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Did Chicago Lose Olympic Bid Due To US Passport Control? 1040

An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday, Chicago lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics (which went to Rio de Janeiro instead), and it's looking very likely that US border procedures were one of the main factors which knocked Chicago out of the race: 'Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago's official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be "a rather harrowing experience." ... The exchange underscores what tourism officials here have been saying for years about the sometimes rigorous entry process for foreigners, which they see as a deterrent to tourism.'"
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Did Chicago Lose Olympic Bid Due To US Passport Control?

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  • by rundgren ( 550942 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:25AM (#29626151) Homepage
    I'm a peaceful Norwegian with two (many years ago) convictions for possession of small amounts (1-2 joints) of marihuana. My grandmother wants to take me to visit our family in Boston next year, and I'm not looking forward to it at all because of one thing only: US border control and visa stupidity. The US is the only country in the world to care about a stupid posession misdemeanor - I could go anywhere else without issue at all..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:26AM (#29626155)

    I thought that was the whole point.

    What's that? They're for stopping TERRORISM, you say? Naaaaah, can't be.

    (I once went one a round-the-world holiday. At Fiji's passport control, they gave us garlands, and serenaded us with guitars; at US passport control they growled at us.)

  • by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:28AM (#29626177)

    We once took pride in saying we were a melting pot of nations (racism aside). Now we're about the same, except we're a melting pot of xenophobes (maybe not at the citizen level, but definitely at the administrative/political level.

    Sad to see the great American nation turn from something I was once very proud of to one that I've considered, quite a few times, to up and leave.

  • Personal Example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inicom ( 81356 ) <aem@inic[ ]com ['om.' in gap]> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:34AM (#29626211) Homepage

    I can give you a personal example of this - my father is a 76-year old western european citizen, and has been to the US easily a hundred times and was a US resident for over a decade. And as a merchant, he's spent easily many hundred of thousands on goods in the US over the past 40 years. Last Christmas, he came over to see us, and at the local International Airport he was pulled aside, patted down, his baggage and items gone over in detail, and interrogated for 20 minutes. Why? No reason given. As a result, he doesn't want to come to the US at all any more, so we have to go visit in Europe or rendezvous in another 3rd country. Yea, I know, we get to go to Europe more often, but it's a lot more expensive & difficult to coordinate schedules and take the family than to have one person travel here.

    I spent a lot of last year overseas on projects - and I heard over and over again from people that no longer think it's worth it to come to the US for shows/conferences/travel because of the travel restrictions and attitude toward non-US citizens by customs and immigration.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:38AM (#29626255) Homepage
    And get precleared through US immigration while still within a civilised country []? No joking: if the Security Theatre misidentifies me as a notorious enemy of Freedemocracy, I'd rather prove my innocence to just about anyone except US "Homeland Security".
  • Re:Personal Example (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:49AM (#29626339)

    That's not necessarily a unique situation due to him being a "foreigner", though. American citizens are subjected to exactly that kind of treatment (and then some) on a random basis even on domestic travel.

  • by RealityProphet ( 625675 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:50AM (#29626357)
    You know, as much as I hate how Obama continually sets himself and America up for trampling on by all members of the international community, Rio deserves this, and so does Chicago for that matter.

    The Olympics belong to the emerging economies, not the first world. Western nations whine so much about the possibility of hosting the Olympics, why on earth should they choose any western nation? London has cried from the get go of how much it'll cost, how other large scale projects have failed miserably, even how much traffic it would bring and how much it would, oh gasp, inconvenience the local populace. F em. Half of Chicagoans didn't even *want* the Olympics hosted there. WTF? Why have it there then? What a welcome!

    Contrast the western media's handling of the London bid, the Chicago bid with that of the Beijing games and their exuberance. It was the most spectacular games in history, and they were positively giddy to be hosting it. Contrast Chicago's reception of their own bid with Rio's. You get the feeling that all of Brazil wants to host it, so let them! While I don't think it'll be as big as the Beijing olympics, it will be far more spectacular, optimistic, and inviting than anything any of the other condenders would have been able to muster.
  • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:52AM (#29626365) Homepage Journal

    Everyone I know who visits the USA these days tells me what a pain in the ass it is to travel here now. I'm sure everyone on the IOC knows all about that.


    I flew 8 hours from London to Dallas this year. On arrival, I then waited 2 hours at the airport, along with about 300 other aliens, while sullen border guards slowly checked passports, took photos and fingerprints (this often took several attempts per person), and asked seemingly innocent questions in slow, menacing voices. If I didn't know better, I would have thought they'd been trained in military interrogation techniques.

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:54AM (#29626381)

    The US is the only country in the world to care about a stupid posession misdemeanor - I could go anywhere else without issue at all..

