The International Herald Tribune published an op-ed piece last Friday titled “The Unwelcome Mat“. It was an exposé of the questionnaire that the Department of Homeland Security requires that would-be visitors fill out if they want to visit the United States from countries under our Visa Waiver program. In other words, this is how we treat our friends. One wonders what we do to those we don’t especially like or trust. Actually, I know, but that’s a story for another day.
And, of course, we charge our friends $14 apiece for this almost comical invasion of privacy.The op-ed author, Mark Vanhoenacker, did a great job describing the questions that DHS demands answers to, but you might want to glance at the actual language DHS uses. I took these from their website for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (which, by the way, is just as unfriendly as Vanhoenacker describes).
A) Do you have a communicable disease; physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict?
Under United States law communicable diseases of public health significance include:
Syphilis, infectious stage
And others as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services.
With regard to physical or mental disorders, answer ”Yes” to this question if:
(a) You currently have a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder that may pose or has posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others; or
(b) You had a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder that has posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others and the behavior is likely to recur or lead to other harmful behavior.
Answer ”No” if:
(a) You currently have no physical or mental disorders; or
(b) You have or had a physical or mental disorder without associated behavior that may pose or has posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare of that of others; or
(c) You currently have a physical or mental disorder with associated behavior, but that behavior has not posed, does not currently pose nor will pose a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others; or
(d) You had a physical or mental disorder with associated behavior that posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others, but that behavior is unlikely to recur.
Under United States law persons may not be admissible if they have been determined to be a drug abuser or drug addict. For further information refer to § 212(a)(1)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(1)(A), and corresponding regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations.
B) Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?
C) Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?
D) Are you seeking to work in the U.S.; or have you ever been excluded and deported; or been previously removed from the United States or procured or attempted to procure a visa or entry into the U.S. by fraud or misrepresentation?
E) Have you ever detained, retained or withheld custody of a child from a U.S. citizen granted custody of the child?
F) Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?
G) Have you ever asserted immunity from prosecution?
Now, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and cozy? Knowing that honest visitors have answered all the questions honestly and all the dishonest travelers have answered them dishonestly. Who is DHS kidding? At least they could have put some pretty pictures on the site, but no.
And why would anyone wish to visit the United States when confronted with this attitude?