Sunday, April 30, 2017

Points of Entry: How Canada's Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In

An image of Vic Satzewich's book, Points of Entry
Vic Satzewich's book, Points of Entry
Today's blog post is about a book of the same title, written by Vic Satzewich, professor of sociology at McMaster University, and author of numerous articles and books.

Although immigration is not one of the most fascinating topics to read about, it is increasingly becoming an important one to understand given the fact that immigration (visa) officers are not thoroughly vetting all immigrants, visitors, and refugees, which is a symptom of an even bigger problem: the lack of nation building within Canada's immigration system.

Satzewich details why this is and in the process provides an immense amount of information on the intricacies of Canada's immigration system, making this book one of "the" sources on how Canada's immigration officers decide who gets in and the influential factors that impact their decisions.

Reading this book was my first foray into the inner-workings of Canada's immigration offices; a shared journey with the author who had admitted in the Introduction, that prior to beginning the research for this book he had, at best, a "sketchy understanding" of the decision-making process for visa issuance. 

Points of Entry breaks open what was once a subject matter clouded in secrecy. Satzewich accomplished this through his determination, diligence, and a drive that, from July 2010 to January 2012, saw him visit eleven Canadian visa offices abroad: one in each of Europe, the Middle East, the Carribbean, the United States, and South America; two in Africa; and four in Asia. His time in each office varied according to size of the office and the respective manager's schedule. In most cases, his observations lasted for approximately two to four days. In total he spent 220 hours at various offices, interviewed 128 people involved in immigration, and had the opportunity to observe forty-two face-to-face interviews that visa officers conducted with various types of applicants.

I consider this book to be a very timely publication given the fact that Canada has one of the most open immigration policies in the world, the dangers of which could—and I would argue, already have—negatively impact Canada's identity, heritage, and culture. One could easily point to: the increased threats of terrorism; violence perpetrated against Canadians; Motion 103 (M103) and all other threats to the freedom of speech including current and future legislation; fraud in its most simplest and sophisticated forms; "jumpers" (those who after arriving in Canada with a visitor visa, make a claim for refugee status); asylum shoppers; economic migrants and so-called "refugees"; the exploitation of our failed immigration policies and procedures, and our open borders by organized crime; and the entry into Canada by those who have no intention of assimilating into Canadian society, but instead wish to live according to their own culture and customs with Canadian standards of living.

In addition to the Introduction, Conclusion, Appendixa detailed Notes and extensive References section, and an Index, Points of Entry's 291 pages are organized into nine chapters: Stated and Hidden Agendas, Delegated Discretion, Immigration Policy, Visa Offices and Officers, Approval and Refusal Rates, Spousal and Partnership Sponsorships, Federal Skilled Workers, Visitor Visas, and The Interview.

Amongst all the challenges that Canada's immigration system is faced with, what I found most disturbing was the lack of contact between immigration offices and applicants, and the fact that visa officers conduct very few face-to-face interviews with applicants.

This became a reality in large part due to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (2002), budgetary constraints, the use of outsourced private sector Visa Application Centers (VACs), and the "guidance" of various ministers from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), that all together imposed unreasonable quotas and time pressures upon immigration officers. The result of which has compromised the effectiveness of the screening process, and substantially reduced visa officers' role as "gatekeepers" of the nation.

Add to this the CIC's modernization agenda (driven by a need to "do more with less") in which many features of the application process were designed to minimize interaction with applicants.

These developments over the past few years have significantly diminished, and for some visa officers altogether removed, the sense of nation building.

The Importance and Necessity of Face-to-Face Interviews

In the Introduction, Satzewich alerts the reader to the necessity of face-to-face interviews by including a visa officer's interview of a Guatemalan woman, Maria, who together with her Guatemalan husband (not present at the interview, but living in Canada as a permanent resident), applied for a spousal sponsorship.

The case not only exemplified the importance of face-to-face interviews in the screening process, but set the tone for the remainder of the book; that is, there is cause for concern that visa applicants are not thoroughly screened at Canada's immigration offices.

Immediately into Maria's case, Satzewich pointed out that the visa officer, prior to the interview, had already reviewed the file and only requested an interview because the couple's story "did not add up." Sadly, this has become standard protocol at immigration offices, which has reduced the screening process to a paper-based exercise: the visa officer reviews a file for a few minutes and only requests an interview if during the triaged-analysis, a "flag" is raised.