    And yet Canada won't let Americans in who have a DUI (also a misdemeanor here in MN at least and no, I've never had a DUI). I don't agree with the border policies in place in the US but I also don't think your comment is as insightful as others believe it to be either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:55AM (#29626391)
    I am a greencard holder, and this is how it went at the Newark airport on my return after a long break I took to visit my family in India:

    The Lady in Uniform: How long were you there?
    me: About 3 months.
    TLIU: Why 3 months? That's too long.
    me: Because I had not visited my family for a while and I needed a break.
    TLIU:What were you doing there?
    me: Being with family, visiting friends, seeing places.
    TLIU: But 3 month is a long time for that.
    me: Er..

    It went on for 2 more minutes like this. I have no idea what she was trying to do there. I mean, which law I might have breaking for taking three months off work?
  • by z_gringo ( 452163 ) <<z_gringo> <at> <>> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:01AM (#29626447)
    entering the US. Aren't they asking for retinal scans or fingerprints in some places, now?

    no. not some places. Every entry point takes fingerprints of every visitor who is not a US Citizen or legal US Resident.

    There is also some pain in the ass procedure that people have to do online. 24 hours before they get on the plane.

    The US has just totally lost it both on the entry procedures AND airport security. The only place where the airport security is more of a useless pain in the ass is the UK, but it is a close race. The UK and the US seem to be competing with each other on who can make the most worthless security procedures.
  • by Col. Bloodnok ( 825749 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:05AM (#29626491)

    I won't be going anywhere. I refuse to let my government have my fingerprints, in order to renew my passport.

    I'll just stay in dear old blighty.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by easyTree ( 1042254 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:08AM (#29626523)

    This thread seems to nicely demonstrate the national arrogance..

    Could it possibly be that Rio won rather than the USA losing it?

    After all, it's not like you deserved it at all. Invading lots of countries to do who-knows-what isn't consistent with the spirit of international harmony spread by the Olympics.

    Feel free to mod me troll for telling it like it is :D

  • yes, probably (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jipn4 ( 1367823 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:16AM (#29626607)

    I've organized some international events, and US border control policies and visa requirements are a big argument against holding them in the US.

    Border control in Europe is very simple in my experience; people check whether your passport is on a list, and if it's not, they just wave you through. No fingerprinting, photographs, long lines, tricky questions, pre-registration, or interrogation booths. And despite that, Europe seems to have been doing no worse on terrorism or illegal immigration than the US.

  • by tim_uk ( 123339 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:17AM (#29626621)
    Getting into Israel is no more difficult than anywhere else. Leaving is another story altogether ...
  • by evilned ( 146392 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:20AM (#29626637) Homepage

    My wife has permanent residency here in the US and I am a citizen . We used to be able to go through border control together and she was treated quite well. Now, she has to be fingerprinted (the fact that her fingerprints are already on file with immigration, has been through the interview process for permanent residency seem to make no difference).

    I have permanent residency in her country, Singapore, as well. When we enter or exit Singapore, its quick and easy. Even before I had PR status, it was easier to get in and out of the country as a tourist than it was to get in and out of the US as a citizen. Land of the Free, my ass.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:24AM (#29626687)

    Indeed, the USA has led the world in making air travel a misery. I am always astonished how citizens of the "land of the free" tolerate it.

    I have entered both USA and Brazil a number of times in the last few years. In Brazil I am welcomed by smiling officials of normal intelligence and body mass. In USA, a fat moron will threaten me. Consequently, I avoid USA in favour of Brazil.

  • Not to mention (Score:4, Interesting)

    by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:32AM (#29626747) Homepage
    At the Olympics which did happen to be hosted in USA, in Atlanta, after all the nasty border control security the one terrorist act that actually occured was performed by a domestic terrorist.
  • by fbjon ( 692006 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:45AM (#29626843) Homepage Journal
    Nevermind tourism. I recently had to transfer via Detroit (first time in US) when going from Vancouver to Europe. I had to fill out all customs forms, and have my photo and all fingerprints taken, even before I had left Vancouver, even though I was just transiting.

    Unless something spectacular happens, the US is now on my permaban list.

  • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:52AM (#29626905) Homepage Journal

    requiring a visa to change planes-and that was pre 9/11


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:57AM (#29626941)

    Once on a flight from Australia to Canada, my plane stopped to refuel at Hawaii airport.

    When we were about an hour out approaching Hawaii, the flight attendants came around with US immigration cards for us to fill out. I was completely baffled and started to get seriously worried that I was on the wrong flight or some shit. I said to the attendant "But, we're going to Vancouver, right?". She replied "Yes, I'm sorry, everyone has to fill out a US immigration card". She seemed kinda puzzled by the whole thing too.

    Not entirely put at ease, I started filling out the form, which was probably the most poorly laid-out and silliest form I've ever encountered in my life. Am I affiliated with the Nazi party? WTF is the matter with these people? I felt like I was being interrogated like a criminal suspect. Do I intend to commit acts of terrorism against the United States? Well right up until I was forced to fill out that form, I would have categorically said "no", but afterwards I have to admit my inclinations were changing in that regard.

