Spring break. It’s a vacation I am getting used to now that I have school-age children. I figure I’ve got 10 good years before my older daughter will start college and spending spring break with me will be the last thing she’ll want to do. We visited Disneyland—along with what felt like a million other people—and I realized the place is really a series of terminally long lines. Standing in those lines gives you an opportunity to listen to languages and accents from all over the world.
It made me appreciate just how tourist-dependent many entertainment attractions in this country are.
And if we believe that U.S. Department of Commerce figures for the first part of 2017 represent any kind of trend, then the crowds we’re seeing these days might well be on the decline. The Commerce Department report showed that international travel to the U.S. was down more than 3 percent during the first seven months of last year, causing the U.S. to cede its spot as the world’s second most popular destination for foreign travel.
And how does the Trump administration respond to this disturbing course as we approach the critical summer travel season? It takes steps that would make it even tougher for visitors to come.
In March, the administration proposed a new rule to collect social media handles, including user IDs, from everyone applying for a non-immigrant visa to come to the U.S., around 14.7 million people.
I believe tourism is down in part because of the current global perception of the U.S., which under the leadership of Donald Trump has not been a place to admire. On top of that, the administration last year began applying “extreme vetting” to certain groups of tourists, which also included collecting social media information. The Obama administration had started collecting such data toward the end of 2016; Trump kicked it up a few notches.
Now, through this proposed rule, the U.S. State Department would ask non-immigrant visa applicants for identifiers they’ve used on social media platforms over the previous five years.
“The Department will collect this information from visa applicants for identity resolution and vetting purposes based on statutory visa eligibility standards …”
It applies to all non-immigrant visa applicants, which include those seeking work and student visas, as well as people visiting for humanitarian reasons.
I believe this simple sentence is going to have some far-reaching ramifications. What standard will be used? Can posting a meme criticizing the president, for example, result in a visa denial? Will they make arbitrary assumptions about religious extremism if one posts something about, say, religious holidays?
We already have a Muslim ban, and as we’ve seen with this administration, arbitrary and capricious decisions are the norm—not the exception.
Generally, when someone is denied a tourist visa, there is no appeal. There is no one to complain to or from whom to seek redress. Though you can apply multiple times, it will be hard to overcome those initial decisions.
Using social media information to determine the entirety of one’s eligibility and worthiness to visit the U.S. is misguided. Our presence on Instagram and Twitter is not the truest reflection of who we are. And, more importantly, those who actually have ill intent toward the U.S. are unlikely to state it publicly on their Facebook pages.
Yet, this is where we are. It is unreasonable and wrong to inquire into people’s personal lives by requiring them to provide their social media handles. Such scrutiny will affect people traveling to the U.S. for work, for business, for tourism, or simply to visit family, and ultimately will deter people from wanting to come here at all. And who would blame them?
With so much uncertainty surrounding this administration when it comes to immigration, it is important that we remain engaged. The proposed rules were introduced to the Federal Register on March 30 and the public can submit comments until May 29.
I think we all should. If you are in the U.S., whether on a visa, green card, or are a citizen, please leave a comment. Same thing applies if you are not in the U.S. but have interests here. Anyone can submit comments. You will need to leave your full name, city, state, and country, but there are no restrictions. Here are some tips on how best to submit comments.
Of course, there’s no guarantee the administration will take comments into account when making its final decision. But a mountain of lawsuits since Trump took office has provided enough incentive for his administration to go through the motions—if only for appearance’s sake.
Today, the lines at Disneyland and other destinations are full of domestic and international tourists. But should these rules take effect, I’m convinced the number of international tourists will drop. And while the U.S Travel Association reports that last year’s decline in tourism resulted in a loss of $4.6 billion and 40,000 jobs, the future loss will be significantly higher and the ripple effect unquantifiable.
Trump officials could not have been ‘completely clueless’ about what he was doing: CNN correspondent
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," White House correspondent Abby Phillip highlighted how Fiona Hill's testimony made the claim by other officials that they weren't aware of the scheme to extort dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukraine much less plausible.
"The idea Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election is completely unfounded," said Phillip. "This is important because it puts in context some of the other testimony we heard ... from Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and another top NSC official, Tim Morrison, who replaced Fiona Hill, that the conspiracy theory was a legitimate function of the government, it was okay for President Trump to seek that kind of investigation, was perfectly normal to them. And it wasn't until they learned 'Burisma' equaled 'Biden' they learned there was something weird or nefarious going on."
Pro-Trump reporter John Solomon attacks Fiona Hill for debunking his Ukraine conspiracy theories
On Tuesday, National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified that the right-wing narrative Ukraine colluded with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election — rather than Russia working to help Donald Trump — is a "fictional narrative" and a piece of propaganda promoted by Russia.
One person was enraged at this testimony — John Solomon, the notorious right-wing reporter who covered Ukraine's supposed interference in the 2016 election extensively. He fired off multiple angry tweets attacking Fiona Hill:
How dare Fiona Hill question my patriotism or suggest I was part of a Russian disinformation campaign without a single fact. My sources were all US officials or Ukrainian officials aligned against Russia. Her accusations must have made Joe McCarthy smile up from hell.
Democrats declare there’s enough evidence for a vote on impeaching Donald Trump: report
On Thursday, according to CNN House Democrats are announcing that they have enough evidence to move forward with the final vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
Breaking: Dems say enough evidence to move forward on impeachment. Vote likely by mid-December. They will not wait for courts to force additional witnesses - @Phil_Mattingly reporting.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) November 21, 2019