The shortcomings of this approach is that visa officers are deprived of going through due process to assess credibility and risk, much of which can only be accurately identified and understood through face-to-face interviews.

This only begs the question, "Why are visa officers bypassing the proper protocol in such an important job, one in which visa officers are in essence, the "gatekeepers" of Canada's borders?" It is a valid question that Satzewich answers and elaborates on:
The bureaucratic environment in which officers work also imposes its own set of pressures. All workplaces have expectations regarding staff productivity, and visa offices are no different in this respect. They and their offices must meet certain processing targets and client service expectations, and those too help mould officer decisions to dig more deeply into certain files. In the context of scarce resources, time constraints, and a heavily back-logged system, offices and officers must triage applications, deciding which ones warrant further probing and which ones can simply be approved...They also rely on locally engaged staff members who are familiar with local conditions, customs, and contexts to help them address issues of credibility and risk. (17) 

Targets (visa issuance quotas) and the time pressures created by them, originate from Ottawa and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who announces the targets the year before in Parliament.

If a visa officer fails to meet his/her target, it reflects negatively upon the entire respective immigration office, including the immigration program manager. Citizenship and Immigration euphemistically refer to unreviewed files as "inventory," which as Satzewich points out is code word for "backlog." (2) If no other immigration office fills the gap of another office's failure to meet its target, then that failure works its way up to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who will be held accountable by the Opposition. 

Satzewich noted that in 2011, the Auditor General of Canada had the number of processed permanent or temporary visas at 1.36 million at Canadian overseas visa offices in 2010 alone. (6) Satzewich also noted that in 2010, there was a backlog of approximately 1 million applications awaiting to be processed. (121)

As for the interview with Maria, it ended after one hour at which time the visa officer (Brenda) informed Maria that she was not satisfied that the relationship was genuine, and suspected that the purpose of Maria's application was to obtain permanent residency status.

Brenda determined this through detailed questioning, that probed deeper into Maria's relationship, putting Maria to task to explain certain things that she was unable to do. Throughout Brenda also assessed Maria's facial expression and body language, demeanour, responses to questions, and overall behaviour, which in most, if not all, cases is telling about whether an applicant is genuine or not. This is precisely what visa officers must do on a daily basis: separate genuine from non-genuine applicants.

The fraudulent nature of spousal sponsorship applications is something that Satzewich elaborated on in chapter six, Spousal and Partner Sponsorships, which apparently is so "plentiful," that it impacts the wider circle of applicants in "particular application streams." At the subheading, Client Behaviours: Fraud, Satzewich goes on to explain the fraud:
In several visa offices, and without any prompting from me, nearly every officer whom I interviewed immediately mentioned that "we have a lot of fraud here." Some was purely individual in nature: applicants may lie about their marital status, the existence of dependent children, or the biological parentage of children, or they may simply embellish certain aspects of their biography. Other types of fraud are organized and systemic, and they take various forms. Some arise from immigration lawyers and consultants who counsel their clients to invent stories about their relationship to satisfy the expectations of a visa officer. As one officer suggested, "In some cases, people have sold everything they own only to pay for a crooked agent, who cheats them out of their money by promising them something he cannot provide. People here often get cheated by agents." (147)
Although Satzewich did not explicitly include the outcome of the visa officer's conclusion, he did ask the rhetorical question, "In the end, what decision do you think Brenda made?"(6) The answer is rather obvious: no visa was issued!

What Satzewich did include was how visa officers make use of their discretion to determine whether to approve or reject an application. Discretion plays an important role in the screening process. Although laws and procedures do provide guidelines and specifics on how to assess each applicant, they by no means cover every scenario that immigration officers are confronted with. As such, immigration officers must utilize their knowledge, experience, and judgement when employing their discretion to properly assess each applicant.

