Sunday, January 01, 2006

The More You Tighten Your Grip

The more star systems will slip through your fingers. Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin, guess they don't go to the movies either. | 01/01/2006 | National security policy creates economic termites in Fla. basement: "The business-backed research group chronicled how changes in immigration and national security policies since Sept. 11, 2001, have put a chilling effect on business development, tourism and even foreign student enrollment in Florida.

Expect it to be the beginning of a newfound push in the new year by Miami-Dade and state business leaders to get federal officials to ease up on restrictive visa policies. They will urge Congress to better fund offices around the world to eliminate delays in visa applications, and to put pressure on the agency to streamline its operations, said Tony Villamil, chairman of Enterprise Florida's Global Commerce Committee, the international branch of the state's economic development arm.

''We're the gateway to the Americas and if we put impediment to the flow of people, that has an impact on everybody,'' he said.


For example, a reduction in the number of non-immigrant visas granted each year has significantly reduced the number of business people who can travel back and forth to Miami to do business, Villamil said.

Multinational corporations can't get visas for their executives to travel to South Florida. Trade shows can't get visas for vendors and buyers. The World Trade Center in Miami had to relocate a trade show to Panama City, Panama, so buyers could get to it.

''Business visas are critical to South Florida if we're going to be a globally competitive state,'' Villamil said. ``These roadblocks are hurting us.''

Increased visa restrictions also have hampered universities and research. There has been a 10 percent drop in the number of foreign students studying in the state's colleges and universities from 2001-04, according to the TaxWatch report. TaxWatch estimates indicated that translates into an estimated $100 million lost to the state's economy.

In Tallahassee, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University has seen a 40 percent decline in the number of foreign research teams expressing interest in its conferences and research programs.

Another trouble spot: tourism and travel. The report cited state data that $1 out of every $7 spent by foreign tourists to the U.S. was spent in Florida. But convention and visitor bureaus, airports and entertainment attractions said the numbers of foreign visitors from Latin American and Caribbean countries are down substantially because of the new visa policies.

The problem is expected to get worse. The new federal rule, with the friendly title of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, takes effect this year. It will require U.S. citizens to carry a passport to re-enter the country from the non-U.S. territories of the Caribbean. The cruise line industry is expected to be heavily affected by that change, as an estimated 15 percent of U.S. citizens currently hold passports."
Just like with immigration, tightening the rules to ridiculousness has done more to hurt than to help make us safer or to prevent terror attacks. But we have had no terror attacks, isn't that proof that it's working? Not really. They aren't likely to repeat the same tactic, they are more likely to do something that hasn't previously been done (surprise!) or just let us destroy ourselves from the inside and then move in and pick up the pieces. If there is one thing that Americans can be counted on to do, it is to totally blow something out of proportion, make it larger than life, and run with it for weeks on end. Our preoccupation with other people's personal lives is like a pathological desire to avoid the reality of our own degrading existence.

We don't care that we are becoming more like the communist countries of the cold war, where the people had few freedoms, information was restricted and the government knew everything about you. In order to travel quicker people are willing to undergo rigorous background checks, about things that have nothing to do with being a terrorist and to have the most private aspects of their lives perused and judged by total strangers, just so they can breeze through a line. I have the same reaction to this as I did to the guy who almost knocked me off the boarding plank (two and half hours before departure) in his rush to get to his assigned stateroom on the cruise ship. Dude, we all leave at the same time. This is no reason to give up your civil liberties. Will you be willing to wear 666 on your forehead or have an implantable ID chip?

My dog has a chip and with a little bit of tweaking the average American can go beep, beep, beep to prove that they are the chosen.

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