A snarky post on Medium this week has been making the rounds claiming that US Passports are now “worthless” but those claims are overblown.
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Writer Indi Samarajiva created a twin pair of maps, one outlining where Americans could go visa-free prior to COVID-19, the second following travel restrictions imposed on US passport holders. The images are stark and provide a grim list for US passport holders that traditionally have been able to enter many countries without a visa for tourist purposes.
The bombastic writer holds nothing back in the accompanying article, calling the US the “Plague States of America” stating that the “lack of humane leadership” has led to the US passport to now be considered “worthless.” I wonder if any of those countries, “Today, Americans are only allowed in a few Caribbean islands and the Balkans” feel at all denigrated by his characterizations.
“Americans have gone from world power to getting the side-eye from Ecuador in a matter of months. Right now Americans are only really welcome on remote islands or at corralled resorts in Mexico, where they can be isolated from everyone else.”
The writer focuses on President Trump’s lack of leadership but does not specifically call into account state leaders such as Governor Cuomo who (despite some inconsistencies in policy) has managed to get one of the most populous states in the US through the crisis. Congress and the Senate acted to pass legislation for bailouts but the 435 congresspeople and 100 senators that could have enacted further mandates at a federal level but didn’t are spared.
Restrictions Are Temporary
Samarajiva is clear about where Americans can go currently, stating that his own Sri Lankan passport is also worthless. Here is a list he included in the post of visa-free countries US passport holders can visit visa-free (asterisks indicate countries that welcome US visitors with a mandatory 14-day waiting period):
ALL THE PLACES YOU CAN GO 1. Albania | 15. Lebanon 2. Antigua and Barbuda | 16. Maldives 3. Aruba | 17. Mexico 4. The Bahamas | 18. North Macedonia 5. Barbados | 19. St. Lucia 6. Belize | 20. St. Maarten 7. Bermuda | 21. St. Vincent & 8. Croatia | 22. Serbia 9. Dominican Republic | 23. Tanzania 10. Ecuador* | 24. Turkey 11. French Polynesia | 25. Turks & 12. Ireland* | 26. Ukraine 13. Jamaica | 27. UAE* 14. Kosovo | 28. UK* 29. South Korea*
What doesn’t make the writer’s post is that the restrictions are temporary. It’s highly unlikely that the 185 countries that officially offer visa-free travel to US passport holders will maintain these restrictions for a long period of time. Rather, some have already eased limitations and as the US works through the recent outbreak, more will open to Americans again.
Many of these countries aren’t truly open yet anyhow as evidenced in this reader’s ill-advised trip. Their exclusion of Americans coincides with other countries that are also excluded and their own citizenry is restricted as well.
Unlike the writer’s aforementioned “worthless” Sri Lankan passport (certainly, some have to object to this) these effects on US travellers will be temporary. While Samarajiva seems to relish the fact that US citizens find themselves in this situation, the “worthlessness” of the US passport (I find many of those destinations very worthwhile) will last a matter of months at most.
Claims Are Overblown
Samarajiva takes liberties (which he can do, it’s his piece and it’s not news) but some of it is contrary to other works cited in the same piece.
One claim that seems unsubstantiated (the writer previously referenced a report that 200,000 would be dead by election day) is this suggestion:
“America will be lucky to exit this pandemic with less than a million dead and 100 million infected. The living will be lucky to exit their country within the next five years.”
I’m not quite sure how the writer gets from 200,000 to 1,000,000 especially since leadership will be changed (according to the writer) in January following the 2020 presidential election in November.
Another claim that seems to be hyperbole but doesn’t include any citations:
“At the same time, you can’t trust Americans. Americans have poor hygiene (low masking rate) and at least 40% of the population can’t be trusted to even believe that COVID-19 exists, let alone to take it seriously. They’re likely to refuse testing, not report symptoms, break quarantine, and generally NOT follow rules. Americans have a toxic combination of ignorance and arrogance that makes them unwelcome travelers.”
The reality of the situation is that Americans are excluded from many parts of the world today (as are other countries) and borders are generally closed. But to suggest that Americans won’t gain back their rights to visit the rest of the world for five years unless they are lucky probably feels good to type, but is a clear marker that this person is detached from reality. He also includes his own prejudice and assumptions in the work but doesn’t cite any actual facts to support the hygiene claims.
Even if the country hits his first estimate of 200,000 dead by November, and then in three months quintuples that amount to leave one million dead from Coronavirus, many countries won’t be able to exclude American businesses and tourists from their economies, certainly not for five years. That’s not realistic even if coronavirus is never beaten in the US.
This post has been making its way through media sources, social media feeds and is having its moment in the sun. While it is absolutely true that travel is restricted for Americans currently, the suggestion that these restrictions will remain longer than a few months is both unlikely and unsubstantiated. Further, I’d wager that there’s plenty of citizens from many countries around the world that would happily trade their own for a US passport when given the chance. They’d be a little more comfortable with the long approach than this blowhard.
What do you think? Is the US passport now worthless as the writer suggests? How long do you think restrictions will actually last?