Tag Archives: arbitrariness

US visa policy: where everything’s made up, and due process doesn’t matter

In 1998, Robert Olsen successfully sued the US State Department, winning his claim that he had been fired for refusing to enforce racist and arbitrary immigration policies. The full judgment in Olsen v. Albright is worth reading. Olsen, who was stationed in Sao Paulo, was a law graduate working as a consular officer reviewing visa applications. He was troubled by the consulate’s policy. The Sao Paulo consulate’s visa manual explicitly documented common abbreviations used when documenting visa refusals, such as these gems:

  • LP = looks poor
  • LR = looks rough
  • TP = talks poor

Note that these determinations were not made on the basis of actual evidence, such as affidavits, bank statements, or letters. They were made simply on the basis of a consular officer deciding the applicant “looked poor” or “talked poor”. Imagine being denied your driver’s licence because the bureaucrat at the DMV felt that you just “look” like a bad driver. Here are some actual, documented reasons for visa denials:

  • “Slimy looking[;] wears jacket on shoulders w/ earring”
  • “LP!!!!!!”
  • “Look Really Poor”
  • Bad Appearance. Talks POOR”
  • “Looks + talks poor.”

Of course, if we’re turning down applications because of arbitrary things like someone’s physical appearance, it’s a short hop and a skip to turning them down because of race. The Sao Paulo visa manual further singled out various races and nationalities as especially suspect (ostensibly because of fraud). The manual explicitly states: “Visas are rarely issued to [Koreans and Chinese] unless they have had previous visas and are older.” One would assume that if fraud were the reason, the manual should have laid out ways to corroborate suspicion of fraud, instead of making blanket assumptions about people of a particular nationality or ethnic descent. Instead of providing any such guidance, Olsen’s superiors scolded him for issuing too many visas to people who fit certain unspecified “fraudulent” profiles, and arbitrarily demanded that he double his visa rejection rate from 15% to 30%. Judge Stanley Sporkin eventually found in Olsen’s favour, ruling (emphasis added):

The Consulate’s policies instruct visa officers to view members of these groups as far more suspicious and dishonest than applicants of other races and nationalities. In effect, the manual places a heavy additional burden on applicants of particular nationalities and races that other individuals do not have to face. Based on generalized stereotypes about their behavior, Koreans, Chinese, and Arabs are singled out and stamped with the ignominious badge of “major fraud” before any facts about them are known.

…Although the Court understands the difficulty of the Consulate’s task, greater efficiency is not a sufficient reason to justify the discrimination of people based upon their skin color or national origin. …The Court is aware of the State Department’s difficult responsibilities in adjudicating visa applications under strict time constraints. However, the Court is confident that the State Department can dispatch its duties effectively without using generalizations based on national origin. This nation’s officials once deemed it necessary to make the broad generalization that American citizens of Japanese origin were inherently suspect and likely to commit espionage.

Sporkin noted that Olsen’s superiors did not cite any actual instances of fraud in their evaluation of his performance; they merely demanded he arbitrarily reject more people who they viewed as inherently more susceptible to fraud: “the administrative record reveals numerous instances where Plaintiff’s superiors, in instructing Plaintiff how he should improve his performance, told him to rely more heavily on the profiles.” When Olsen was posted to a different consulate without Sao Paulo’s discriminatory policies, he received an exemplary performance review which noted he “appeared to apply consistency and good judgment to each visa case.”

Sadly, Sporkin’s decision did nothing for the hundreds of people refused visas for being born into the wrong race, or wearing the wrong clothes. Even more sadly, the New York Times noted at the time that “similar policies are in effect at American visa offices around the world.” And this was in a pre-9/11 world; it is a truth universally acknowledged that US visa policy has become even stricter since then. And US consular officers’ discretion has not shrunk: they remain empowered to use virtually any reason they like to deny you a non-immigrant visa, and they strongly oppose the establishment of any rules- or principles-based process, especially one that the public might rely on, citing fraud concerns.

We know that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. As immigration lawyer Angelo Paparelli notes, US consular officers literally have the final say on who gets a visa: it is a decision not even the President can overturn. One immigration lawyer has a heartrending tale of how the absence of any appeals process destroyed her client’s life. Another immigration law blog from Thailand puts it more bluntly: “Many people mistakenly believe that legal concepts such as due process apply to matters going before US Consular officers.” The end result: a US visa policy that denies you a visa simply because you “Look Really Poor.”

