As a one-time visa officer, I am appalled at the misinformation about visas.
First, President Obama said the wife of the San Bernardino shooting couple had come to the US under a visa waiver program, when she had come under at fiancée K-1 visa. That was probably just bad staff work, but for a major address, there should have been better fact checking. Apparently, the State Department has said it will review the K-1 visa program, although a miniscule number of K visas are issued compared to temporary visas and even other types of immigrant visas. It is just trying to make Obama look less stupid that he did Sunday night. State will also review issuance procedures for other types of visas that are more relevant than fiancée visas.
The main problem with all visas is the lack of good intelligence about who is a problem and who is not. The CIA and FBI can’t know what every person in the world harbors in his heart. The only absolutely safe thing to do would be to stop issuing any visas and stop allowing any foreigners to enter the US. There are probably a significant number of Americans who would support such a proposition, despite its disastrous effect on the US economy and the US reputation in the world. But it would not be prohibited by the Constitution. No foreigner has a Constitutional right to enter the US. American citizens do have such a right, but they don’t need a visa, just a passport.
Trump’s proposal stops short of an across the board visa denial and would deny visas only to Muslims for a limited time, until as he said, “we can figure out what is going on.” There has been outrage among various people, many of whom should know better, saying this is unconstitutional because it discriminates against a religion. There is no Constitutional protection for visa applicants. By their reasoning, if we denied a visa to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, he would be entitled to appeal the visa denial all the way to the US Supreme Court. That is ridiculous. I know Joe Scarborough likes to go the mosque to pray, but he should not be so generous to ISIS terrorists.
Donald Trump’s proposal may not be the best solution to the terrorist threat, but it’s not illegal, and over the years, the US has had many very discriminatory visa programs. When I was issuing visas, the big concern was the Communist threat; so, we denied visas to Communists. That doesn’t mean that we were engaged in some McCarthy-ite campaign against Americans who had some vague Communist connection. We just didn’t what people who might foment some kind of trouble once they entered the United States on a visa. Americans in America have Constitutional protection of free speech, but a Communist living in Moscow does not, although Joe Scarborough thinks he should have. Joe thinks he has a right to come to America and work to overthrow the US government. Or that a foreign Muslim has a Constitutional right to come to America and kill people, because he is innocent until proven guilty under the Fifth Amendment. I don’t agree. American citizens are protected by the Fifth Amendment; al-Baghdadi is not.