration diplomacy that will help to know and identify the right of people in right manner. In the name of security the US should not boost the number of enemies. The US government should be very careful and realize that such ridiculous policy is also somehow helping the terrorist strategies who have been always acting to weaken and keep the US from global friendship.

I believe the Government of United States should rethink the current defective Immigration Diplomacy.

(Mr. Pushkar is a Peace, Security and Conflict Management Professional and Currently Works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Nepal, )

Published by News Blaze,

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