    My favourite question was "Why do you wish to enter the United States". I wrote down the only reasonable answer under the circumstances: "I don't".

    So we all got off the plane, milled around Hawaii airport in swelteringly humid conditions for TWO HOURS, were forced to remove our shoes and finally, when it was my turn to meet the immigration official and hand in my stupid form, she looked at my answers, scowled at me and said "What does this mean, 'I don't'?".

    I'm totally fucking serious. That's what she said.

    I replied "It means just what it says. I don't wish to enter the United States."

    She said, I shit you not, "Well why are you here then?".

    Wow. Just ... wow. Here is a person whose job it is to enforce immigration policy and she doesn't even know that they force transit passengers who are not bound for the US to go through immigration? I feel an intense fury at the level of stupidity on display, but I clench my teeth and force myself to stay calm. After all, I don't want to get on the wrong side of this person/vegetable and get a finger stuck up my ass for my trouble.

    After thinking for a moment about how I can explain the situation to a person of such ... limited mental faculty, I say "I'm going to Vancouver. My plane is refuelling here and apparently that means we have to go through US immigration?"

    She levelling her blank stare at me for a few seconds, then shuffled some papers around while I stood there wondering what the hell kind of Twilight Zone bullshit I'd just wandered into. Then she stamped my passport, stapled the stupid form to it, muttered something at me and let me through. I had successfully visited the United States! Absent any consent or intention to do so! After all, it's not like travellers actually know which countries they want to go to. Better decide these things for them.

    I then got back on my plane, sat in the exact same seat I had occupied two hours earlier, and we made our way to Vancouver.

    When we arrived at Vancouver airport, a nice man in a suit asked me if I was a Canadian resident. I said "no" and with a polite "this way please sir" he directed me to the non-residents line. After waiting in the queue for about 5 minutes, the guy at the desk said "Oh you're from Australia. What brings you to Canada?" I said "Just here on holiday.". He asked "Gonna do any skiing while you're here?". I said "Maybe." He said "Cool.", stamped my passport and in I went.

    Let's look at the contrast here. Canada treated me like a welcome visitor and the process was efficient and friendly. The US forced me to enter their country against my will whilst demanding that I explain why I was entering their country, and expected me to be grateful for the whole experience.

    So in conclusion, I refuse to visit the US as long as this idiotic attitude prevails, and I think the IOC has made an eminently sensible choice regarding the 2016 Olympic Games.

  • Re:Personal Example (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BradMajors ( 995624 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:02AM (#29626985)

    It is not a non-citizen vs. citizen thing. I am a US citizen and I have been questioned for over an hour, my address book copied, my carry on papers have been copied, and my checked baggage gets opened and searched every time I fly.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:04AM (#29627007)

    They could really do us a solid if they were to make a big todo about the reciprocity. Most americans have no clue how bad it is because they don't have to suffer through it. If the brazilians would take the time to explain exactly why each american gets a symbolic anal cavity search, it would go a long way towards getting the problem fixed back here.

  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:11AM (#29627061)

    I think it was in Gatwick, I was passing through the airport and I noticed that you could purchase a "token" for an express passage. When you used this token, it skips one of the checkpoints.

    This was not so much of a security checkpoint, but a cash-grab checkpoint. I had my computer in my arm and a wheeling suitcase, which sums up to two pieces of luggage. This not only exceeds airline baggage allowance, but it violates a security policy.

    Fortunately, there was a coffee shop next to the entry point, so I deeked out the lady working security and had a coffee while thinking about how to squeeze my laptop into my carry-on.

    She was working alone and couldn't do much when she was trying to explain the one-bag policy. It seemed lots of people could slip past her, some had more than one bag.

    So I waited for somebody to get stopped...

    ... then I slipped through the turnstile.

    Next time, I pay for the token.

    Of course reporting this or complaining about this could get me banned from flights and labelled a terrorist.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:16AM (#29627123)

    Before, it was both fun and funny: I've visited the US once and that was as a kid in 1992 and at the time, I, as a European, didn't need a visa but one did have to fill out a form which was pure comedy gold. It actually had questions such as "Have you participated in terrorist actions against the United States of America prior to 1986?" and then "...after 1986?" That's the one I remember clearly since I was wondering why 1986 was such a pivotal year but the rest were just as ridiculous. I think I have a copy of it somewhere since my mother, who was also on the trip, accidentally checked yes to some terrorist organization membership question and had to request a new one from the flight attendant but we could keep the other one. Maybe I should scan it in and post it somewhere for the amusement of everyone.

