James Dean (what a great name) of the Heritage Foundation says my instinctive reaction to the news of the Bush-administration’s new visa proposal is wrong. THF is keen on the proposal because it looks a bit like their own proposals. Dean e-mails:
The Administration’s new proposal re Visa waivers deserves serious and sober examination–not just knee-jerk negativity. Key parts of the proposal reflect recommendations championed by The Heritage Foundation’s Jim Carafano–outlined here, here, and here.
Carafano has long urged expanding Visa waivers in ways that would both enhance national security and strengthen the bonds of friendship and sense of common cause for freedom between the U.S. and key allies in the war on terror–especially those in “New Europe.” And that’s what Bush is trying to do here.
Specifically, the proposal tells countries looking to benefit from an enhanced visa waiver program that they’ll have to meet new security criteria far above and beyond what’s being met by the 27 current visa waiver countries. We’re talking mandatory reporting of lost and stolen passports, exchanging terrorist watch lists, home country confirmation of when their citizens return home, home country assistance in locating those who do overstay, assured bilateral mechanisms for the repatriation of those who overstay, advance electronic travel authorization and passenger screening, enhanced document security, expanded baggage screening and Air Marshal cooperation. All of these new requirements would help make the U.S. more secure.
Many of our best allies in “New Europe” have troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. As victims of Yalta, these countries were cast into the Soviet sphere of repression against their will or choice. They paid a very heavy price for the political deal-cutting of great powers. They are still paying a price when the Portuguese are welcome to visit the U.S. as tourists but the Poles are treated as second class.
The Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, South Koreans and other allies should have a chance to earn first class passage. The expanded Visa waiver program aims to give them that chance without compromising American security interests.