Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump's newly proposed 'extreme vetting' of tourists could cripple Florida

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 3:53 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE VIA FLICKR
  • Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is considering cracking down on tourists entering this country, even from places that are considered close allies, like the U.K., France and Germany.

The Department of Homeland Security is considering forcing every foreign visitor to hand over his or her cell phone for inspection upon entering the country, reports the Journal.

“If there is any doubt about a person’s intentions coming to the United States, they should have to overcome – really and truly prove to our satisfaction – that they are coming for legitimate reasons," said a senior counselor member of Homeland Security.

The new policy would impact travelers from 38 countries and would allow border officials to "study" their contacts, text messages, and other information. Visitors might also be asked to hand over social media handles and passwords.

According to The Guardian, during a House Homeland Security meeting last February, secretary John Kelly said “We want to say for instance, ‘What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords,’ so that we can see what they do on the internet. If they don’t want to give us that information then they don’t come.”

If this happens it would likely crush Florida tourism.

The irony here is that Florida Republicans, especially Gov. Rick Scott, love to make the point that bringing jobs to Florida is a top priority, but for a state that depends heavily on tourism, they seem oblivious to that fact that Florida will see direct consequences from half-baked policies like this one.

In February, Scott went on a "Fighting For Florida Jobs" tour after attacking lawmakers for a bill that would reduce funds to the state's promotional arm, Visit Florida.

"It’s pretty clear, if you’re not caring about people’s jobs you must be caring about something else," he said to the Miami Herald. "I care about people’s jobs. What else can it be?"

We get it. Scott loves jobs. Take a spin through his Twitter account for proof. Here's Scott arguing that even a 2% drop in tourism would mean a loss of 28,000 jobs.

Besides the fact Trump would like to cut funding to FEMA to pay for his useless border wall, as well as cut funds to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (both of which will only endanger lives come hurricane season), Florida Republicans have yet to speak up for the things that believe matter the most to their constituents.

As of last month, Trump's proposed ban on Muslim travelers had caused a 6.8 percent drop in tourism, reported Travel Weekly. That's a brutal dip for an industry that includes hotel workers, bartenders, servers and more. That's lost income not just for theme parks, but to everyone. As Scott has said many times, even the slightest drop in tourism means major losses to this vital Florida industry.

The Chicago Tribune reported that "Trump's immigration stance has begun to discourage foreign visits to major U.S. cities, threatening to cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs." The Tribune went on to note that flight searches from the U.K. have "dropped off a cliff," and are down 52 percent from last year.

Latin Americans are also choosing other vacation options. Trump's xenophobic rhetoric is already expected to cost this country $1.6 billion in lost revenue from Mexican tourists who will likely choose to fly anywhere but here. And now, the administration wants to force tourists to hand over their unlocked cell phones to a border agent.

Other countries, including Canada and Israel, already ask travelers for unlocked phones and email and social-media passwords, as reported in this Atlantic article. In February, the Atlantic quoted Jonathan Zdziarski, a prominent security expert, as saying, “It’s likely the U.S. will inspire many countries, including oppressive nations, to institute the same password policies at the border.”

Sorry, Scott, but the Mouse may not be enough of a draw to save Florida's tourism industry from Trump. The impact of Trump's rhetoric isn't theoretical. "The Trump Effect" is already here.


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