    One question on it, however, did cause us some trouble since it was about how much money we brought into the country and what we estimated the value of our belongings to be and we had just bought a new, fancy camcorder. Since we tried to be honest, we probably overestimated everything a little and the customs agent actually asked why the total value of our belongings and cash was so high. Later on, it became clear to us that Americans probably don't carry as much cash on them as we usually do in Europe since at a shopping mall during the first day of our trip, a cashier almost told us we were nuts when we paid for ice cream with a $ 100 bill. My impression has become that Americans are much more fond of paying with credit cards than we are in Europe since noone I know thinks it's unusual to have 100-200 euros in your wallet.

  • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adamkennedy ( 121032 ) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:18AM (#29627143) Homepage

    Speaking as a long-time "Sidney" resident, I gotta say we were all a bit annoyed by the whole damned thing too, the fact they ripped up half the CBD, the endless news stories, the drama bombs, the wasted money, the roads that were all going to be closed, and all the general getting ready crap. People were wearing "Fuck The Olympics" shirts openly in the streets.

    And then the games started.

    And it was a fucking awesome enormous city wide party that lasted for 2-3 weeks, all the horrible concrete repeatedly torn up footpaths had been replaced with highly skatable and cable-friendly slate all through the centre city, there were no building sites anywhere, the pubs and bars were all full, and it just generally kicked ass.

    While I don't by any means underestimate the ability of Londoners to put a negative light on something, I have this suspicion that it's the same for every city that hosts it. A sort of preparation and drama filled pregnancy, filled with hormonal outbursts and morning sickness.

    Wait till the games actually start, it will be a different place.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:32AM (#29627275) Homepage

    Me too. I went there a couple of times in the early 90's and security was a complete pain (they took everything out of my luggage and every last little paper out of my wallet to read it), and a couple of minutes asking dumb questions. Not just me, everybody on my flight.

    If it's got worse than that then count me out. I'm not going through fingerprinting and having my laptop/iPod confiscated when there's plenty of other countries in the world who'll just check whether my passport's valid then wave me through.

  • by tunapez ( 1161697 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:45AM (#29627389)

    Not wanting to get blown the fuck up is not the same as xenophobia.
    And the appearence of security is not security.

    The use of fear mongering is not fear.

    I say "Good" to the Olympics not coming to the US, we don't deserve them. Maybe our political system can be fixed, but until then let the camps on either side of the aisle drool in hunger as the big ticket items of the world go elsewhere. They shat on us, the people, for the last 8+ years it's about f'in time they see the fruits of their selfish deeds. VOTE OUT THE INCUMBENTS! Red, Blue or pink: Those who value the power more than their duty deserve neither.

  • by Kizeh ( 71312 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:50AM (#29627425)

    US Residents are also fingerprinted and photographed routinely upon re-entry.

  • by apoc.famine ( 621563 ) <> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:53AM (#29627451) Journal

    I'm from the US, and I worry about crossing the border! Should I bring a laptop? Do I need to delete all personal information off it in case they take it at the border? If I get harassed at the border, and stick up for my constitutional rights as an American citizen, will I get tossed in jail?
    When citizens have those sorts of concerns, I don't blame non-citizens for not wanting to come here. We've made the US completely hostile to tourism, because a dozen people came in LEGALLY, and launched a terrorist attack. which killed less people than a month's worth of auto accidents in this country.
    Really, I wonder if it wouldn't be better for tourists to land in Mexico and just illegally enter the country. A ten hour hike through the desert seems less painful than trying to deal with the Border agency legally.

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:53AM (#29627453)

    You can bounce around Europe crossing borders with little more than a wave of your passport and a friendly nod.

    A little less, in my experience. While walking around in Basel last December, I didn't even realize that I walked all the way to Germany, until I saw a sign that read "France this way," "Switzerland that way." I used process of elimination to discern my location. On my way back, I located the border by observing the changing proportion of license plates, and finally a change in street sign styles. The only distinctive feature at the frontier was a section of sidewalk being replaced. I wondered if there had been a little shack for border agents once on that spot.

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:53AM (#29627459) Homepage

    I think they should have 2 sets of flights/gates/check-in lines at the airport: one for regular people who would like for their total check-in time to take less than their flight time, and one for the paranoid "OMG! that brown person is speaking in something other than English!" crowd.

    This would greatly improve the traveling situation in the U.S. in several ways:

    1. Air travel could once again be painless for those who value convenience/dignity/privacy over the negligible improvements in safety provided by excessive security procedures. (Especially if you don't want your wife/children to be virtually undressed [] by airport security.)
    2. As a corrolary to #1, there would be less lawsuits and complaints filed against retarded airport staff (e.g. from a TSA goon forcing a mother to drink her own breast milk) since those subjected to these ridiculous security procedures are now willing participants.
    3. If you're a busy person or you're in a rush to get somewhere, you can always hop on a "less secure" flight and skip the 2-hour check-in time caused by someone leaving a nail clippers in their check-in luggage.
    4. If the TSA inspectors have less people to search, they can be much more thorough. (mandatory strip searches and cavity checks, anyone?)
    5. Since a terrorist is more likely to choose one of the "less secure" flights to hijack, those who are taking the "high security" flights can rest a little easier knowing that their chances of being hijacked have dropped from 0.000001% to 0.0000001%. Also, since those belonging to profiled social groups would likely opt for the less intrusive check-in lines, those on the "high security" flights would also feel safer sharing their plane with fewer Arabs/Egyptians/Persians/Mexicans/etc.

