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How Not to Attract Tourists
The New York Times ^ | Mark Vanhoenacker

Posted on 03/17/2012 9:23:01 PM PDT by Cronos

...Imagine that you’re the citizen of a prosperous, democratic ally like Britain, Spain or Japan, and you’d like to visit America. Before traveling, you must pay $14 to complete an online United States government form called ESTA, short for Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

ESTA asks for basic personal data, like your name and birth date. It also asks whether you are guilty of “moral turpitude,” whether you’re planning crimes or “immoral activities” and whether you suffer from “lymphogranuloma venereum” (don’t ask). If you’re involved in terrorism or genocide — and for some reason you’ve decided to take this opportunity to inform the United States government — there’s a box for that. And if you’re a spy — a particularly artless one — please let us know.

Naturally, no one with anything to hide will answer honestly. Such purposeless questions recall Thoreau — “I saw that the State was half-witted” — and should astonish Americans, who know better than their government how to welcome guests.

...Aesthetically, ESTA’s Web site — America’s digital front porch — is a disaster: uninviting and embarrassingly inconsistent with America’s information technology pre-eminence.

...Before landing, travelers (including Americans) must additionally complete a paper customs form. But asking travelers whether they are carrying snails or “disease agents” is as futile as asking whether they collaborated with the Nazis (another ESTA question).

...No country’s border staff is perfect, as every traveler knows. But America — a land where strangers greet one another in elevators, waiters act as if they like you, stores deploy professional greeters and government serves the people — should aim to be the best. That means a smile or “hello” as we approach every agent, a “please” and “thank you” to bookend every official request and an occasional “welcome” as we cross a secure border.

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Government
KEYWORDS: dhs; tourism
I can attest to this -- a friend of mine (Italian) was filling up an ESTA (and she had lived in Tenn for 8 years) and answering questions like "Are you a member of a terrorist group?" etc. are just silly :)

Would anyone really answer yes to these and submit a form with it? :)

1 posted on 03/17/2012 9:23:09 PM PDT by Cronos
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To: Cronos
A: "Are you a member of a terrorist group?"

B: "No, of course not. I'm a Christian."

A: "Oh, in that case please select 'yes.'"

Coming to an ESTA form near you, I don't doubt in the least.

2 posted on 03/17/2012 9:33:31 PM PDT by Celtic Cross (The brain is the weapon; everything else is just accessories. --FReeper Joe Brower)
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To: Cronos

“we give the strong impression of an authority-minded culture that’s coming slightly unhinged. “

Yes. It’s called “Liberalism”.


3 posted on 03/17/2012 9:34:07 PM PDT by Psycho_Bunny (Burning the Quran is a waste of perfectly good fire.)
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To: Cronos

OK, I had to check what lymphogranuloma venereum was....and now I know....eew...(do not search images-eew)


4 posted on 03/17/2012 9:40:35 PM PDT by libertarian27 (Check my profile page for the FReeper Online Cookbook 2011)
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To: Cronos
Aesthetically, ESTA’s Web site — America’s digital front porch — is a disaster: uninviting and embarrassingly inconsistent with America’s information technology pre-eminence.

No matter how hard they try to make it look good, with bureaucratic red tape and BS like that is will be impossible to polish a turd.

5 posted on 03/17/2012 9:44:53 PM PDT by matt04
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To: libertarian27

Got me too. I’m really, really kind of sorry for my curiosity that made me google it.


6 posted on 03/17/2012 9:52:54 PM PDT by ThunderSleeps (Stop obama now! Stop the hussein - insane agenda!)
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To: ThunderSleeps

Me too...
Now I have to go to youtube and watch cute puppy videos to un-sear those images from my retinas before I go to sleep...


7 posted on 03/17/2012 9:57:43 PM PDT by libertarian27 (Check my profile page for the FReeper Online Cookbook 2011)
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To: Celtic Cross

The question will probably be worded, “Are you a Christian or a member of any other terrorist organization.”


8 posted on 03/17/2012 9:57:48 PM PDT by Gil4 (Sometimes it's not low self-esteem - it's just accurate self-assessment.)
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To: Cronos
Here are the ESTA questions:

https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/WebHelp/ESTA_Screen-Level_Online_Help_1.htm#APA1

I'm not sure that I agree with the NYT about this.

9 posted on 03/17/2012 9:59:53 PM PDT by TChad
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To: Celtic Cross

The only time I flew through JFK was when I was DEROS’ing from Germany. (my tour was up and I was getting stationed at Ft. Lewis, WA) The customs lady was an angry looking black woman that seemed pissed at the world. She looked at my orders, looked at me, cracked a huge smile and said “Welcome home soldier.” I wanted to jump across her desk and kiss her on the spot.


