Thursday, October 28, 2004

My pet idea - one step closer to reality 

The regular readers will hopefully keep on indulging me as I keep bringing this issue up. For quite some time I've been writing about removing US visa requirements for the Poles as a perfect symbolic gesture of appreciation for Poland's strong support for America in the war on terror and the war in Iraq. As reader Dave commented the last time I wrote about it, the issue is a big deal in Poland:
"I spend my summers teaching English to the top high school students in Poland. I was amazed at the change in attitude toward the US in the last year. Poles love America and demand nothing in return for their support. Increasingly, the Poles feel like they get no respect for their duty in Iraq. Poland has asked for one favor-that Poles traveling to the US be treated with the same respect as those from the rest of the EU. That Poles must pay $100 to apply for a travel visa to the US, while the rest of the western EU can basically walk right in to the US, is seen as sign of disrespect to the Poles. About 1/3 of the applications are denied, costing the applicant $100, 2 weeks salary for the average Pole. Bush could have rewarded Poland for their service, instead Bush took Polish support for granted. There is a limit to Polish support..."
A few days ago, John Kerry promised he would do a better job at bribing the "Coalition of the Bribed" than Bush, and would work to have the visa requirement removed. I'm happy to report we're one step closer to achieving that objective, regardless who's in the White House after November 2 (link in Polish). The bill to that effect has been introduced on 16 September by Sen Barbara Mikulski (Dem) and Sen Rick Santorum (Rep). Until recently the bill was being blocked using a rare procedure called "secret hold", which allows the blocker to remain anonymous. All we know is that the "secret holder" was a Democrat. However, following an extensive lobbying campaign by the Polish-American community, the unnamed Dem has now dropped his or her objection and the Mikulski/Santorum bill will be coming up for vote on 16 November.

I know that there is a lot more to visa-free entry - in particular, the adherence to a stringent security regime - but if the French and the German can do it, so should the Poles.

Stay tuned.

Update: Readers in the comments section inform me that the Bill in question is S. 2844. Thank you to all those who promised they will contact their Senators.

I also take onboard comments that the visa requirements are in place for Poles because many tend to be overstayers and waving visa requirement would cause a Polish exodus to America. I'm not one to encourage illegal immigration, particularly into somebody else's country, but a Polish influx into the US (and I'm skeptical whether the old country would really empty if the American gates were thrown open) would not necessarily be a bad thing. Contrary to common perception, nurtured I'm sure in part through traditional "Polish jokes", Polish-Americans are actually in top 5 of the wealthiest ethnic groups in the United States (correct me if I'm wrong).


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