    This way, airline passengers get a choice in whether or not they want to take part in the elaborate security theater, and everyone is happy. Heck, even the airlines will be happier since fewer people would be deterred from traveling so their profits would go up.

  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:03PM (#29627537) Journal

    I carry both a US and a Czech passport. I can travel anywhere in the former communist nations without a second look. Heck, this last time I didn't even get a stamp. We went through Amsterdam and it took a few seconds and I got a smile from a pretty cute immigration lady.

    But on coming back to the States, I'm treated like a criminal - where have you been, what did you do, what are you bringing back, did you do this or that, what's in that bag....

    I hate it.

    And the irony isn't lost on me - we (the US) pride ourselves on our freedoms, but we have instituted what is probably the most draconian entry system in the free world. And the former communist nations, which boast no claims of freedom, allow me to travel unhindered, with a wave and a smile.

    Maybe this will be a wakeup call to the US that we've gone completely off the deep end here.

  • by orzetto ( 545509 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:03PM (#29627539)

    Heisann, en av dine nye landsmenn her.

    I heard from a guy who was in a similar situation at a julebord a few years ago. He (a researcher at NTNU) had to go to a conference, and when entering the US he was asked whether he had previous convictions. He had, for "civil disobedience" (he did not specify, but I suppose it was bad enough to worry about). Realising that, had he answered "yes", he would have been denied admission and would have missed the conference, he managed to contact the Norwegian embassy or a consulate, and asked whether he really had to mention that. The embassy told him (not sure how explicitly) that he could say he had not, with the understanding that had the US border authorities checked with the embassy they would have backed him.

    So, congratulations US border authorities: you are being so much of a pain in the ass that even the institutions of satellite countries tell their citizens to lie to you. I suppose this will help catching whomever you are looking for.

  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:03PM (#29627545) Homepage

    You can bounce around Europe crossing borders with little more than a wave of your passport and a friendly nod.

    Sometimes even less than that. I visited The Netherlands and Germany in 2008. When crossing from The Netherlands into Germany I expected some big stop to at least check my passport. Nothing. The train was out between the countries (track work), so they had a bus. It never stopped, nobody asked me anything, and I got on the train in Germany without so much as a peep.

    Meanwhile I took a separate trip to Tuscon Arizona this past spring. Driving around in my own country I was stopped at least 4-5 times by Homeland Gestapo to make sure I was still an American. They were nice and all, a friendly wave and "Are you a US Citizen?". Being a white guy with a US accent they just waved me through.. but still. For those of you that don't know, Homeland Gestapo sets up stops on northbound highways perhaps 20-30 miles from the U.S. Border (at least they do in Arizona). I find it absurd to be stopped IN MY OWN COUNTRY just to make sure I'm still a US Citizen.

  • by Linux Ate My Dog! ( 224079 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:08PM (#29627579) Homepage Journal

    Every entry point takes fingerprints of every visitor who is not a US Citizen or legal US Resident

    Strike that last part: I am a Legal Permanent Resident, and the last time I came in they wanted my picture and fingerprints too.

  • by canadian_in_beijing ( 1234768 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:10PM (#29627603) Homepage
    Lived in Beijing for 5 years then the Olympics came around and the Chinese government decided to switch around the visa regulations. Myself and lots of expats on a T/F visa had no choice but to leave the country during the Olympics (many never went back). Had a friend that was in the Olympics for rowing and his grandparents were denied a visa to come watch him in Beijing!.

    Now living in Costa Rica and wanted to take my girlfriend to NY and Vancouver. US was relatively easy to get her a visa. Canada was not... they required original bank statements, property titles, etc... so she didn't get a visa. Ridiculous! I'm Canadian and ashamed of our visa policy.

    Both these countries got the Olympics with very bad visa policies... Maybe US visa policy is brought up to cover the other problems such as the US shrinking international reputation...

  • by 2phar ( 137027 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:12PM (#29627617)

    Every entry point takes fingerprints of every visitor who is not a US Citizen or legal US Resident.

    Actually, the DHS at Chicago O'Hare electronically fingerprint all fingers of both hands and take a face photograph of returning legal US permanent residents.

  • by Nevyn ( 5505 ) * on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:19PM (#29627669) Homepage Journal

    Do you have a really old green card? Because my green card has my picture and fingerprints on it already.