The scary thing is, we have no idea how many such cases like these there are. The only reason this matter became public and went before the courts is because of the following chain of events:

  1. The Sao Paulo consulate explicitly documented their racist and arbitrary visa policies
  2. Olsen was stationed in Sao Paulo
  3. Olsen had the moral courage to refuse to apply racist and arbitrary visa policies
  4. State fired Olsen for his courageous stance
  5. Olsen sued State for wrongful termination, and did not accept a private settlement

If any one of those had not happened, we would never have heard about this. Under US law, consular decisions are not subject to judicial review, and there is no appeals process. The racist and arbitrary nature of visa policy only came before the court because it was at issue in Olsen’s allegation of wrongful termination — not because the court was reviewing visa policy or specific visa denials, something the court had absolutely no legal right to do.

There is literally more due process and transparency involved in applying for a US government secret security clearance than there is in applying for a tourist or student visa. Anyone who has their clearance application denied is allowed to appeal, and the findings of these hearings are documented and made public. Until the courts told the US government that they were simply going too far, immigrants were not even allowed to see the evidence that the US government had used in deciding to deny their visa. The US government’s position until 2011 literally was:

  1. Appeals against denied security clearances are public matters, and the evidence behind the government’s decision needs to be public by default
  2. Appeals against denied visas are a threat to national security, and the government should not make public any evidence without undergoing the tortuous Freedom of Information Act process

The people whose visas were denied by the Sao Paulo consulate are in all likelihood the tip of the iceberg. Because there is no appeals process and the US government hides the visa adjudication and decision-making processes behind a veil of “national security” that doesn’t even apply to top secret security clearances, we have no way of knowing how many other US consular outposts might be enforcing similarly arbitrary or racist policies. Considering the opacity and dictatorial discretion here, it would be surprising if Sao Paulo was the only one. Every year, 1 to 2 million people are denied US visas for no real reason — they’ve passed criminal background checks, they’ve passed medical checks — the consular officer reviewing their application just felt like turning them down.

The victims of racist and arbitrary immigration policies here are not just immigrants — people who want to be with their friends and family, people who want to earn an honest living. They are also people who simply wanted to visit or study in the US. They had family they needed to see, places they wanted to visit, business partners they needed to meet, classes they needed to attend. And all because they “Look Really Poor” — not because they posed any sort of threat to the US. US policy is that they have no channel for appeal — even if, as one immigration lawyer puts it, “the denial was based on a consular officer’s mistake of fact or a misunderstanding of the law, or even if the officer acted capriciously, arbitrarily, or maliciously”.

Yes, we can improve immigration policy by limiting consular discretion, and guaranteeing more due process. Making the evidence used to deny visas public, and allowing visa denials to be appealed would be a good start. But even these improvements are playing at the margins. We need to abolish immigration policies that assume all foreigners are evil or criminal until they prove conclusively otherwise. As long as we continue to make the assumption that billions of people around the world are guilty until proven innocent, we cannot have any true “due process.” Perhaps the benefits of this manifest injustice outweigh the costs. But there is no evidence, no analysis, truly showing that that is the case. Until you can show me why we should throw fundamental due process protections out the window — why the benefits of making visa decisions in secret behind closed doors, based on arbitrary criteria like race or physical appearance, outweigh the costs — I can only conclude that the immigration policy status quo is an affront to the most basic principles of any civilised justice system.

The cartoon featured at the top of this post depicts a Chinese immigrant being refused entry to the United States, and was published in 1882.

Immigration restrictions are a threat to liberty everywhere

In the civil libertarian world today, two issues rule the roost: surveillance and drones. Ordinarily civil rights issues like these find it difficult to gain traction, but increasingly it looks like even the mainstream media can’t ignore these issues. Spying on the behaviour of millions of innocent people, and murdering innocent people (AKA “collateral damage”) from a remote-controlled airplane, are difficult things to readily reconcile with modern ideas of human rights and freedoms. These issues make me think: how long before civil libertarians begin to comprehend the danger of similar totalitarian disregard for liberty in immigration policy?

