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Poland has been America’s historically staunch ally and fellow fighter for freedom, but despite the close ties between the two countries, the Polish are often denied entry to visit relatives in America. Citizens of every member of the EU can travel freely to the USA without a Visa except Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland. And Poland has paid her dues.
After World War II, and despite being a devout ally, the West conceded to the Soviets, and Poland was incorporated into the eastern bloc to be under the Kremlin yoke for the next five decades. Upon the demise of the USSR, Poland immediately became an ardent American supporter, restoring strong diplomatic relations that continue unheeded to this day.
Polish patriots seeking liberation from occupying forces of the 18th century contributed greatly to the American Revolution. “Father of the American Cavalry,” Casimir Pulaski, was given a national holiday for his prowess and saving the life of George Washington. A good friend of Thomas Jefferson, expat Taddeusz Kosciusko engineered fortifications to defend against the British. He would later leave his will toward black emancipation and education. Countless towns, bridges, parks, monuments, mountains and even a submarine have been dedicated to such Polish-American heroes of valor.
Continuing to align themselves with the West, and in effort to prove themselves militarily with NATO, Poland has greatly contributed toward America’s War on Terrorism. Poland deployed the fourth-most troops in the second Iraqi war, and currently has over 2,500 soldiers engaged in Afghanistan.
Controversially, Poland has hosted black CIA interrogation/torture sites against suspected members of Al-Qaeda. A complaint was filed by The European Court of Human Rights for failing to investigate the CIA prison. A criminal case was launched in 2008 and is still ongoing for crimes against humanity. Additionally, NATO-Poland has harassed Russia by approving American SM-3 missile bases to be built near the border with Belarus.
Even as a member of the UN, NATO and Schengen committee, Polish people must enter a costly, time consuming application process to visit America. With a sizable Polish Diaspora, many family members are denied the right to visit relative émigrés.
Poland is the only European country that avoided recent economic depression, and even rated a positive GDP growth in 2010. The majority of Polish visitors are not looking to overstay their Visas during a boom time in their home country. An enormous Polish diaspora (Polonia) exists outside her European borders. America harbors an estimated ten million citizens of Polish descent. Chicago alone has over 180,000 Polish-speaking residents.
In April of 2011, the Polish American Congress raised the issue enough to garner attention from Senator Mark Kirk who sponsored bill S. 497 and Congressman Mike Quigly wrote up the corresponding H.R. 959 to modify existing immigration restriction rates to include Poland on the Visa Waiver Program. Currently, the visa refusal rate is the standard for a nation to qualify for the VWP.
The bill seeks to replace the standard, using overstay rates as the deciding factor. Quigly testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Dec. 7. “This is an issue of fairness and equity for a longstanding friend and partner, Poland,” said Rep. Quigley. “Expansion of the Visa Waiver Program will improve our international diplomatic relationships, create jobs, stimulate the economy and strengthen national security. It’s time to expand outdated travel standards to include our proven allies.” VWP travelers spent more than 51 billion dollars in the U.S. That spending generated 512,000 jobs, 13 billion dollars in payroll and 7.8 billion dollars in taxes for the American economy.
Obama promised to sign both bills if they pass through their respective committees. “I am going to make this a priority,” Obama said, sitting alongside Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. “I want to solve this issue before very long. My expectation is, is that this problem will be solved during my presidency. I am well aware that this is a source of irritation between two great friends and allies, and we should resolve it.”
The USA raised the standards of visitation in the post 9-11 world, and, with more than ten-percent of Poles being denied entry for suspicion they may overstay their Visa, they become disqualified from the VWP.
Grzegorz Kostrzewa-Zorbas, a former member of the Polish foreign affairs ministry, said, “Poland feels discriminated against,” Kostrzewa-Zorbas said, “differentiated from other allies of the United States around the world.”
“Will al-Qaeda penetrate America disguised as Polish peasants? Will the job market be flooded by unqualified, culturally alien workers from Poland? Of course not,” Kostrzewa-Zorbas said.
Contact members of your state’s Committee of the Judiciary to support the bill or become co-sponsor if they are not in the committee the bill was referred to, or sign the VISA Waiver Petition.