There are many countries in the world that people go for the purpose of work. But, a certain country across the ocean happens to be the only one with procedures different from the rest of the world. It is the United States, with its complicated measures that, despite lacking an apparent purpose, remain unchanged. There is not even the possibility of discussion nor will the country listen to the numerous opinions raised by those desiring to visit the U.S.
Today was my turn for the interview. What is the purpose behind one losing a half-day’s work in order to drive to the Consulate in occupied Jerusalem, wait in front until allowed entry, then wait inside a small room? I was extremely unlucky in all that happened. The first time, I was called in for having incomplete information on the application. The second time was solely for the fingerprint. The third visit was for the interview, which didn’t take place for some reason and makes me wonder why I was invited at all if there was no need to speak to me in person!
Indeed, the rationale for the personal interview is not a convincing one at all. If the reasons behind the interview were “security” driven, then the officials have their sources, who keep them fully informed about anyone wanting to visit their country. They should not be required to meet them in person, under any circumstances, as the U.S. is not different from other countries we visit – other than all these complications.
Although, the one place where you feel that all people are equal happens to be in the waiting area prior to the interview. This is true whether you are an Arab, a foreigner or a Jew (though I did witness some favoritism in certain cases). My presence by one of the windows coincided with the arrival to the visa section of Dr. Hanan Ashrawi. [Editor’s Note: Hanan Ashrawi is a Christian Palestinian legislator and activist.] I asked Dr. Ashrawi if she followed the same procedures ordinary citizens did. She confirmed that this was the case, though she did not wait in the room, had a companion and the visit did not take her but a minute. It seems they only wanted to see her face! Dr. Ashrawi mentioned to me that they canceled her previous visas and she wanted them restored.
What also caught my attention was the amount required for visa fees – a sum of $131. They announced in March 2008 that the dollar exchange rate was 3.60, which means 472 shekels for the visa. However, our obliging banks refuse to accept payment in dollars requesting 510 shekels for the fees, an increase of 38 shekels!! We do not know whether this is the commission the bank receives from the Consulate – which we are paying – or if these are bank fees for providing us with a service for which we already pay!! If the amount was set officially by the U.S. Consulate, then to where does the difference between the two sums “disappear”?
We are aware of what security means to you and realize what measures are necessary for achieving it, especially following the unsettling Detroit incident. But, you need to reconsider all these complicated procedures. Not every citizen who wants to visit the United States is a “terrorist” and not all who previously visited the U.S. should be required to undergo the same measures each time. Recognize that the U.S. administration does not represent the real America to us. Rather, it is represented by the American citizens who love people and are passionate about exploring new cultures. We the Arab people in general and the Palestinians in particular are not your enemy, though many of you seem to think we are!