Will speeding visas for foreigners boost economy? No: It's a security risk

March 10, 2012 

President Barack Obama's willingness to sacrifice national security to raise his public approval rating was glaringly evident when he flew to Disney World in mid-January to tout looser visa restrictions for Brazilian and Chinese visitors to the United States.

While the leaders of Brazil and China often take anti-U.S. positions on the world stage, Obama claimed the move would help the slumping travel industry by bringing in millions of free-spenders without weakening national security. Symbolically, the president made his announcement at the entrance to Fantasyland.

Obama also said he will expand the Bush-era Visa Waiver Program that eliminated rigorous in-person interviews that allowed officials at U.S. consulates to better determine if applicants pose genuine security risks. That program was temporarily suspended after the Sept. 11 attacks over concerns that many of the terrorists were able to enter the U.S. because of its weak provisions.

Obama pooh-poohed such concerns at his pep rally in Disney World. Yet recent actions by Brazil and China seem to undercut the president's campaign- driven nonchalance.

In recent years, Brazil's leftist governments have aligned themselves with Venezuela's anti-American dictator Hugo Chávez and Iran's crazed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. U.S. intelligence officials have issued recent warnings that Brazil is rapidly becoming a key base for al-Qaida and other Islamic jihadists in the Western Hemisphere. Brazil no longer considers Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist groups and disbanded its anti-terrorism force in 2009.

China, of course, has been conducting economic warfare against the United States for more than two decades — stealing our valuable military technology, manipulating its currency to increase artificially exports to the United States, hacking into our computer networks and engaging in an unprecedented naval buildup in the Pacific Ocean.

Given China's economic aggressiveness, it's difficult to see how allowing more Chinese visitors into this country would create any new U.S. jobs. More likely it would result in the continuing exodus of manufacturing jobs to China.

Obama's self-serving relaxation of security rules for hundreds of thousands of Brazilians and Chinese is cynical in the extreme — especially so when you consider the Government Accountability Office conceded last year that there still is no effective way to track the more than 70 million foreign visitors who annually come to these shores on tourist and other short-term visas. The GAO also has estimated that half of the nation's estimated illegal aliens are people who have overstayed their visas.

Although the official unemployment rate has dipped below 9 percent, nearly 20 percent of Americans still are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work.

Adding a few low-paying baggage handlers and amusement park employees won't do much to lower those distressing numbers, but it did provide Obama with a beautiful photo opportunity in Fantasyland.

Ridenour is chairwoman of the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research. E-mail: aridenour@nationalcenter.org.

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