To further elaborate, part of the bureaucratic environment in which officers and staff must work includes certain guidelines: the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which spells out the general principles of Canadian immigration policy; the Immigration Regulations, which specifies the criteria to be used in assessing applications; and detailed processing manuals that explain how they should conduct and document investigations. In spite of all this as Satzewich points out, "...[T]he decision to issue or refuse a visa is ultimately a matter of discretion. An officer must be "satisfied" that applicants are who they claim to be, that they meet the eligibility criteria for the visa, and that they are not inadmissible to Canada for reasons of public safety, security, or health conditions. (6)

Although the Guatemalan case did demonstrate that visa officers are able to identify problematic cases, it only begs the question, "How many have they missed?" A thorough screening of an applicant can only occur through interviews, where quota and time pressures are removed from the process and visa officers can properly assess an applicant's file. The fact that this is not the norm sets off alarm bells that the screening process at Canada's immigration offices are not driven by nation building.

The Negative Consequences of Quotas and Time Pressures

At chapter five, Approval and Refusal Rates, Satzewich identified one of the many consequences from the lack of interviews: immigration officers tend develop negative attitudes about the application pool as a direct result of conducting interviews only for "problematic cases." Applications that "qualify" as problematic are those cases where there is a concern about credibility or the risk of making a wrong decision is high.

In that same chapter Satzewich noted, in a conversation with program manager, how time pressures had negatively impacted application processing since the introduction of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Here is the quote from the program manager:
There are so many things we miss. We only interview if we are leaning towards a refusal. We don't interview good applicants. This can make an officer sour. We don't get the sense of nation building that we use to have. It cuts into job satisfaction. There is no way of talking to clients, we don't counsel them any more. In face-to-face circumstances, we are only dealing with likely refusals. This can lead to the development of a negative mindset. (135)
Further to this Satzewich highlighted how target-driven time pressures work in favour the client (applicants). He went on to note how several officers informed him that if there weren't such high demands placed upon officers, the refusal rate would be much higher. One officer stated, "...If I had enough time, I would at least triple my refusal rate." (136) Another Canada-based officer was quoted as saying:
In some cases, you are 'feeding the target beast.' The big buzzword is 'risk management.' You just can't take the time to verify every document. Sometimes you have to overlook things to get the program numbers. That is why quality assurance exercises are very important. Risk management means closing your eyes. (136)
In chapter eight, Visitor Visas, under the subheading, Time Pressures, Satzewich further revealed how quotas for visa issuance have forced immigration officers to make swift decisions about each application. He went on to note that once visa officers opened a file, the expectation is that they approve or refuse an application within a few minutes. 

Satzewich cited a few examples. In one of Canada's Asian offices, an immigration officer, who dealt exclusively with visitor visas, revealed to Satzewich that she was expected to make seventy-five decisions per day. (196) This translates into a few minutes per file, not including the time needed to write notes in the database. (196) Another officer from that same Asian office was quoted as follows, "I spend about five to seven minutes per file...this office is ridiculous." (196) Satzewich also noted similar experiences from other visa officers as well. 

Most noteworthy was Satzewich's concluding statement about the Asian office experience, that in my view perfectly sums it all up, "As elsewhere in the system, time and productivity pressures provided the overarching context for decision making. A Canada-based officer remarked, "There's so much pressure. They want the numbers. They don't want waiting times...It's always about the numbers." (196)

The imposed quotas and time pressures are not conducive to nation building!

The Problem With Visa Application Centers

Another reason why contact between immigration offices and applicants has been reduced substantially is due to Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) outsourcing part of the application process to VFS Global; an international corporation that processes temporary visa applications including study and work permits, as well as travel documents for permanent residents of Canada. This is not done at CIC's offices, but at Visa Application Centers (VACs); private sector offices, most of which are in the same city as the visa office, but some are in other cities or regions.

Screen shot of VFS Global web site page for Poland
VFS Global web site for applications in Poland. Image: VFS Global/Apply for Visa to Canada in Poland

Satzewich goes on to point out that the use of VACs is a cost-saving measure that is intended to alleviate much of the expense of interacting with applicants. The rationale is that VACs eliminate routine and time consuming aspects of receiving a properly completed application, allowing for visa offices to focus on assessing credibility and risk.

What the use of VACs spotlights is the failure of CIC to recognize the importance of contact between its visa offices and applicants.

The fact that CIC uses a third-party, private sector company does not bode well with me at all. Although Satzewich states that VACs, "...[P]lay no role in the decision-making process and are expressly forbidden to provide any visa related advice to applicants," (193) I am not convinced that the integrity of Canada's immigration system won't be compromised, if it hasn't been already! In my view CIC should keep all processing in-house irrespective of the costs and time to properly screen all those who seek to come to Canada.