10 posted on 03/17/2012 10:05:20 PM PDT by Tailback
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To: Cronos
Would anyone really answer yes to these and submit a form with it? :)

It's not about anyone saying yes. It's about having a signed document for anyone that they catch, where they denied it.

Believe it or not, this is one of the fundamental ways the government can invoke certain jurisdictional advantages, by being able to prove de facto fraud.

It's stupid, but the thing that passes for law these days is also stupid - professionally stupid. You would be astonished at the amount of first-rate intelligence that has gone into establishing such carefully stupid law.

So show some respect. /s

11 posted on 03/17/2012 10:34:14 PM PDT by Talisker (He who commands, must obey.)
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To: Cronos

I’ve traveled to South America a few times over the past couple of years. In a lot of the countries, as one enters the Passport clearance area, there is a separate area for Americans which ends up requiring a fee of several hundred US dollars to enter. This is a reciprical fee imposed because this administration charges citizens of those countries that fee in addition to prolonging the period of time they have to wait to enter the country sometimes indefinitely. Many people in South America are PO’d.


12 posted on 03/17/2012 10:45:32 PM PDT by Rembrandt (.. AND the donkey you rode in on.)
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To: libertarian27
...lymphogranuloma venereum....

I was a medic during the Vietnam conflict for a year. I know exactly what it is.

13 posted on 03/17/2012 11:31:12 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: Cronos

If you answer “no” to the moral turpitude/arrest questions while the truth is “yes” and you’re a citizen of one of the countries we have data sharing agreements with then...you can be permanently barred from entering the US. This is not some theoretical question either, thousands of people have been sent back after we find out they have criminal records.

I don’t agree with this btw. The US should not be sharing arrest or conviction records with any country unless it is for terrorism related offenses or relationships with terrorists etc. There are a number of stories about US citizens being turned back at the Canadian border for past misdemeanor DUIs, ancient 18,19 year old cases set people back from the UK, etc. These are all a result of agreements we have made with other governments. As far as undesirable overstayers goes, we modify the visa waiver program to exclude countries who have high rates of overstays.


14 posted on 03/18/2012 12:08:54 AM PDT by jimnm
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To: Cronos

The bigger hypocracy is that Mexican citizens can come and go as they please, mostly illegals, and can march in the street immune to the PC American Socialist State. My country is run by my mother’s hippie friends, and they should all be in hell in short order. I just have to have faith in God, that he knows the hour when these termites will be burned up.


15 posted on 03/18/2012 12:54:44 AM PDT by Joshua Marcus
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To: Cronos

Have to admit filling out that form always gave me a bit of a giggle. Back in the early 90’s anyway. I never really knew what “moral turpitude” meant. The only other time I had heard it was a line in “Porkies” when the hideous old gym mistress wanted some of the students expelled for “moral turpitude”.

Also, from memory, you only had to declare if you were a perpetrator in the Holocaust. If you were Pol Pot’s right hand man, you didn’t have to say anything. No disrespect to Holocaust victims, but I would have thought that all perpetrators of genocide/crimes against humanity would have been targeted.

Finally, regarding the “are you a terrorist” question, very few terrorists consider themselves to be that. In their eyes they are freedom fighters. Always thought it was a bit of a pointless question, but then again these questions allow the Government to arrest/deport suspect people for making a false declaration.


16 posted on 03/18/2012 3:57:04 AM PDT by Figure11 (There's nothing an agnostic can't do if he doesn't know whether he believes in it or not.)
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To: Cronos

in short, we are asking for basic information on a visa application, just like EVERY OTHER FRIGGIN COUNTRY ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET!


17 posted on 03/18/2012 4:55:56 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: onedoug

re: “I was a medic during the Vietnam conflict for a year. I know exactly what it is.”

“Not the dreaded “Black Syph” of myth & legend? As in, “you can NEVER return to the States if you get it”?


18 posted on 03/18/2012 4:57:09 AM PDT by BwanaNdege (Man has often lost his way, but modern man has lost his address - Gilbert K. Chesterton)
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To: Buckeye McFrog

Basic info is ok, I’ve filled quite a few. However not many places ask you to answer “Are you a member of a terrorist group?” or “Have you collaborated with Nazis?” — I mean, who’s going to say “yes” to that and still pass the form?


19 posted on 03/18/2012 8:24:12 AM PDT by Cronos (Party like it's 12 20, 2012)
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To: Rembrandt

true, I heard that just as we have fingerprinting for foreigners, in Brazil they only make Americans do that. Don’t know if it’s true or not


20 posted on 03/18/2012 8:26:41 AM PDT by Cronos (Party like it's 12 20, 2012)
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To: Cronos

I was filling out a government form, once, and it actually had the question...

“Do you hear voices?”

I was sooooooo tempted to check yes, and add the comment...

“...And they don’t like you.”


21 posted on 03/18/2012 8:45:22 AM PDT by patton (DateDiff)
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