Opinion: Visa Waiver Program Is a Bad Idea for the V.I.

Virgin Islands flag with flag of the United States of America
Virgin Islands flag with flag of the United States of America

Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett has just introduced a bit of legislation that would create yet another Visa Waiver Program – visas would not be required for people from other Caribbean islands wanting to be tourists in the territory.

I have a special place in my heart for these troubled islands; for years I was the volunteer Washington correspondent for the Source. Further, the islands were mauled by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, and got even less help from our government than Puerto Rico did. Finally, I had pleasant dealings there during my stint with the Office of Insular Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, and have visited two of the three main islands.

So I have every reason to wish them well, but Plaskett’s idea is not a good one.

Admittedly, there is a precedent on the other side of the globe, the Visa Waiver Program for the U.S. islands in the far western Pacific: Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which has, in fact, increased the tourist traffic in those islands. This is particularly useful for the Marianas, as it, unlike Guam, is not host to well-funded U.S. military installations.

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But there are huge differences between the situations in the Pacific and in the Caribbean.

A glance at the globe will show that Guam and CNMI have a major geographical advantage; they are the nearest tropical islands to such cold places as Russia’s Siberia, northern China, and Japan. This visa waiver program brings many from the first two listed places to our islands.

On the other hand, the delegate’s bill would facilitate tourist visits by people who already live on tropical islands. Why head for the U.S. Virgin Islands if you already live in a place with nice beaches and warm weather?

The potential problem, as I see it, is that such a program (which includes Haiti, 14 other island nations, and five jurisdictions that are still colonies) would quickly be overrun by Haitians, desperate to get out of their country. They would be assuming that they could move on from the USVI to the U.S. mainland. There would also be similar, but smaller, flows from some of the other nations and colonies, none of which is very prosperous.

Many of these new arrivals, wanting to continue to the mainland, would soon be thwarted at the airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix, as both have tight exit control systems for flights to the states. A lot of people don’t know that, or think that they can outwit that system.

The USVI cannot afford what I regard as the inevitable consequences of this bill.

David North is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and an internationally recognized authority on immigration policy. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, he received a Fullbright Scholarship to study at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. North has testified frequently before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as before every federal immigration policy commission since the 1970’s. His analysis and commentary have appeared on CNN, in the Economist, and many other media outlets.

This article first appeared online at the CIS website.

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12 COMMENTS

    • Your comment makes me curious. Please explain how the author is a “clueless bimbo.” Sincerely want to understand your comment and perspective. Thank you.

  1. “Because those dirty Haitians” is not an acceptable position. What if Florida decided to stop taking VI hurricane refugees because of our murder rate.

  2. Since there are “tight exit controls for flights to the states” at the USVI airports, as the author informs, then why his objection to visa waivers for nationals of other Caribbean Islands visiting the USVI as tourists?

    Do I detect a certain xenophobia in David North’s position on the issue. Currently, the desire of Caribbean Nationals to migrate to the USVI has abated, declined, as their economies have improved. And those who are issued Green Cards usually head to the U. S. Mainland.

    The U.S. Visa Waiver program seeks to accommodate Caribbean Tourists who would arrive here to primarily shop, visit families—and RETURN HOME.

  3. Studies have shown that the majority of illegal residents did not jump over the Mexican or Canadian border, but came to the USA and USVI on various types of visas, e.g. student or visitor, etc. and overstayed their welcome and are now in the USVI and in American illegally. What benefits would it be to the USVI to have Caribbean islands coming here without the appropriate visas and/or passports? Can we go to their islands without a visa? To go to Tortola, one must show a passport but it used to be that fishermen from Tortola would come to sell their fish on the STT waterfront without interference while USVI fishermen were being arrested in BVI waters like criminals. I have not made a decision about whether this is a good idea or not. Maybe the persons objecting to the author’s comments oan explain why having this type of traffic in the USVI will benefit us in any way. I wait with bated breath.

    • There is a visitor visa waiver program between the USA/USVI and BVI in force for decades. Nobody complains about that. But once such a proposal is extended to the “other” Caribbean Islands the anti-alien flag goes up.

      Incidentally, Americans have free entry to most Caribbean Islands and numerous countries around the world. A passport is preferred…but some countries accept a valid driver’s license.

      Do a little research: Very few persons are coming to the USVI from “down island” to overstay and “tek ova” your Little Paradise. You might be looking at the wrong people… and towards the wrong direction.

    • What do tourists, visitors do? They spend money and USVI benefits economically.

      B.V. Islanders shop in St. Thomas and return home all the time.

      And, yes, not all tourists are White People from America.

  4. Cut the VI and PR loose from the USA and strip citizenship from everyone bahn deh. Nothing but a drain on the US taxpayer….

  5. This would also help with a scam where men are mostly the victim where women falsely accuse men of abuse and it can be verbal and emotional false allegations and bam instant green card. Also, a particular local org. Encourages the fraud and even helps and lies for these women with false allegations of abuse because it helps them get Grant money. Please, look up the vawa act which encourages this scam. Men be careful because the law encourages the scam and men have no where to run for help.

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