The Importance of Contact Between Visa Offices and Applicants

At the time when Satzewich conducted his fieldwork for the writing of his book, many visa offices still permitted individuals to personally drop off their applications. This changed in 2013, after which applicants were required to send their applications to the VACs for processing.

In chapter nine, The InterviewSatzewich clearly demonstrates how detrimental the use of VACs has been with regard to the ability of visa offices to assess credibility and risk. Regarding the change in 2013, he stated, "This measure may have conserved departmental resources, but it also came at a cost for the assessment of credibility. In shifting the task to Visa Application Centres, Citizenship and Immigration sacrificed the opportunity to assess credibility and risk as people submitted their applications." (222)

Satzewich elaborates on how things used to be done, highlighting in the process how the shift to processing applications at VACs has removed the ever so important contact between visa offices—including program assistants, receptionists, and security personnel—and applicants. Here is what he stated:
Before 2013, when paperwork was dropped off in person, locally engaged staff, typically a program assistant or receptionist, ensured that the application was complete and that the necessary supporting documentation was present. If this were not the case, staff encouraged people not to submit their application, because they knew that a visa officer was unlikely to approve it. Thus, applicants would have paid the non-refundable visa-processing fee for nothing. In counselling individuals to hold back their applications, staff saw themselves as doing them a favour. (222)
Program assistants and receptionists played an important role in the triaging of applications. They were the first to come into direct contact with applicants, which afforded them the opportunity to begin a sort of pre-screening process, assessing whether cases were simple and straightforward or whether officers in the Temporary Resident Unit might be confronted with a problematic case.

Highlighting the importance of the "pre-screening" process, Satzewich pointed out that triage at the application submission stage also involved assessing demeanour. Here is what he wrote about applicants as they approached visa offices:
As they walked down the street to the embassy or entered the reception area to hand in their paperwork, most people had no idea that their mannerisms, behaviour, and body language were being scrutinized for anomalies that could reroute their application to the "problematic" folder. For example, if they were a "little bit too friendly," receptionists might intuit that they had something to hide and could alert the visa officer to this potential concern. (225)
Triaging applicants at the "pre-screening" stage also involved security guards. Having access to the offices, guards also kept a careful watch on applicants and relayed their observations to receptionists, who would provide this information, along with their own impressions of applicants to visa officers. This was a much needed collaborative effort that greatly aided visa officers giving them a "heads-up" on certain cases.

Full Marks to Kellie Leitch

An image of Kellie Leitch at the CPC's Saskatoon leadership debate.
Kellie Leitch during the Conservative Party of Canada leadership debate in Saskatoon on November 9, 2016.
Photo: National Post/John Ivison

It would be very remiss of me not to mention Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate, Kellie Leitch, in a post about Points of Entry, as it was through her campaign that I first discovered the book.

Throughout her campaign, whether it was at the Saskatoon leadership debate (above photo)—where she has been captured in many photos actually holding up Satzewich's book—mentioning it on televison and radio, disseminating it through campaign email updates, or through social media, Kellie has consistently encouraged Canadians to read this book and discover some of the major issues surrounding Canada's immigration system.

I took that encouragement to heart, purchased a copy, and read it. Since my initial discovery, I have eagerly shared this book with others.

It has been quite the rewarding experience gaining knowledge about the intricacies of how immigration officers decide who gets into Canada and the factors that negatively impact the screening process.

It became abundantly clear earlier on in the campaign and even more so now, why the thrust of Kellie's campaign has been to spotlight Canada's failed immigration policies, procedures, and border security issues: they are real, serious, and need to be urgently addressed!

Leitch has done more than to just identify a problem, she has provided a solution: her Screening For Canadian Values policy proposal, which she detailed and provided on line at her web site, from day one of her campaign launch.

In addition, Kellie has made it crystal clear, at the Conservative Party of Canada leadership debate in Edmonton, that as Prime Minister of Canada, she will not be tolerating illegal border crossings, (like what we are witnessing in Emerson, Manitoba) which will entail the detainment, questioning and return to the United States of those illegals who have already come to Canada.

For those who are concerned about Canada's immigration problems, I hope that today's post has encouraged you to seriously consider purchasing a copy of Points of Entry: reading it will be time well spent.

