To Some, the Toll Seems to Suggest Such: Recent actions and discussion points raised both publicly and informally by officials and sources in the Trump Administration suggest that it is not merely a travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority nations that belies an anti-immigrant attitude. That is, the combination of a travel ban—first called for in a Jan. 27, 2017 executive order signed by President Donald Trump—along with other possible measures that are attracting a wave of critical comment and expressions of concern from both overseas as well as within the United States that such actions will have a seriously negative impact on the number of people from other countries visiting the USA.
Briefly, here is a quick summary of recent key actions and proposals on the subject by the Trump Administration, as well as two reactions to/consequence of these actions and proposals.
- After an executive order signed by President Trump on Jan. 27 was blocked by both a Federal District Judge and a Federal Appellate Court, President Trump signed another order that was scheduled to go into effect on March 16 that would have restricted travel by individuals from Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Somalia. (Iraq, included in the first executive order, was removed from the second.) Another Federal District Judge blocked the second executive order from going into effect; that blocking order is under appeal. Criticism of both of Trump’s executive orders has been, to put it mildly, widespread.
- On April 18, Trump signed another executive order affecting the H-1B visa program, which admits foreign workers to the U.S., used largely by the tech and IT industries. The order is meant to modify or replace the current H-1B visa lottery with a merit-based system that would restrict the visas to highly skilled workers. Currently, graduate students from India and China heavily populate the numbers of visa recipients chosen by the lottery. New qualifications would push income requirements up and keep out students from some nations studying in the United States. “The change in the H-1B visa mainly targets Indians, but it may also cause worries among Chinese students,” an employee from a U.S.-based migration agency told the Beijing-based Global Times.
- In comments given wide coverage in Western Europe, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has suggested that, because of concerns over safety, security and terrorism, it is probably time to review the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Currently, 27 out of the 38 nations that are covered by the program are located in Europe and Scandinavia. Kelly said the program’s existing rules should be reviewed amid concerns over terrorism. Under the VWP, travelers from the 38 nations do not need a visa. Instead, they register their travel plans online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) regularly. “We have to start looking very hard at that program,” said Kelly, who told The Independent that he feared Isis fighters were using VWP to enter U.S., warning America was the “Super Bowl in terms of terrorists.”
- Visitors to the United States would be asked to turn over their cellphones to U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) agents and to answer questions regarding passwords and political ideology should the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implement new measures that have been floated by DHS as a part of the Trump Administration’s proposed “Extreme Vetting” of overseas travelers to the USA. Asked about the proposals, DHS Secretary Kelly estimated that one-half of one percent of travelers would have their phones inspected. Even so, one-half of one percent equals about 200,000 visitors to the USA, based on the number of travelers (40 million) expected to visit the USA in 2017.
- Of the many stories pointing to the impact of the above, one that stands out is the announcement by Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline, that it has reduced its flights to the U.S. The Emirates hub at Dubai International Airport, the world’s third-busiest, has helped establish the location as a major connecting point for travelers who were affected by President Donald Trump’s executive orders temporarily halting entry to citizens of six countries. Emirates said the flight reductions will affect five of its 12 U.S. destinations, with the first cutbacks starting next month. A statement from the airline said, “The recent actions taken by the U.S. government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting, and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins, have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the U.S.”
- The former chair of Brand USA for nearly two years and one of the most visible leaders of the U.S. travel and tourism industry, Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, told the Financial Times in a recent interview at the official opening of the Marriott Marquis hotel in Houston, Texas that tourists were the most likely group to avoid trips to the U.S. this summer. While some travelers were being deterred by the strong dollar, Sorenson said the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a travel ban on visitors from some countries had harmed the country’s reputation as a friendly destination. “The [new US administration’s] actions around travel are not helpful,” he told the Financial Times, adding, “There’s no doubt about that. There’s no way to anticipate that they will be good news.”