In Spring 2008, the Polish American Congress (PAC) approached all three presidential campaigns with a request to provide answers to selected issues of concern of Polish-Americans, compiled in a Polish American Congress 2008 Presidential Questionnaire.

Links to the answers as provided by the campaigns are provided after each question.

2008 Presidential Campaign Questionnaire
April 2008    

Domestic Issues of Concern to Polish American Voters

1. Political Inclusion

Other than being considered valuable for their votes, Polish Americans have a sense of being left out and generally excluded in the political calculus of the two political Parties as well as by their national government in Washington, DC. Today, Polish Americans constitute the fifth largest - more than 10 million strong - ethnic group of European ancestry in the United States. With 400 years of Polish history on the North American continent, the Polish American community today has a strong presence in every state and forms an active, informed and very vibrant community. Yet, many of its members feel that as a group Polish Americans are comparatively neglected on the political scene and not included or factored in the decision-making process as much as they should be, including concerns such as U.S. - Poland relations.

What are you and your Party prepared to do to change that perception? What specific initiatives or actions would your administration take to include the Polish ethnic group in the decision making process and to develop closer cooperation with the Polish American community, and the Polish American Congress in particular?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Responded
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

2. Visa Waiver

Polish Americans are perplexed and insulted that their relatives in Poland are treated as less than first-class visitors to the United States because of the current visa requirements. Despite Poland's proven and dependable friendship and loyalty in international affairs and combat duty in the "Coalition of the Willing" from inception of American involvement in Iraq, Polish citizens who wish to travel to the United States to visit their families or just for tourist purposes, are still required to undergo a long, expensive and often unsuccessful process of obtaining a visa. Last year legislation was passed that allows for expansion of the Visa Waiver Program and inclusion of new members. Each of the new countries must meet a pre-set visa rejection rate - less than 10%. According to official statements, the rejection rate in Poland is still too high. At the same time, whether or not a person receives a visa depends almost solely on the individual discretion of the consular employees in U.S. Consulates in Poland. The Consulates, on the other hand, report directly to the Department of State.

Since the current process for denying Poland's citizens visas for travel to the United States is far from scientific, and in some respects somewhat arbitrary as well, what is your administration going to do with the Department of State and its reluctance on issuing instructions to the consular employees in Poland that would allow them to ease the restrictions, thereby decreasing the "refusal rate" (i.e., rejection rate)? Would your administration agree to act for the prompt resolution of this matter as a point of national honor on the part of the United States in its treatment of a loyal friend and ally?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Responded
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

3. Defamation

Unfortunately, the instances of bigotry against and defamation of Polish Americans are still present in everyday life and surface almost on a daily basis. They range from the use of term "Polish concentration camps" for description of Nazi German concentration camps on Polish territory, misrepresentation of Polish history, proliferation of so-called "Polish jokes", to instances that are even more alarming, such as ethnically-tinted remarks and comments in the workplace, including numerous agencies of the U.S. Government. The Polish American community maintains a tireless stand against those instances and reacts to each and every one of them with strong protest. However, the protests of the community are not enough - there needs to be a clear message sent from the administration regarding its stand on those issues and what is acceptable and what is not.

What is the position of your proposed new administration on eliminating that problem once and for all? What specific actions and/or initiatives would your administration take to promote a nation free of ethnic slurs and defamation in regards to all ethnic groups employed in its agencies federally and regionally?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Responded
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

4. Jamestown 2008 - 400th Anniversary of Arrival of First Poles

The year 2008 marks the passage of four centuries since the arrival of the first Poles in America, landing at the Jamestown Colony. These men were glassworkers, craftsmen and adventurers who left their families, homes and country to seek opportunity and a new life. Among the many contributions to the Colony made by those pioneer Poles, the Polish American community is particularly proud of the fact that those were the settlers from Poland who, when denied voting rights regarding the future of the Colony, organized the first, and successful, strike on American soil. Their actions constituted the first of a kind on this continent and became a cornerstone precursor to the later history of American civil rights and labor movements!
Consequently, the Polish American Congress plans to host events to commemorate this anniversary in Jamestown in September October 2008.