To Kellie Leitch, full marks for making this book known to Canadians!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's State of the Nation Address

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking at the "State of the Nation" address.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the State of the Nation address. Photo: About Hungary/PM Orbán addressing state
of the nation: "Tomorrow doesn’t cast a shadow on today"

On February 10, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered his State of the Nation address; one of the most insightful, informative, and impressive speeches that I have ever read. Like all of his speeches they are well written and delivered with poise and composure.

The State of the Nation address was not only an uplifting message for the Hungarian people, but affirmation of Hungary's success story that began only seven years ago; the result of the many positive changes that Orbán and the Fidesz Party—Hungary's national conservative party that he leads—ushered into Hungary after winning the 2010 parliamentary elections.

At the core of Hungary's success has been God's many, continued blessings that stems in part from Hungary's respect for God and the acknowledgement of its Christian origins in the constitution, The New Fundamental Law of Hungary (April 25, 2011), which also includes Hungary's National Avowal; both of which are explicitly Christian and patriotic.

Prime Minister Orbán, the Fidesz party, and the Hungarian people have responded very positively to God blessings with hard work, dedication, and a determination to rebuild their nation, which has resulted in Hungary's emergence as one of, if not, "the" leading nations in Europe.

The State of the Nation address not only captures much of Hungary's success, but instills in the reader an understanding of the courage, certitude, and strength of the Hungarian people and their unwavering desire to reclaim their autonomy.

That is not to say that Hungary doesn't face any serious challenges ahead; it certainly does and some of the biggest challenges come directly from Brussels, what Viktor Orbán referred to as the "five major attacks."

Today's post not only lists and expands upon the "five major attacks," but includes: how 2016, was a year of uprising and revolt; the success of the Hungarian model; how tomorrow does not cast a shadow on today; and concludes with Orbán's intriguing question, "Did the Government lead the country well in 2016?" 

The year of 2016: a year of uprising and revolt

The State of the Nation address was in part a rebuke of the globalists, the media, and "the prophets of liberal politics," who did not expect the positive changes, that have occurred over the past few years, to have ever become a reality.

Hungary's recent history proved to be not some false narrative written by "clever people," but the existential reality of the Hungarian nation's will for self-determination in which autonomous decisions were made and implemented regarding its own political, economic, and social affairs. Orbán elaborated on this truth, "History is us – not just in Hungary, but throughout Europe. In our flesh-and-blood selves, with our thoughts and ideas, plans and hopes, we do not like – and will not allow – others to tell us or decide for us why we are on this Earth, how, why and what we should or shouldn’t do, or should or shouldn’t think."

This truth proved to be quite a reality check for the "arrogance and superiority" of the rich and powerful, which Orbán specifically highlighted:
A common mistake among humanity’s rich and powerful is to believe that they can act like God and be immune from the consequences. They declare supposedly incontrovertible facts; they push utopias onto other countries and peoples; they decide what others can or cannot say, and what they can or cannot believe in; they decide on membership of elite circles and they believe their global power is unquestionable. Money, the media, global governance and an open global society – in 2016 people in many places around the world had had enough of all this.
Citing the examples of Brexit, the election of President Donald Trump, the ejection of the Italian government, and the Hungarian migrant referendum, Orbán went on to state, "...[P]erhaps there is still more to come."

Indeed 2016, was a year of uprising, a revolt against political correctness, in which countries began to reclaim their autonomy. Here is how Orbán put it:
There has been an uprising by those who are not usually asked, whose voices are not usually heard: those who are not at home in the world of the media; who have been pushed aside by the wheels of the global economy; the seemingly weak and vulnerable; those who have been forced into economic and cultural straightjackets; whose mouths have been gagged in the name of political correctness; who were promised a share of the profits of the global economy and global governance. They demanded the return of their homelands, of their economies and social opportunities. They demanded the return of the world in which they once felt at home: the wide and diverse world of nations.
Orbán went on to state that this was the message of the American, French, Italian, Dutch, and Austrian elections.

The Hungarian model is working

Well into the address, Orbán asked the question, "But what is the state of Hungary's affairs, and those of the Hungarian people?" Making a comparison to other European and Western nations, Orbán distinguished Hungary's state as one in which the people have already put their uprising behind them.

