There’s no doubt that our consular system completely freaked out after 9/11, not that you can blame them for it. Basically the careers for everybody involved in stamping the hijacker’s passports ended on that day. Consular officials knew that the next hammer would come down even harder so ass-covering became practically a manic tic. As an example of the mess that followed, my wife finally received her Green Card three years after her batch’s due date, November 2001 (as it happens, the card arrived shortly before we got married). The delay caused a series of visa hassles that nearly short-circuited her position as a postdoctoral researcher. I know by first and second-degree contacts postdocs and full professors who had their careers disrupted by similar hassles.
All that makes a certain amount of sense, but we’ve had more than four years now to come up with a system that works. Shit like this simply has no excuse:
A decision two weeks ago by a U.S. consulate in India to refuse a visa to a prominent Indian scientist has triggered heated protests in that country and set off a major diplomatic flap on the eve of President Bush’s first visit to India.
The incident has also caused embarrassment at the highest reaches of the American scientific establishment, which has worked to get the State Department to issue a visa to Goverdhan Mehta, who said the U.S. consulate in the south Indian city of Chennai told him that his expertise in chemistry was deemed a threat.
…The consulate told Mehta “you have been denied a visa” and invited him to submit additional information, according to an official at the National Academy of Sciences who saw a copy of the document. Mehta said in a written account obtained by The Washington Post that he was humiliated, accused of “hiding things” and being dishonest, and told that his work is dangerous because of its potential applications in chemical warfare.
Try to imagine a field of science that can’t contribute to making some sort of weapon. Practically every biological lab on the planet definitely qualifies since basically everybody shuttles genes in and out of E. coli, which is bad because E. coli can be pathogenic. Physics is obviously out – Oppenheimer was a physicist. We can’t admit astrophysicists, who might contribute to space terrorism. Public health experts can’t come in because, seriously, imagine an evil public health expert. Bio-terrorism gets a lot more dangerous if they have a public health expert on board. How about a botanist? Heroin poppies. An expert on conflict resolution? No way. He could lull you into thinking that you’re peacefully resolving a dispute with a band of terrorists and – bam! – they’ve got Kimberly Bauer again.
Anyway, I could sort of understand this decision if Mehta was some nobody with a checkered past and/or unexplained gaps in his employment record, but he’s almost the polar opposite of that:
The scientist told Indian newspapers that his dealing with the U.S. consulate was “the most degrading experience of my life.” Mehta is president of the International Council for Science, a Paris-based organization comprising the national scientific academies of a number of countries. The council advocates that scientists should have free access to one another.
It’s a sad story. If we’re going to funnel everybody from an enormous country like India into three or four centralized visa centers then we can afford to have higher-wattage people making these decisions. We can do better than this.
Is it possible our consular system was outsourced to India?
Bruce in Alta California
Why doesn’t he just ship himself over to the US in a container? There would only be a 5% chance that he would be detected
we can afford to have higher-wattage people making these decisions
Like who? The people who are themselves well-informed enough to know which scientists are legit are not likely to have any desire to work at a visa center. So who should the un-informed workers ask to be sure to get the “right” answer? How will they know whom to trust?
The Other Steve
One of the people I worked with on the Clark campaign is an Immigration attorney. She’s part of a tight-knit group of lawyers from around the country. They talk, they frequently go to Washington DC together to meet with officials.
She said since 9/11, it’s gotten really bizarre.
On the other hand. My girlfriend hasn’t had too many problems. She got her greencard back in 2003. She’s just recently applied now for citizenship. She’s had the interview, but they are still waiting for the FBI background check to come back.
That seems to be the big holdup. Of course part of the problem with a background check is they have to contact her home country to get her police records, and that’s not fast or easy, and the home country really has no incentive to comply in a timely manner.
She’s from Russia, and if the FBI understood the culture there, they’d know that by slipping them a $100 bill in the request they’d get the results back much faster. I’m just saying… :-)
Just another facet of creeping anti-intellectualism. Pretty soon Alabama will be setting the standards for the US.
Look, this is a well and good, but frankly I think it’s a wasted effort.
We should direct our efforts to something more important. Remember, the War on Easter is just around the corner.
Bob In Pacifica
Regarding the War Against Easter, I have been told that putting mascara in rabbits’ eyes is not just inhumane testing but is also symbolic of Our Savior’s Sacrifice On The Cross.
