AOPA and other aviation news outlets are reporting this week that the U.S. Department of State has issued a policy statement announcing their intention to end the J-1 visa program which allows foreign flight students to work while they study in the United States. In this two-year visa program, students are allowed to complete flight training and then remain in the country for a period of time to work as CFIs and build flight time.
In this AOPA story, their ePublishing staff explains the implications of eliminating the J-1 program:
"Currently, eight U.S. flight schools train as many as 700 students each year using the J-1 visa program. Those schools estimate that their revenue could be cut in half if the program is ended.”In an economy that has brutalized general aviation due to the greed of Bushie's Big Oil buddies, the last thing any flight school needs is to lose half their revenue. Some schools are hanging on by their fingernails, and this ridiculous move by State might be the thing that closes their doors for good.
I call this a "ridiculous" idea, and am not alone on that theory. In researching this story, I found someone in the flight training industry who knows their J-1 visa from their M-1 visa. Patrick Corr, a Senior VP at the Bristow Group in Houston, TX., offered the following below, and it is published with permission, verbatim:
"This is the latest of several attempts by the director of the Exchange Visitor Program to eliminate flight training schools from the J-1 program. We’re confident that it will be reversed, just as his previous efforts were. To eliminate J-1 visas for flight training on the basis that it is a threat to national security is totally absurd. Nearly all of our J-1 students are British, Irish, Dutch or Scandinavian – young Norwegians, Swedes or Danes trying to make a career as North Sea helicopter pilots and hardly the source of the next terrorist plot. Every J-1 student is carefully vetted by the US Embassy in their home country before being issued a visa, by the CIS upon arrival in the US, and by the TSA prior to commencing flight training."To end the J-1 visa program now is wrong on so many levels. For one, it is a "smoke and mirrors" attempt by an inept administration to make Average Joe think they are actually trying to secure our borders to prevent terrorists from strolling onto our soil. But ask anyone who lives anywhere along the part of the United States that borders Mexico, and they'll tell you that our borders are anything but secure. This 411 from globalsecurity.org sums it up best:
"By one estimate each year between 400,000 and 1 million undocumented migrants try to slip across the rivers and deserts on the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border. In 2005 over 1.2 million illegal immigrants were apprehended by the Border Patrol. Official Border Patrol statistics are that 1 in 5 illegal aliens are apprehended and arrested."If you have ever visited San Diego, Los Angeles, Yuma or Brownsville, you know all too well that it is a cakewalk for illegal, undocumented aliens to hike across the border looking for work, free health care, or education for their U.S. born bambinos. Everyone knows this is a major problem, and until the Feds can seal our southern border for good, they can never say we are safe from terrorists. Can Bushie and his State Department assure us that there are no "evil doers" mixed in with the broccoli pickers and hotel maids that waltz untouched into our country every day?
Didn't think so.
Again, we see BushCo's Washington stumbling to try and do something that looks like they have a clue about anything. I am guessing they also think this pandering will give Senator John McCain's neocon base at least one tiny morsel of something to get excited about.
I'll close with a quote from W himself found on unitedstatesvisas.gov:
"America is not a fortress; no, we never want to be a fortress. We're a free country; we're an open society. And we must always protect the rights of our law -- of law-abiding citizens from around the world who come here to conduct business or to study or to spend time with their family."Yeah right, George...unless they are from Sweden and want to learn to fly helicopters. This all begs a very obvious question: Is it January 20, 2009 yet?
Please, oh please make the calendar speed up, I cannot take much more of this guy's cowboy politics.