Drawing from its recent history, Orbán made reference to 2010, the year in which Hungary announced its own political and economic system, and after seven years of hard work, has created a successful model. It is a model catered to Hungarian tastes, created from Hungarian traditions, instincts, and a national way of thinking: a system of national cooperation. Here is how Orbán elaborated on this:
...It is national because it springs from within us. It is cooperation because we want to prosper not at each other’s expense, but while helping each other. And it is a system, because its foundations, walls, roof, components and fabric are held together by the rules of common sense, while the timberwork was produced under the iron laws of economy and history...The mortar which binds the walls of the Hungarian model is courage: something without which no political structure can remain standing...
Reclaiming its autonomy meant in part that Hungary took control of its finances which resulted in: sending the International Monetary Fund (IMF) "packing"; called the banks to account; taxed multinationals; and scraped forex loans. Orbán highlighted how Hungary's effort to regain financial control proved to be very successful when he stated, "We rose up when they told us it was impossible to put our finances in order while also jumpstarting economic growth. We set out to do so, and we have shown them a Hungarian economy that has been continuously growing for the past four years."

Hungary's success story can also be expressed as a function of its efforts to seek full employment. Seven years ago, the Hungarian government sought to create 1 million jobs; today that target has almost been met with the creation of 700,000 new jobs. 

In its continued effort to help families, Hungary also reduced families' household utility charges.

Hungary has also built a border fence in 2015, which has proven to be very effective, staving off the flow of migrants coming from the Middle East and other parts of the world. In addition Hungary has recruited and is in the process of training 3,000 border-hunters, of which 462 have recently been sworn in by Prime Minister Orbán. What I found particularly noteworthy was how Orbán clarified Hungary's position on genuine migrants: 
And with the migrant referendum we barred others from deciding whom we should and shouldn’t allow into the country. We will of course be letting in genuine refugees: Germans, Dutch, French and Italians, terrified politicians and journalists, Christians who have been forced to leave their homes and who here in Hungary want to find the Europe they have lost in their homelands.
Other positive changes in Hungary include: credit rating agencies have upgraded Hungary; increased wages; a decrease in family debt; a rise in consumption; and the benefit of hard working Hungarians who have been remunerated for genuine performance of their jobs.

If all this isn't impressive enough, Orbán went on to express his commitment to protecting the Hungarian work force from "cheap outside labour," as well as highlighting the importance of everyones' contribution to nation building:
It would not be good to bring in cheap labour from outside to fill such jobs, as is the fashion in the West. Instead I call on us to value each and every job, every job done well, and the workers who do them. We must be capable of sustaining and running our own country. We need everyone to contribute, meaning that in future we must continue to respect Hungarian cleaning ladies, road workers, dock workers, hod carriers and labourers. This is why we are increasing the minimum wage by 15 per cent and the minimum wage for skilled workers by 25 per cent. We are one nation and one country, and they too have a place in our common future.
Tomorrow does not cast a shadow on today

About mid-way through the address, Orbán continued with what is essentially a very positive report on the state of the nation; so positive that Orbán confidently stated, "Despite all difficulties, with due caution what I can tell you is that the future of Hungarians – including that of schoolchildren and pensioners – is assured." 

Orbán highlighted that Hungary's progress was achieved through hard word and determination.

One of the most fundamental responsibilities of a nation's leader is to ensure the safety and security of the citizenry. Orbán has taken this responsibility seriously by tightening up border security, and through the use a dedicated police force, maintained law and order within. In case of disasters, natural or otherwise, Hungary has disaster management personnel on standby and in position.

Orbán understands that the family is the vital cell of society, and has acted accordingly with a wide-ranging and diverse family support system, which he declares as "...[P]ractically unique in Europe."

Recognizing the importance of children in the "vital cell," Hungary has set out to provide support and assistance to children: nursery school begins at three; 318,000 children have received free meals; free textbooks have been given to 730,000 school children; and the government compensates children who are disadvantaged.

In addition to education, children also receive: guidance; physical education is given on a daily basis; and religious studies and ethics remains very much apart of the curriculum.

Hungary has taken concrete steps to improving health care. In addition to recognizing the importance of health care professions with increased salaries and wages, Hungary has also renovated seventy-one hospitals, constructed twenty-three clinics and renovated fifty-four others, built twenty-seven new ambulance stations and renovated another thirty-five.