On the greater subject of this thread, can anyone think of any area of government that has functioned under Bush as well as it had before Bush?
Fortunately, the Intelligent Designers have come up with the solution to this problem. If they have their way, within another 10 years or so science as we know it will cease to exist, replaced by appeals to the un-knowability of anything in a universe too complex (for them) to understand. Scientists like Goverdhan Mehta will have no reason to want to put up with the headaches of coming here, they’ll go where people are still interested in science.
Well, the guy is a scientist, Tim. And not just any scientist, an Indian scientist. If he has any faith at all in his cold, un-American heart, he’s probably some sort of Hindist or Buddhu. He wants scientists to work together unrestricted by political borders! That’s just fancy-dan science talk for “providing aid and comfort to our enemies.” He clearly hates America in all its Christian glory and would stop at nothing to perform abortions, blow up buildings, and marry gays. Geez, Tim, wise up.
I know a young physicist – extremely sharp, capable guy, driven surfer-dude personality – who got hounded out of the country by this sort of crap because he grew up as a kid in Iran. We’re talking the kind of physics here that would require one to be a god to make practical use out of it.
This nation isn’t going to prosper as it should if it drives out extraordinary people because they were born in places we dislike.
Nor is it going to prosper if it drives out people who were born here but aren’t interested in living in a climate of ignorant bullshit and intolerance.
Why I’m looking at moving back to Japan….
I’ve had students arrive three weeks late in the semester because of immigration hold-ups. One of them was a French-Canadian interested in studying Buddhism, for God’s sake. Among my grad student international friends, one of smartest has decided that he probably doesn’t want to try for a job in this country, not just over immigration issues but also because he’s gay. Everybody at a university probably has multiple stories like this.
Oh look! Low-hanging fruit…
three… two… one…
Tim, you go to war with the consular officials you have, not the consular officials you wish you had…
Procurement, depending on your definition of “as well”.
But of course the question begs the O’Rourke response “Republicans claim that government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it”.
When science and the Bible differ, science has obviously misinterpreted its data.
The Other Steve
Isn’t that the first sign of the apacolypse?
PETA is now the fringe of the Republican party.
Um, if the words “Paris” and “Science” aren’t triggering any red flags then we have a problem. This just proves that randomly sampling information for key words helps keep us safe. We aren’t living in a post 9/11 world anymore, kids.
The most dangerous scientist is the social scientist…his weapon of choice…the half-baked economic policy or government program. Once they inflitrate the highest levels of government, they’re virtually unstoppable and their destruction is unparalleled.
-“Mr. President, our international policy people tell us Iraq will embrace us as liberators. No – we’re not getting any conflicting opinions since we fired everyone that voted for Al Gore.”
-“Mr. President, sure you can enact another tax cut! Our people tell us this will actually shrink the deficit if you keep all war-spending in supplemental requests and out of our projections.”
-“Mr. President, forget about looming Medicare problems – a huge entitlement program tacked on to it is just what this country needs right now. I hear Simone Ledeen is back from Iraq, she’s only 25 but maybe we can get her to run it…”
You mean “Texas,” and “Since 2001.”
Bureaucracy is a lot like a fish. Both rot from the head first.
Heard on the cablescape yesterday:
(Interview of functionary kissass monkey):
Q: Are our ports safe?
A: Absolutely, yes, they are safe.
Q: What percentage of containers are inspected?
A: Around 5%.
Where I come from, that is called “spot checking.”
Do you come from Texas? If not, that’s your problem right there. In Texas, 5% is called “good enough.”
There is apparently no end to the corruption and cronyism practiced by these assholes. You just cannot make this shit up
Even before 9-11, the US government agencies that deal with visiting aliens had been regarded as a bunch of crazed assholes. The US Immigration Service was particularly notorious for their petty spite and irrational hostility. Since 9-11, things have just gotten worse.
I remember back in ’97 in Tokyo working with a Chinese friend of mine to get a visa to the US for her (she didn’t speak English at all well and we communicated in Japanese). Problem was, she was over in Japan on a VIP passport which tripped all the bells and whistles in the U.S. embassy. It look me about 3 weeks and much paperwork to squeeze a visa (for a week-long visit where she was giving a paper at a conference) out of them for her.
I’d hate to think what would happen now.
Oh, and let’s not get started on INS. Total asanine petty psychopaths straight out of Kafka.