Drones are primarily a concern for people burdened by the welfare of innocent people in war zones. Innocents in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan live daily in fear of an errant missile strike, meant for another, but still deadly to all innocents in its path. The policy for deploying drones, and launching their weaponry, until recently has been near-entirely opaque (some would argue it is still entirely opaque). What due process do we have to ensure that drones won’t recklessly murder dozens, hundreds, of guiltless people, in search of taking out one terrorist? What assurances can we give innocents that an overzealous government bureaucrat can’t use his discretion to murder innocent human beings?

The rationale for the US government’s National Security Agency surveillance programmes has always been: we spy on foreigners’ data, not our own. The NSA still maintains it protects US citizens’ data rigorously, though there are many reasonable doubts that this is true. Edward Snowden’s revelations, even if reconciled with the NSA’s claims about protecting US nationals’ data, still ring alarm bells for American civil libertarians: how easy might it be for the NSA to turn the same lens it has trained on foreigners onto us instead? In 1975, US Senator Frank Church warned of such surveillance:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know.

Since I blog for Open Borders, you would be wise to surmise that neither drones nor NSA surveillance are issues I think about much. But like millions of others, these are issues that weigh on me nonetheless. It worries me that innocent people are subject to murder by the state without due process. It worries me that innocent people are subject to surveillance by the state, again, without due process. And I know these worries all too well, for as an immigrant and someone who enjoys reading stories of immigration, I have seen just how utterly the modern state throws due process in the garbage the moment an immigrant crosses the threshold.

I’ve written before about how perplexed I am that civil libertarians devote a disproportionate amount of energy to criticising allegedly dehumanising air travel procedures. I’m glad to see that deserving due process issues are taking up more attention than ever before. But civil libertarians need to add another issue to complete their trifecta of due process concerns: drone murder, arbitrary surveillance, and arbitrary restriction of human movement. The simplicity and fairness of open borders is not just a nice-to-have; it is critical for a just and fair legal process.

I and others have written time and time again about how modern immigration procedures recklessly abandon due process. Ask yourself: did the refugees whose files were wheeled past a UK Minister so civil servants could “truthfully” tell Parliament that a Minister had duly reviewed their applications get justice? Did they get due process? How about the Brazilians whose visa applications were rejected because a US consulate decided that black visa applicants must be poor? Did they get due process?

Any US consular officer is entitled to reject most visa applications for any reason they like. This “consular nonreviewability” discretion, by US law, cannot be challenged in court or overruled by senior officials — not even the President. Since 1990, the American Bar Association has persistently asked the US government every year to  “establish increased due process in consular visa adjudications and a system for administrative review of certain visa denials, including specified principles” — a request that has consistently fallen on deaf ears. In 2005, the US State Department issued a report recommending further reductions in existing due process and more discretion for consular officials.

It would be one thing if this due process brouhaha focused on police officers arbitrarily writing speeding tickets (as they often seem to be doing in many jurisdictions). But this lack of due process tears families apart. It destroys jobs. Imagine if you lost your job because your employer claimed you were a drug smuggler (based on your name resembling someone else’s, who actually is a drug smuggler) — and you had no right to challenge that claim in court. That actually happened to one unlucky immigrant in the US. A lack of legal due process harms real human beings; it breaks hearts and homes.

It is no consolation that the government is only empowered to take your spouse and children away from you, or fire you from your job, if you’re a foreigner. As Senator Church warned in 1975:

I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return. (emphasis added)

A government powerful enough to arbitrarily evict your neighbour from his home, take him away from his family, and take his livelihood away from him, is powerful enough to do that to you too. One remarkable thing I’ve found about the debate surrounding drones and surveillance is that the people criticising them often also implicitly criticise a focus solely on the well-being of citizens, urging us to account for these policies in the totality of their effects on innocent human beings, regardless of nationality. I do not think this criticism of citizenism has struck that much of a chord with the masses — Glenn Greenwald may worry about the innocent Afghan victims of drones, or innocent British victims of surveillance, but the median news media consumer probably does not.

However, these issues resonate, because people appreciate the risk of giving government too much power — the power to kill and the power to spy without the process of law or supervision. Perhaps people need a similar awakening about the power of government to keep you alive while taking away everything you hold dear — your home, your job, your family. That the victims are mere foreigners should be little consolation. A government powerful enough to do anything without due process is powerful enough to make a victim of you too.