  • by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:22PM (#29627691)

    Incorreect. there are at least 20 entry points at the northern border that are unmanned and simply have a phone there asking you tell them you are crossing the border.

    In times past, that might have used to be the case. Nowadays, people near the border are reporting that those "defenceless" border posts aren't completely defenseless. If you cross-over and do not call, then you get pulled over by U.S. police or border patrol shortly afterwards. Granted, it isn't perfect security, but it is enough of a deterrent to make sure you use that phone.

    The serious drug runners have other routes that they use. The U.S.-Mexico border has scary levels of security, and both drugs and illegal immigrants get through. The U.S. Navy patrols the sea routes into the U.S., and both drugs and illegal immigrants get through. Additionally, on a smaller scale, the U.S. can't even keep drugs out of its own jails.

    More crime occurs across state lines than across the Canada-U.S. border. From a statistical point of view, the U.S.-Canada border is the safest border in the world. After a certain point, I think you need to ask: With all the security proposals, is anyone actually getting protected?

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:29PM (#29627739) Homepage

    "International travel to the U.S. declined by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. To lure visitors back, U.S. Travel has been pushing the Travel Promotion Act, which recently was passed in the Senate and is awaiting action in the House, to create a campaign to strengthen the image of the United States abroad."

    The US has just announced a $10 fee that any visitor to the US must pay to enter the country. This is to be used to fund an internation publicity campaign. Putting two-and-two together, I assume this is the campaign that the fee is going to.

    Draw footgun, fire!

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:48PM (#29627891) Journal

    The Homeland Gestapo wanted to search the trunk of my car. Why I have no idea. Maybe because it was 10 o'clock at night and they thought it odd a Marylander was driving through Texas, and just assumed I was transporting Mexicans. (shrug)

    In any case the bastards made me stand in the cold night air for an hour while I steadfastly refused to open my trunk, and then finally let me go.

    I should have filed a lawsuit - C64love v. United States

  • Trade (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:08PM (#29628541) Homepage Journal

    At this time Canada relies on trade with the US, but if they were smarter, and thought more long range, they wouldn't need to at all. They could be completely independent on energy and (most) manufactured goods and agriculture, then they would have the luxury of charging heavy premium prices for any exports, because they really wouldn't need exports then, nor much in the way of imports. Plus they could ignore all that border crossing nonsense for the most part. It is potentially the richest nation on earth per capita if you take their low population and compare it to land mass and available natural resources, including the largest amount of freshwater. They just need to diversify even more then they are now and stop selling off all their resources at sub wholesale rates for short term profits like some third world poverty stricken developing nation. They could go high end and develop the best quality this or that manufactured thing, and not even try to compete at the low range. If they don't watch it, they will become just a colony to be exploited by the US and China for all that wealth. They are half way there now as it is.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:31PM (#29628701)

    I don't recall any Olympics in Japan recently either.

    Brazil doesn't fingerprint visitors (well, they were fingerprinting Americans for a while as revenge), and getting an entry visa is much easier, particularly if you're from certain parts of the world that the US doesn't like.

    I have colleagues who can't travel to the US for scientific meetings because they can't get a visa, because of where they were born. Some others can get in, but they have to apply six months in advance and then it's kind of a crap shoot whether they actually get it in time or not.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:34PM (#29628715)

    When I wandered around western Europe in 2005 the only crossings where I needed a passport were into and out of France, to (from) the UK.

    I've actually flown into Spain (from Canada) twice, and the booth for the passport guy was empty. Straight off the plane and onto the street with no passport check.

  • by cgomezr ( 1074699 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:47PM (#29628821)

    I go to 3-4 computer science conferences a year. Last year, I went to one in the US. At the customs, I got singled out for no reason and taken into a room with other 50-60 people. I had to wait for a long time while a bully guard was saying that we were not American citizens so they had the right to search our luggage and retain us for as long as necessary (no one had asked him anything, he was just saying it out of sheer pleasure, it seems). They interrogated me and didn't want to tell me why I was taken there. They wouldn't let us use our mobile phones. I spent like 3 hours there until they let me go, fortunately I was able to catch my connecting flight (to a different US city) in the last minute (since I had been told that if I missed it due to the interrogation no one would pay anything, since it was "for security".

    After the experience, I decided not to go to the US anymore unless it is strictly necessary. This year I have not submitted papers to any conference taking place in the US, and I don't plan to do so in the future, unless I have a coauthor willing to go. Sorry guys, it's not that I don't like your country, in fact everyone was really nice to me once I was *inside* the US. But being treated like a piece of sh*t at the customs without even being given a reason is not a nice experience. Perhaps if you haven't gone through it you may think that it's just a minor nuisance, but it really gets to your nerves being there, waiting, unable to do anything, surrounded by heavily armed guards as if you were a criminal, receiving no explanation whatsoever for your situation, and getting nervous as the time for your next flight is approaching and they don't let you go. Even if the country is nice, it's just not worth it.

