War on Terror Is Bad for Economy

President Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council released five “fast-action” recommendations for things the government can do that will result in 1 million jobs on a near-term basis.

Among the ideas was:

Boost jobs in travel and tourism. This industry is one of America’s largest employers, but the United States has lost significant market share. By making it easier to visit the United States through improved visa processes, we can win back market share in travel and tourism and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The visa process, of course, was tightened up in the aftermath of 9/11—in another classic case of penalizing the innocent for gross government failure. Under the new visa directives, the wait time to receive a tourist visa can regularly exceed 100 days, including extended wait times for the now required in-person interview, at which applicants are additionally treated as suspects rather than the valued tourist and business visitors the vast majority are.

As just one example of the fall-out from the change in policy, 500 out of 1,460 international registrants for last year’s Association of Equipment Manufacturers convention in Orlando were unable to actually attend because they couldn’t obtain a U.S. entry visa in time. As the Association’s president noted:

The visa process is very slow and very arbitrary. … We’re in a bad economy, and there’s a lot of places worldwide where you can buy equipment.

Meanwhile, those who are successful in obtaining a visa are subjected to further humiliations and interrogation immediately upon arriving in the U.S., with biometric data captured from each entrant, and passport control lines stretching for up to hours.

And as any of us who has had an encounter with these agents can testify, they are not ambassadors of welcome. Upon my most recent return from abroad, there were six agents lining the final hallway leading into the passport control hall, eying everyone who walked by and generally giving the impression of one’s arrival into a totalitarian state.

As, by even a modest definition, the U.S. now is.

Read this account and decide for yourself: 2,000 elderly British cruise ship passengers recently docked at Los Angeles for a short stop-off during a five-star cruise around America. In the words of one of them, it was “more like arriving at Guantanamo Bay.”

The passengers had paid more than $16,000 apiece for the luxury cruise, which had already docked at 9 U.S. ports—at each of which they had cleared immigration. Subjected to yet more unnecessary and petty bureaucracy, as one passenger explained:

A couple of passengers got a bit stroppy about having to go through all the rigmarole again and these petulant officials decided to take revenge.

The revenge was enacted over a 7-hour period, during which the passengers were

“herded like animals” and made to stand for hours in temperatures up to 80F with no food or water or access to lavatories.

Some are said to have passed out in the heat while others were left confused and bewildered.

When one lady asked in desperation whether she could use a bathroom, one immigration official is said to have replied: “Do it over the side, we won’t mind.”

By contrast, visit almost any other country—including those attacked by the U.S. not so long ago (e.g., Cambodia)—and the entry process is swift, clear, and friendly.

If this is how immigration officials treat wealthy, elderly, British (and thus presumably white) passengers on a luxury cruise, why should anyone any longer want to visit the U.S.?

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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