Just Say No to One-Sided Visa Waiver Programs

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President Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural address, famously called for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” Today, Jefferson is likely rolling in his grave. This time, the problem is Barbara Boxer, a liberal Senator from California. And while conservatives love to promote themselves as the only defenders of Israel, Boxer is busy promoting the good of the State of Israel even at the detriment of citizens of the United States. The United States currently participates in a visa waiver program with 37 countries that are deemed to be friendly with the United States. The visa waiver program allows citizens of signatory nations enter the United States without visas. This makes it easier for citizens of those nations to enter the United States, for business or pleasure, and thereby participate in our economy. In exchange, signatory nations offer the same favorable treatment to Americans.

It’s a win-win scenario. But Boxer wants Israel to be different. You see, there are American citizens who Israel thinks may be security risks. And Israel does not want to allow those citizens to be able to waive in so easily. Instead, Israel wants to be given a special visa waiver deal: they want it to go only one way. While all Israelis would be able to waive into the United States under the Boxer bill, not all Americans would be given the same treatment.

What’s a libertarian to do? Some change has to come piecemeal. True libertarians, for example, are not enamored of gay marriage: they just think that government ought to get out of the marriage business. So while liberals want government to give its stamp of approval to gay marriage, libertarians want government to stop picking and choosing which marriages are acceptable, and which are not. But we’re willing to go along with laws legalizing gay marriages because we know that they are better than the alternative.

True libertarians aren’t interested in merely decriminalizing the possession of medical marijuana. We want to end the drug war completely. Let people make their own decisions when their own bodies, and their own personal health is at stake. But we’re willing to vote for medical marijuana because its better than the alternative. We don’t mind doing it piecemeal, as long as it moves us in the right direction.

And libertarians hate hate hate impediments to travel. So this one should be a no-brainer for those of us who support liberty.

And, in fact, it is a no-brainer! There are principles at stake that are more important than the immediate and superficial goal of open borders. The Constitution does not allow the government to extend to one citizen what it denies another citizen on the basis of religion or political opinion. Under the proposed bill, the United States would be entering into a covenant, an entangling alliance, with a foreign regime – and would allow that foreign regime to discriminate against certain American citizens on the basis of their national origin, religion, or political opinions. Not entering into an agreement with a foreign nation that permits improper discrimination against Americans is a no-brainer.

Amazingly, America would not be given the same right to reject individual Israeli citizens’ ability to enter this country without a visa under Boxer’s bill. American citizens may pose a risk to Israel, but Israel’s citizens are to be trusted?! You can’t make this stuff up!

Liberty would be 100% behind a bill that tears down borders between us and Israel were it not for that one very significant concern.

The concern that Israel would treat certain Americans unfairly is not remote: Israel has been accused of having a policy of refusing to allow entry to Americans of Arab ethnicity or with Muslim backgrounds. It also bars entry to those who are critical of Israel’s actions, or who support Palestinian rights. Through the Boxer bill, Israel seeks to retain that policy while nonetheless benefiting from the visa waiver program that has been extended to other nations on a reciprocal basis. Lobbyists for the bill, in organizations like AIPAC, apparently think that treating Israel differently from every other nation in the world, and allowing discrimination against American citizens, is not contrary to their purpose.

But it is contrary to constitution of the United States of America, and to this nation’s egalitarian mission. Libertarians are for nothing if we are not for liberty; and the Barbara Boxer bill would be a major blow to liberty at the same time as it would further involve entangling alliances with foreign regimes.