Actually, as any non-citizen going to the United States of America knows, getting into the country can be something of a pain even if your documents are in order. The difficulties increase exponentially with your “ostensible propensity” for drugs or terrorism. There are even indignities in crossing the U.S.-Canada border, where you will be woken and shuffled off your night bus to have ever-serious customs officers suspiciously eye your passport, then wait for a bit, then shuffle back onto the bus.
Alas, Americans have to pretend to “secure our borders,” all 7,500 miles of them (two thirds with Canada), whatever that means. See Customs and Border Protection’s absurd and militaristic Mission Statement. It’s actually more of a poem on how “under siege” America is: “We are the guardians of America’s borders. We are America’s frontline…”
But as Jean Quatremer writes, when the State Department installed the “Electronic System for Travel Authorizaton” (ESTA) for countries who don’t need a VISA to visit the US, it was more than an inconvenience. Basically an online version of the usual form to enter to the US, $14 will also be charged for ESTA applicants, $4 for “administrative costs” and $10 for a so-called “authorization charge”. Naturally this looks suspiciously like a hidden VISA that will now be applied to Europeans, Japanese, New Zealanders and others who don’t need a normal VISA to visit the United States.
Swedish European Commissioner for Internal Affairs Cécilia Malmström will study the ESTA and may propose counter-measures early next year.