What will your administration do to educate Americans of all ages about aspects of American history that deal in particular with contributions of all ethnic groups? Will your administration be actively involved in celebrations of the milestones in ethnic histories, and particularly that of the Polish American community?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Responded
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response


International Issues
of Concern to Polish American Voters

1. Military Assistance

The United States expects relatively much from Poland in its calculus for defending Europe and the United States against rogue and terrorist states. Military support and assistance from Poland not only depends on Poland's human resources but also on its deployment of appropriate state-of-the-art military hardware and material. Unfortunately, in many instances, the equipment Poland had to deploy does not meet modern standards.

What will your administration do for providing assistance in modernizing Polish military equipment, fully recognizing as well the limitations of Poland's economy?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Did not respond to this question
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

2. Missile Defense System

On March 10, 2008 President Bush and Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk met and discussed in detail the missile-shield defense system to be built in Poland. At this point it seems that the project will proceed and that the installation is going to be built, against numerous voices of opposition from Polish citizens and their neighbors in other European states. Russia particularly has been very vocal in its opposition to the initiative, and today Poland still has to face the consequences of threats of being targeted, along with the Czech Republic, by Russian missiles.  

Would your administration continue with those plans and honor the agreements? What position would your administration take regarding Russia and its new president if Russia continues to threaten targeting Poland, in particular, with its missiles? What would your administration do to convince Polish American voters that Poles are to be treated equally with Czechs who, along with Poland are to comprise the missile-defense system, even though Czechs can travel visa-free to the United States and Poles cannot? (Polish American voters find this latter point particularly insulting.)

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Responded
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

3. Energy Security

In the world where energy sources have become matters of the greatest political concern both domestically and internationally, Poland and other Central and Eastern European states depend on Russia to have their energy needs met. At the same time, Russia often takes advantage of that fact and uses energy - gas and oil - as instruments of political pressure. Poland, as well as other Central and Eastern European countries, desperately needs to have access to alternative energy sources and/or technologies that would decrease their dependence on Russia.

What will be the commitment of your administration with regard to the energy security of Poland and the other states of Central and Eastern Europe? What specific initiatives would your administration develop to assist Poland and other struggling states?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Responded
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

4. Dual Taxation

According to the Social Security Administration, the dual taxation and totalization agreements between Poland and the United States are currently pending. Signing those documents would allow Polish American retirees to move back or re-locate to Poland for their retirement years and not to pay taxes twice in both countries. Though such agreements were initiated last year, for some reason the matter hasn't yet been finalized.

What would your administration do differently from the incumbent administration to speed up finalization of these agreements?

[PAC: Very soon after the Questionnaire was forwarded to the campaigns, the agreement has been signed.]

5. U.S. - Poland Trade

Supporting a viable U.S. - Poland trade relationship and promoting business development beneficial to both nations should be a normal expectation in the treatment of a proven loyal friend and ally of the United States.

What will your administration do to promote, realize, and sustain that expectation?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Did not respond to this question
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

6. Educational and Scientific Exchange

Similarly to the previous point, supporting viable U.S. Poland educational exchanges of students, university professors, and scientists should also be a normal expectation in the treatment of a friend and loyal ally of the United States. Nonetheless, the reality of a good many recent years proves that obtaining work-based visas for the most talented and educated individuals to travel and work legally in the United States has become increasingly difficult, if not prohibitive.

What will your administration do to facilitate such programs as well as issuance of visas for qualified and interested Poles wishing to participate in such exchanges? What will be your administration's position on the current situation when, for example, last year, the limit of work-based visas was exhausted during the first day of filing applications? What specific steps would your administration take to remedy that situation and allow more talent from all around the world, including Poland, to support American companies and scientific enterprises?

Clinton Campaign: Waiting for response
Obama Campaign: Responded
McCain Campaign: Waiting for response

 
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