Reasonable questions for visitors
Visa applicants will soon be asked more penetrating questions about their past
The White House has introduced a new questionnaire for visa applicants that asks for more detailed information about who they are. Applicants for permission to enter the United States are to be asked to provide consular officials with a list of all the names they’ve used on social media for the past five years. This is a reasonable request for information that would give the U.S. government ways to check for ties to terrorist organizations and clues to behavior that indicates risk to America.
The questionnaire asks applicants for the numbers of previous passports, email addresses, telephone numbers, addresses, places of employment and places of travel for the past 15 years. This will be regarded by some prospective visitors as a pain in the neck. But even if it is, it’s far less painful than another kind of pain in the neck that is all too familiar to anyone who reads the newspapers or watches the television news. The United States, like all other nations, have a right to know who wants to be a visitor. Not only that, but answering the new questions is voluntary — no one has to answer. Consular officers may wonder why.
Questions like these are burdensome and time-consuming, and would probably annoy those who want to come to the United States for study and research. But students and researchers should understand best that answering questions is what study and research is all about. They can consider the questionnaire practice for whatever projects they have in mind. Immigration lawyers are already gearing for a fight, hinting at the direction their legal objections will take, objecting that their clients should hardly be expected to remember their full 15-year histories, that those who make mistakes might see America’s doors unfairly shut.
“The United States has one of the most stringent visa application processes in the world,” complains Babak Yousefzadeh, a San Francisco lawyer and president of the Iranian American Bar Association, who takes note of the “arbitrary power” that consular officials will now have over visa applicants. “The need for tightening the application process further is really unknown and unclear.”
Would that such were so. Donald Trump was elected president of the United States on his vow to, among other things, tighten national borders and bolster national security. The left, at every step, has stymied him, objecting all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to his executive orders to bar temporarily those from places where terrorism is the growth industry.
America has always put out the welcome mat for visitors, and will continue to do so. Visitors of good will honor us by coming here. But the United States, like all nations, has the right — and duty — to make sure that visitors and prospective immigrants with evil intent, and sad to say there are some, stay away, far away. Terrorism is an inconvenience to everyone, and the government has a duty to make sure that inconvenience does not become tragedy.