It is by far the biggest change I have experienced in my quarter century living in America: the experience of coming and going. While the illegal border is still chaotic, the legal border seems to be getting more and more onerous, unwelcoming, bureaucratic and sometimes terrifying. Getting any kind of visa can be a nightmare of bureaucracy; being finger-printed and treated like a criminal is the first actual experience many foreigners have of entering the US, and the process of getting through customs and immigration can be, even in completely incident-free circumstances, frightening. My elderly mother arrived for my wedding and started sobbing in my arms after the rough treatment she had received from airport security. The reputation of the US under Bush is in the toilet. But the experience of actually entering America may be affecting far more. These little anecdotes spread. And, in the end, Americans pay the price - in lost tourism revenue, less trade, forgone taxes, and so on. When Bush goes, the country's reputation will instantly soar (unless he's succeeded by Giuliani, in which case, we're headed for pariah status). But unless we get a grip on the police state atmosphere at the legal border, the opinion of mankind with respect to America will only continue to worsen.

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