    So yes, I'm sure these kinds of border controls harm tourism. I don't want to go to the US while the situation is like that, and I'm aware of more people of the same opinion.

    PS: I have been to like 20 or 30 countries, including poor and rich countries, and I haven't been treated so badly in any other place, only in the US customs.

  • by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:52PM (#29628857)

    A few months ago a friend of mine decided to take his family (wife and two little kids) to the USA for a day of shopping. They recently moved to a town in Manitoba, not too far from the US border.
    When he got to the border there was nobody at the checkpoint. He sat there for some number of minutes, nobody seemed to be around and nothing moved at all, so he continued on his way into the USA.

    A couple of miles further along the highway he saw a large truck stopped on the shoulder of the road ahead of him. As he approached it, the truck suddenly swung across the highway to block it and three unmarked police cars came roaring up from somewhere behind him and boxed him in. His car was surrounded and he was ordered out at gunpoint (which terrified everyone in the car, of course).

    He was ultimately taken back to the checkpoint in one of the police cars while his wife had to drive their car with the kids in it back to the checkpoint behind him -- she had a police car in front and behind all the way. They questioned them there for a couple of hours before they decided they were just dumb and not terrorists, then they released them at the border and they had to return home. (It was too late in the day for any shopping and who's in the mood after that, anyway.)

    He asked them if he would be allowed back into the USA in the future and they said he would be, but never go through an apparently unmanned checkpoint again. I don't think he's ever gone back, though.

  • by AlamedaStone ( 114462 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @03:03PM (#29628959)

    That all sounds good - let the Neocons and the psychotic Religious Right fight it out - until you try and figure out the geography of such a move. The country is just too purple to carve off some red states and let them have at it.

    Maybe we could send them all "Free Boat Winner!" postcards that can only be redeemed in Alaska, and then shut the border?

  • Re:It is worth it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AlamedaStone ( 114462 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @03:11PM (#29629027)

    Yes, border crossing into the U.S., especially by air, can be "harrowing" sometimes - but the experiences can be very rewarding. Reconsider putting a trip over-the-pond back onto your to-do list.

    It really comes down to how much public humiliation is worth a few days as a tourist. Some people don't seem to mind it, but personally I don't even fly inside the US anymore.

    If I wanted to pay to be insulted, demeaned, and harassed I'd want it done by a professional - preferably in full leather.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @04:56PM (#29630067)

    As much as I dislike the border procedure I just go with the program when I actually want to enter the US.

    However, I never understood why I have to clear US immigration and customs if I am just transiting the US. This is plain stupid and silly and comes at a great cost in time and money to me and the American tax payer. Why oh why do I have to leave the secure area and stand in line once again to be subjected to the xenophobic comments of a TSA slug who doesn't know how to read a foreign passport? I fly via Asia or Canada just to avoid that BS.

    Oh get this, now they want a $10 fee (in addition to the fee you are already paying with your ticket) and they want to use this to promote tourism! Does it get any more stupid than that?

    Compare that to continental Europe. Arrive from your transatlantic flight and go to your gate. Done. You'll pick up your bags at your destination.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @05:00PM (#29630097) Homepage

    I am a U.S. Citizen who travels on a U.S. passport. The last time I came back from an overseas trip, I showed the security guy my passport and was subjected to the following interview:

    Interviewer: Where will you be going once you land?
    Me: Uh. Home?
    Interviewer: And what will you do once you're in the U.S.?
    Me: ...

    I had been hopping between airports for a long time that day and was tired and eager to get home, so you can imagine how ridiculous this situation seemed. Part of me wanted to say, "Oh, you know, the usual... smoke some weed, hang out with my buddies at the mosque, maybe get on welfare..." I mean, technically I could have said "rob banks" and as a U.S. citizen I would still have every right to return to my own country! (And I mean that literally...the Right to return to my country.)

    But you can fill in my real answer yourself; I'm sure you get the idea. Expedience was necessary here, as I had a connecting flight to catch. But it still galled me that I had to talk to some droid as if I were interviewing for a job at McDonald's just to return home after a trip.

  • by neurovish ( 315867 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @05:01PM (#29630107)
    Switzerland isn't in the Schengen zone though. I went through the swiss "border control" coming from France and it was basically a couple of border officers grabbing every few people out of the crowd rushing by and checking their passport. On the train from Switzerland -> Germany, somebody came through and checked our passports, but no stamps or anything. Driving between Belgium and Germany, I couldn't even find where the border was since the area on the Border is germany speaking anyways. The other Schengen areas are the's just like going from one state to another except the language on the signs change.
  • by m0! ( 1099287 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @05:02PM (#29630117)
    Ditto. And it's not just once but every time you re-enter. I've re-entered the US about a dozen times in the past few years with a green card and photo and fingerprints are taken every time.
  • by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @05:54PM (#29630521) Homepage Journal

    "...a former co-worker of mine who traveled frequently left one in his bag for several trips and was never tagged. "

    Similar experience here. I had completely forgotten about a pair of scissors left in the back pocket of my laptop bag. After flying out and returning I noticed them in there and couldn't believe that I hadn't been taken down at the airport.

