11 July 2006
Poles kept apart
Polish nationals with legitimate cause to visit the United States are having their visa applications rejected because many Poles remain in the country illegally.
The Chicago Tribune reports how many Poles have been denied access to the country to attend family functions such as weddings and funerals, leading to strong lobbying from within America for Poland to be included on the list of countries whose citizens do not require a separate visa to enter America.
U.S. authorities estimate there are about 47,000 Polish illegal immigrants in the United States, accounting for around 10 percent of the entire Polish immigrant population which has its largest concentration in Chicago.
Currently Polish nationals wishing to visit America must stand in line at the U.S. embassy in Krakow, pay $100 and prove to a U.S. consular officer that they intent to return to Poland.
Some U.S. and Polish officials have called the visa requirement outrageous and Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) recently added an amendment to a sweeping immigration bill currently being debated in the Senate that would lift tourist visa requirements for Poland.
The Polish media in Chicago has accused the US of treating Poles like second class citizens and have been quick to remind lawmakers in the country of Poland's support for the war in Iraq.
"We shed blood. We lost lives in Iraq. We didn't ask for anything in return. It was a question of honor," Jaroslaw Lasinski, Poland's consul general in Chicago told the Tribune.
"So why should we be part of the visa waiver program? Why not? We are a friend of the U.S., not a threat."