Rude immigration officials and visa delays keep millions of foreign visitors away from the United States, hurt the country's already battered image, and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to an advocacy group formed to push for a better system.
To drive home the point, the Discover America Partnership released the result of a global survey on Monday which showed that international travelers see the United States as the world's worst country in terms of getting a visa and, once you have it, making your way past rude immigration officials.
You can view the complete results of the survey, here (PDF). But I have to say that I have some problems with the way Reuters has presented it.
Let's start with the Reuters headline:
U.S. is most unfriendly country to visitors, survey says
By reading this and the ensuing article, we can see how those that are not well adept at critical thinking and analysis skills could very well get the wrong impression about America, and its citizens.
Consider the main crux of the argument here, which is the entry process. Most ports of entry are places like New York, Los Angeles, and other coastal megalopolistic cities. These cities are not well-known for their "down home and friendly" feel. They are often distant and de-personalized, because people must deal with other people in close proximity, on a daily basis. So naturally, there is not a particularly warm attitude, unless someone has an angle and wants something from you. (Being raised in the LA area, I can attest to this on a personal level.)
In my only visit to New York in the late 70s, I had the distinct pleasure of flying into JFK International Airport, where I found the airport workers to be quite rude and indignant. Had I not lived in other parts of the country to include the south and midwest, I could have easily gotten the impression that all Americans were nasty. On the buses that transported travelers from one terminal to another, the men that helped people with their baggage grabbed the bags and threw them on without regard to the contents of those bags, and even yelled at one frightened Japanese couple (who obviously did speak much English), to hurry their "asses" up or they were going to get left behind.
Then, let's consider this. There is no crasser version of an American than the government worker. It matters not what part of the country you live in, whenever you must do any kind of business with any kind of government worker, you will likely find they are not the friendliest people in the world, either. Try getting a replacement for a lost Social Security card sometime and you will see exactly what I mean. I cannot imagine that the Port Authorities and immigration officials that handle visas are much different.
Of course the article does mention one factor that can be used as a possible explanation, which is the heightened level of suspicion created by the events of 9/11. But let's put ourselves in their place for a moment. If they take their jobs the least bit seriously, they must screen many different people from many different countries. Many of those people are from countries that are known to harbor hostile groups that would love nothing more than to destroy our way of life and at very least wreak havoc. So, knowing and understanding that New Yorkers bore the brunt of the 9/11 attacks, we can see why they would likely be especially suspicious.
One person I was chatting with a few years ago related to me that she had been to Europe (Spain to be exact) and said she would never return. After asking her why she felt that way, she told me she was very intimidated to see Spanish policemen carrying machine guns in the airport and it freaked her out, somewhat. I tried to rationally explain to her that that was Europe. As long as you were not trying to hijack an airplane or blow up the airport, the likelihood of them bothering you was very minute. At the time of her visit (which was in the late 70s), Basque terrorism was beginning to spin out of control in Spain; and other leftist terrorist organizations, such as the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy, were at their peak. So, a show of force was necessary to deter and dissuade overt acts that could and would affect their respective tourism industries.
I am not sure I convinced her.
So as a result of this distorted image portrayed by al-Reuters, I cannot come to any other conclusion than they have used their platform to take a potshot at America and Americans. The poll is the poll, but the Reuters spin paints a very distorted picture of what America is all about.
And to all international people that would consider a trip to the United States of America, I would say this. Once you get past the jerks and travel outside of the huge metro areas, you will likely find people that will welcome you and treat you fairly, as long as you treat them in the same manner. There will always be bigots, in any country and this one is no exception. But overall, I do not believe that you will find people that are any warmer and more accommodating than the American people.
Just visit Indianapolis during the U.S. Grand Prix weekend, and you will see precisely what I mean. You will not be disappointed. Tell them that LASunsett sent you.