    On another note, I realized on my last trip that apparently they don't think terrorists will be flying first class. I noticed that when you get a meal in first class they serve it up with a nice set of stainless steel ware, including two forks and a knife (not to mention the nice little wine glass made of actual glass). I wonder how they got them past airport security?

  • by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @06:33PM (#29630825)

    I flew from the UK to Montreal recently. My local airport has no direct flights to Canada but there is a daily flight to Newark and I could have easily bought a through ticket to Montreal, changing planes in Newark. But... that would mean jumping through all the Immigration hoops in the US, including registering on a US government website at least a week in advance to pre-clear my arrival. It was entirely possible that on my arrival at Newark I could be refused entry to the United States and repatriated back to the UK on a whim even if I had spent hours filling in all the details on the required forms.

    Instead I found another flight to Montreal via Schiphol in the Netherlands. On arrival in Schiphol I stayed airside and passed through security only when embarking on the second leg of my flight. I did not have to pass through Immigration or Customs.

    The last time I was in the US was 2004. I don't see myself going back again any time soon although I really enjoy my visits to America and would like to go again. It's the getting there that hurts.

  • by grotgrot ( 451123 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @06:51PM (#29630949)

    When I came through SFO last time their computers read my British passport and Green Card and then decided that meant I was American which resulted in ever increasing numbers of supervisors being called over. At some point one of them started arguing with me as I was born in an African country but was only there for one month after my birth. He was insisting I must have a passport from there as well. No amount of pointing out that the US is one of the few countries with a policy of being born there means automatic citizenship appeased him. (They eventually worked out the computer system was being stupid.)

    BTW the time limit for outside visits with a Green Card is 6 months. You can go for up to a year if you fill out lots of paper work in advance.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @07:50PM (#29631271)

    "This country would be farther ahead if we carved off a section and let you have your own space. I'd be all for that"

    That idea has been obsolete since the War Between the States, when Washington decided that Americans have no right to secede. The only alternative left was for those forcibly retained to expand their political base, so they did.

    People will behave as they wish. If you let anyone into your country who wants in, expect them to make your society in their image to the extent they have the power to do so.

    If you forcibly incorporate or retain people in your country, expect them to make your society in their image to the extent they have the power to do so.

  • by zuperduperman ( 1206922 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:20PM (#29631725)

    This kind of thing was one of the factors that made me decide not to apply for a green card when it was offered. Once I looked into it I realized it was an untenable way to live my life - settling in a country but living forever knowing that a breach of any of a whole raft of obscure and ambiguous constraints and restrictions might see me kicked out of the country despite having maybe a house, family, job, kids or all kinds of other commitments. In fact, the way I understood it at the time, they could basically terminate your greencard for *any* reason - just because they felt like it. No one should live with that threat hanging over their head. Of course, one can (and probably should) apply for citizenship eventually, but that might be 10 years down the track.

  • by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:15PM (#29631987)

    Per the interview with the Chicago mayor I heard on NPR this morning, it was two main reasons. Rio put a $14 billion of government back funding on the table and Chicago only presented $5 billion of mostly private funding (some of which was questionable). Plus the IOC really wanted to host the games in a non-major country or area such as South America or Africa. Personally I found it odd that the White House had a task force assigned to try to get the games to Chicago, which was actually a turn-off to the IOC. Chicago was never a serious contender as they started lobbying so late and really didn't have any actual plans to make it happen well, just as Atlanta was ill prepared..

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:55PM (#29632471) Journal

    The CDC did a study and estimated that 36,000 people [] in the US die from the flue each year. This estimate includes people dieing from other diseases while having the flue since the flu compromises the immunity system and allows other chronic illnesses to set in or strengthen. I'm going to assume the numbers for Sweden do the same.

    Also, the population of US is more around 33.20 times that of Sweden. 30 times is enough for a rough estimate but seeing how we got real numbers from the CDC, I figure pointing this out too could be helpful. The 33.20 cam from dividing the population of the US by the population of Sweden as reported in their respective Wikipedia entries. OF course we should know to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt but I have no reason to think the numbers aren't real.

  • by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Sunday October 04, 2009 @03:21AM (#29633265)

    Yeah, with all the lockable cockpit doors and whatnot I've always been wondering how feasible it would be for a terrorist organization to get pilots hired into an airline and have them be on the same flight on attack day, engage all the anti-hijacking measures and then go fly into whatever they feel like.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.