PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell.
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman and Senator Fred Mitchell yesterday suggested the US State Department’s updated visa requirements “seems to go too far,” as he criticised the Minnis administration for failing to speak up for Bahamians.
The updated application will require applicants to provide social media identifiers, keeping in line with President Donald Trump’s March 6, 2017, Memorandum on Implementing Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and other Immigration Benefits and Section 5 of Executive Order 13780.
In response yesterday, Mr Mitchell said the move was in line with the United States’ overarching goal of making it more difficult for foreigners to gain access into that country.
The former foreign affairs minister said the PLP has long held the policy that Bahamians should be permitted completely visa-free access to America, on par with the allowances granted to Americans traveling to The Bahamas.
Currently, Bahamians are permitted some forms of visa-free travel to America with a police record. However, this is only possible when traveling from The Bahamas through US Pre-Clearance locations at Bahamian airports in Freeport and Nassau.
“Well, you know, in line with modern practices, from the time they started this business of fingerprints and all this other stuff I thought they went too far,” Mr Mitchell told The Tribune. “Again, this seems to go too far. But that just seems to be the order of the day with entry into the United States, becoming more and more difficult to do so and I don’t expect for it to change in the near term.”
When asked his position on whether The Bahamas should seek a more beneficial visa-waiver agreement with the US, Mr Mitchell added: “I don’t think that there is anything like that on (the FNM’s) agenda.
“I think they accept that whatever the US says, goes. It is a difference in philosophy, but very difficult managing the relationship because, in some instances, the Bahamian public is so hyper-sensitive to the idea that the United States will retaliate against us by shutting down the pre-clearance and then making it more difficult for people to get visas to go to the United States.
“But our view as the PLP is that there needs to be reciprocities on this, in the sense that, since Americans have free access to the Bahamas, Bahamians should have free access to the US,” he added.
When contacted yesterday, both Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield and Immigration Minister Brent Symonette declined comment.