The photograph featured at the top of this post is of striking miners being deported from Bisbee, Arizona in 1917. Scanned by the Arizona Historical Society; original photographer unknown.

Yakko’s World and the incredible danger of fetishising borders

Recently, I stumbled across this clip from the children’s cartoon Animaniacs, which in a little ditty lists the countries of the world:

The ditty is not actually accurate for two reasons:

  1. The map and composition are based on information that was current in the early 1990s, which is well over two decades ago;
  2. For musical purposes, not all countries are named and some countries are incorrectly named

Both of these reasons, in other words, highlight the incredible arbitrariness of national borders. Some I noticed in just one listen:

  1. “French Guiana” is one of those former European new world colonies that are still in old world hands today
  2. “Russia” in the video is really the USSR, comprising many regions that today are independent countries
  3. “Germany now in one piece”
  4. “England” is only one constituent country of the United Kingdom
  5. “Two Yemens” (Yemen used to be two separate states)
  6. “Sumatra and Borneo” — the island of Sumatra is entirely Indonesian (although it once had an active and violent separatist movement), while Borneo is divided between Indonesia and Malaysia
  7. “Somalia” is arguably two or three countries, depending on whether you recognise governments like those of Somaliland
  8. “Sudan” is now two countries

You can easily conceive of a very different world map, one where:

  1. French Guiana is its own country
  2. Russia/the former USSR are partitioned or united in different configurations
  3. Germany remains partitioned
  4. The United Kingdom is splintered into its constituent countries (some people are still trying to make this happen)
  5. Yemen is splintered (this potentially could happen, given the unrest today)
  6. Sumatra and Borneo could be countries of their own, or divided in some different way between Malaysia and Indonesia (Sumatra is actually culturally and linguistically more similar to Peninsular Malaysia than Borneo is)
  7. Somalia is splintered, and Somaliland could be a sovereign state in its own right
  8. Sudan would still be unified

All of those outcomes are either incredibly realistic, being actively worked towards, or once actually were the case. What reason do we have for these not being the case, other than accidents of history? If the British and the Dutch hadn’t signed a few pieces of paper because Napoleon invaded the Netherlands, Singapore might be part of the former Dutch East Indies (i.e. Indonesia) today, while Sumatra could be a thriving former British colony instead of a region of Indonesia. Nothing innate about the people of Singapore or Sumatra dictated that their borders be where they are today — in a larger sense, Napoleon had more to do with how their borders are set and where these people may travel than any living Singaporean or Sumatran does today. A similar story applies to just about any patch of land you might pick in Southeast Asia.

Depending on which side of a line you were born on, or on what side of the midnight hour the clock read when you were born, you could be Sudanese or South Sudanese. You could be Dominican or Haitian. You could be Pakistani or Bangladeshi. And based on these totally arbitrary factors, where you can live, travel, work, and study will forever be defined. If Napoleon invaded your former coloniser two centuries ago, maybe you wound up British or Singaporean instead of Dutch or Indonesian, or vice-versa. I do not see the sense in this.

There are two sensible ripostes I can think of:

  1. Some arbitrariness is inherent to the workings of the world, and necessary if we are not to go insane
  2. Countries and their unique institutions and cultures are incredibly relevant to shaping who you are

I would articulate the first as similar to observing that in the US, if you drink at 11:59PM in the evening you can be committing a crime, and 2 minutes later, simply exercising the natural right of an adult to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. But while arbitrary cutoffs may be necessary, at least these arbitrary cutoffs which lawmakers set are based on some non-arbitrary study. Governments (one hopes) consider the relevant medical and social science research in deciding an arbitrary minimum drinking age, just as they consider traffic engineering research in deciding an arbitrary speed limit. So remind me, why is it that Napoleon’s invasion of the Netherlands means someone born in Sumatra can’t work in Singapore today without begging for permission? What social science study are we relying on here?

