Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03112116 (posted Nov. 21, 2003)"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Julia Hendrix
November 21, 2003
Visa Restrictions and Backlogs Create Unprecedented Problems
During the holiday season, many immigrants in the United States will be
unable to travel or have family members visit. This seasonal problem is a
reflection of the problems faced year-round by families and business: visa
policies and backlogs have made international travel and commerce a nightmare.
The House Small Business Committee, chaired by Representative Donald Manzullo
(R-IL), held a hearing yesterday ("Lowering the Cost of Doing Business in the
United States: How to Keep Our Companies Here") that focused on the negative
consequences for American business of the numerous visa restrictions implemented
since 9/11. These restrictions act as a trade barrier, discourage foreign
visitors coming to the U.S., have negative consequences for American companies,
and do not make us safer.
Testifying at this hearing, Palma Yanni, President of the American
Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), focused on the monumental delays at both
U.S. consulates abroad and at the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship
and Immigration Services (USCIS), as well as the delays that result when the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies that screen foreign
visitors do not send back security checks in a timely manner. "We need to make
sure we keep out the people who mean to do us harm, not families who seek
reunification, workers sought by American companies, and foreign visitors who
eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and buy American products," said
"We all want to make our nation safer, but we need to use measures that
enhance our security, not those that provide false solutions to real problems,"
said Yanni. "Security experts tell us we can enhance our security by focusing
our law enforcement efforts on investigation and surveillance based on
individual suspicion, not over-reaching, time-consuming checks on every person
who seeks to enter the United States. We must ensure our economic security, or
we will be unable to pay for our national security," emphasized Yanni.
Family members, business people, artists, doctors, students, researchers, and
tourists are just a few of the foreign visitors who are finding the welcome mat
withdrawn. "The current restrictions and backlogs have become an emergency.
Businesses are suffering economic losses because visas are delayed for months
and in many cases, denied," continued Yanni. "Moreover, immigrants living in the
U.S. find it all but impossible to travel to other countries because of
tremendous delays in the issuance of travel documents."
"There seems to be a 'culture of no' that pervades the visa adjudication
procedure. It appears easier to delay or deny a visa than to approve it. Federal
agencies need to learn how to say 'yes'," said Yanni. In fact, there has been a
dramatic drop in the number of visas issued since 2001 for all visitors to the
United States, from 6.9 million to 4.9 million. Visa applications have decreased
15% from 2002 to 2003. In addition, newly mandated procedures that many assert
will not make us safer also have slowed the application process: the State
Department Consular officers now are required to conduct face-to-face interviews
with visa applicants, without receiving additional resources; beginning early
next year, under the US VISIT program, our government will begin fingerprinting
travelers with visas, again without adequate funding and with insufficient
planning; and unless waived, in October 2004, visitors from visa waiver
countries will be required to have machine-readable passports, when the U.S.
itself is unable to comply with that deadline.
"We all want a safer nation. However, when a renowned physician's visa
application is delayed or denied, we are not a safer nation," stated Yanni.
"When families remain separated, we are not safer. When businesses cannot access
foreign markets because of bureaucratic backlogs, we are not a safer nation
either. We need an immigration system that works, one that works for businesses
and for families," concluded Yanni.
# # #
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provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and
professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and
provides liaison with the Department of Homeland Security and other government
agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar
American Immigration Lawyers Association
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