As to the second point, I think this is all well and good. But it is one thing to suggest that countries are relevant to policymaking and our real lives. Nothing inherent to this point demands an automatic ban on foreigners living and working in your country. Maybe it demands a special language test. Maybe it demands an immigration surtax that funds language classes for immigrants or subsidises job training for displaced natives. The point I am making is that you cannot rely on the relevance of the institution of countries to demand a fetishisation of their arbitrary borders. I probably have more in common with a New Yorker of Asian descent than I do with a Borneo longhouse-dweller, yet I am a “foreigner” to the first and a “fellow citizen” to the second. Yet I am allowed to “impose” myself on the Bornean’s community and not the New Yorker’s, because ostensibly I have more in common with the Bornean and pose a threat to the New Yorker.

None of this means we should discard the nation-state, treat it as irrelevant, or even refuse to consider nationality in policymaking. Even borders have some relevance: they define the boundaries of a certain legal jurisdiction, and I would hesitate to just tear that down.

But we cannot take borders for granted. If we find ourselves suddenly declaring someone shouldn’t count or matter because of this arbitrary line, we need to be absolutely sure why we believe this. We cannot grant borders all the due deference in the world. When borders depend on which tyrant invaded your country a century or more ago, that’s a strong reason to instead believe borders might not be worth the paper they’re drawn on. Considering how often our fetish of borders gets in the way of exploring new ideas about citizenship or adhering to our most-cherished civilisational beliefs, this is no trivial matter.

The American bureaucracy that is worse than the TSA, IRS, and DMV combined

Recently I stumbled on a Bryan Caplan blog post I remember reading a couple years ago, about a businessman who was refused entry to the US purely on the basis of a technicality with his visa. The businessman, Tim Worstall, had a valid business visitor’s visa which he’d used several times before without issue. On this occasion, he was refused entry because US immigration officers just felt he ought to have a different visa in order to enter the US. They held him for interrogation without a lawyer, without recording what was said. An officer wrote an account of what happened from memory, and forced Worstall to sign this account, despite Worstall’s protests that it was inaccurate, because he “was told that if [he] did not [he] would be deported, [his] passport declared invalid for travel to the US for the rest of [his] life.” Worstall concludes:

There is no law, evidence, representation nor even accurate recording of proceedings in such “voluntary departures”. It is entirely at the whim of the agents at the border post. I was actually told by one agent “I’m gonna screw you over”. Something of a difference from what’s scrawled over that statue in New York really.

The comments are interesting; quite a few people seem horrified by the lack of due process in these proceedings. But they are really just par for the course. As I’ve written before, US consular officers essentially have dictatorial discretion in denying visa applications. Border agents have similar authority. In the comments on Caplan’s post, a Pierre Honeyman wrote about how one unprofessional US border officer arbitrarily reduced the validity of his 1-year work visa to 2 weeks, and arbitrarily invalidated the work visas of several of his colleagues.

There was another commenter, one Brian, who argued that some fault must lie with the victims of arbitrary immigration policies:

Don’t perjure yourself by signing a false statement. Don’t do or say suspicious or clever things to hostile and armed agents of a cruel and nasty government. Demand access to a supervisor, a lawyer and a judge, even if they tell you you’re not entitled to them. Have some friends expecting you who know to demand answers from local officials. Never say or do anything whatsoever in the USA without advice from a good lawyer.

I’m not sure how often Brian crosses international borders, but this is really something easier said than done. I’ve been crossing borders since young, and few things strike more fear in my heart than dealing with immigration agents, even though I know I’ve done nothing morally wrong (I’ve never crossed a border unlawfully, never been deported, never had any trouble with the law, in fact). A simple typo in your immigration papers can ruin your life. This is as true outside the US as it is in the US, though this problem is especially pernicious there.

Demanding access to a lawyer in US immigration proceedings is easier said than done, especially when you’re trying to enter lawfully. US deportation proceedings are no beacon of due process or justice, but even those subject to deportation have more legal rights than foreigners trying to enter lawfully do. Worstall could have refused to sign false statements and demanded a lawyer all he liked — the fact is, given US immigration agents’ dictatorial discretion, all of this would have been in vain. Standard principles of due process and fair trials which most of us in civilised societies take for granted simply don’t apply.

(None of this is to say we ought to blame the individual professional civil servants in immigration bureaucracies. The worst personal encounters I’ve had with immigration bureaucrats have been limited to facing mildly unpleasant demeanours; the best have been quite helpful and pleasant. But the professional conduct of individuals can never excuse the corruptness of the system that employs them.)

I don’t think it’s an accident that immigration laws are so inhumane, arbitrary, and unjust. US legal scholars note that this dictatorial discretion offered to individual US government employees stems directly from the US judicial precedent of Chae Chan Ping v. United States — better known as the Chinese Exclusion Case. As one of them says:

Reliance on the Chinese Exclusion Case is a bit like reliance on Dred Scott v. Sandford or Plessy v. Ferguson [two since overturned cases which similarly sanctioned government bigotry and prejudice]. Although the Supreme Court has never expressly overruled the Chinese Exclusion Case, it represents a discredited page in the country’s constitutional history.

When we base our laws on the moral principle that foreigners have no rights worth respecting, it should not be surprising that due process and a fair trial are consigned to the dust heap. When we base our laws on the moral principle that we can do whatever we like to foreigners who come in peace, it should not surprise us that foreigners try to come in peace without getting our attention and immigrate illegally.

Americans love to complain about government bureaucracies like the TSA, the IRS, or the DMV. At least those bureaucracies actually have rules they need to follow and can’t arbitrarily decide you really should pay more taxes than what the law says, or you really should have a driving licence for only 1 year instead of the usual 5 years, or you really need an anal probe before you board that train. Immigrants live in fear of a bureaucracy that’s worse, more powerful, and more arbitrary than the TSA, the IRS, and the DMV combined — and because they’re foreigners, we’ve apparently decided that that is perfectly fine.

Is corruption on the part of consular officials good or bad?

John Lee’s post on US visa policy is, for me, a reminder of how important it is for people to have rights. Rights can sound like an abstruse or arbitrary notion. “Natural rights” sounds like a ghost from the 18th century suddenly walking the earth again. “Human rights” sounds like newfangled UN-speak. But when a person is denied a visa for refusing to laugh at a consular officer’s joke, one feels a certain indignation, a certain repugnance, as if an injury has been done to something rather ineffable but very important. It is not proportional, not fitting, unjust. It is somehow intolerable. The ineffable something that has been injured is human dignity, or in other words, human rights. Rights are the only antidote to arbitrariness and discretion.

Anyway, one of the odd side-effects of an improperly discretionary regime that doesn’t give due respect to human rights, is that corruption can suddenly seem like rather a good thing. Which of the following is more offensive?

1. A visa applicant is rejected for not laughing at a consular official’s joke.

2. A visa applicant is rejected for refusing to pay a $5,000 bribe.

My intuition actually sort of tilts towards (1) being more offensive. I’m very tentative on this point. But at least in case (2), the applicant knows the process. He has more of a sense of being the author of his own life story, of having a say, of knowing the criteria, of being able to plan.

Of course, if I put on my “economist” hat, a very simple analysis suggests itself. If a visa applicant spends his time kissing up to a consular official by researching him and learning what, e.g., laughing at his jokes, puts him in a good mood, resources have been wasted. Perhaps the consular official likes being flattered, but probably he doesn’t value it much, and surely less than the effort to do it is worth. By contrast, if the applicant pays the consular official a $5,000 bribe, both parties clearly benefit. The consular official is $5,000 richer, and the visa applicant apparently values the visa more than his $5,000, or he wouldn’t have paid. Of course, the US public, of which the consular official is supposed to act as a representative, might be deemed to suffer by the decision. But whatever the US public’s stake in immigration may be, it can hardly be claimed that the willingness of visa applicants to laugh at consular officials’ jokes has anything to do with the interests of the US public. So if the consular official is given such discretion that he is entitled to accept or reject visa applicants based on whether they laugh at his jokes or not, then he can’t be injuring the US public by exercising the discretion that has been allotted to him in a fashion that enriches him personally. Efficiency is therefore served by consular corruption.

Now, what this leaves out is truth. I presume that consular officials who reject applicants based on an applicant’s not laughing at their jokes are not deemed to have done anything dishonest or illegal, but that consular officials are explicitly forbidden to take bribes. How does that consideration weigh against the greater efficiency of consular corruption?

One goal of my DRITI proposal is to remove such dilemmas by removing consular discretion. Only when the state seeks to discern and protect individual rights can true rule of law exist.