Hungary has secured its continued economic development with the conclusion of its foreign affairs and foreign trade agreements. Hungary recently received Russian President Vladimir Putin, soon to be followed by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In July, Hungary will be directing the work of the Visegrád Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), and hosting the leaders of sixteen Central European states in Budapest.

Orbán also expressed his concerns for the distant future of Hungary—in fifteen-to-twenty years from now—and the important role its population demographics plays in that future. Simply put, a country cannot seriously hope for a better future with a declining population. In this regard, there is good news for Hungary; that is, marriages are increasing and Hungary is seeing the highest birth rates since 2010. To further encourage population growth, Hungary provides assistance to those who decide to have children.

Hungary takes it one step further and ensures that children are raised to love their homeland, to be patriotic and to have a patriotic frame of mind. Here is what Orbán expressed about this:
Will Hungary be their shared passion, as it is ours? Will they too have a sense of national justice, which is fuelled by patriotism? Will they understand that the only way we can avoid being the slaves of other peoples – and the only way we can remain an independent nation – is if, first and foremost, we declare ourselves to be Hungarian? These are all things that we should take care to teach children in school, because it is only through this that our children can understand what links and binds us together.
Hungary's future progress is by no means without its challenges. Orbán identified those challenges: the five major attacks.

The five major attacks that Hungary must deal with in 2017

Hungary's self-determination has been met with opposition from Brussels, and in 2017, and that opposition has grown and become increasingly hostile. The result of which leaves Hungary with five five major attacks to defend from.

First, the European Commission seeks to prohibit Hungary's own mandated utility price cuts to make way for multinational corporations to set their own prices. Brussels wants to replace individual countries' independent energy policies with central regulation, which essentially removes Member States' right to determine the price of energy. 

Second, the issue of migration. Migrants freely travel across Europe, which Hungary adamantly opposes and seeks to remedy by detaining all illegal migrants until their individual cases are decided upon.

Third, the need for Hungary to defend itself against international organizations, who through their covert actions, seek to influence Hungarian politics. The threat is not from non-government organizations fighting for a cause, but from paid activists of international organizations and their branch offices in Hungary. Orbán specifically referred to the transnational empire of George Soros, who despite Hungary's rejection of the European Union's quota referendum, is working tirelessly to bring hundreds of thousands of migrants into Europe.

Fourth, Brussels' attack on Hungary's tax reduction policies. It is an attempt by Brussels to remove the decision making process and competence from Member States, which Hungary opposes. Orbán asked the very simple question, "Should nations be free to decide on their own taxes?"

Fifth, Brussels' attack on Hungary's job creation subsidies. Such subsidies are used as a tool for economic development to which Orbán asked, "...[S]hould nations be able to decide whether they want to give employers incentives to create jobs, or should this right also be transferred to Brussels?"

Orbán went on to state that, "If we want Hungary to continue being a winning country in 2017, we Hungarians must provide a clear response to these five questions." That response is a matter of self-determination in which Orbán stressed the importance of the government's need to reach an agreement with the people and ask for their support. Here is what he had to further say about the five questions:
In fact behind all five questions there is the issue of national self-determination. So we have returned to the starting point: nations against globalists, sovereigntists against federalists. If we want sure and solid answers, we must come to an agreement with the people. We must ask them and gain their support, as we have done on every important issue so far. It is not enough to state that we shall not allow these things. What is important is that the people of Hungary also shall not allow decisions affecting them to be made over their heads.

"Did the Government lead the country well in 2016?"

At the last segment of the address, Orbán asked the question, "Did the Government lead the country well in 2016?" From the reading of this blog post, one would think the answer to that question is rather obvious, "Yes." As I continued to read the remainder of the address, I was somewhat surprised by what Orbán pointed out to be the typical Hungarian mindset; that is, no matter how well things are going, Hungarians still want to see a government that they are satisfied with.

In my view, the State of the Nation address is proof positive that in fact, Hungary has been led well in 2016. The State of the Nation is a testament to the leadership of Viktor Orbán, the work of the various Ministers, and others in the administration, that the challenges to nation building have been successfully met.

Orbán pointed out what are perhaps two of the most significant indications of Hungary's success: that Hungary is no longer is a nation that is held back by failed leadership; and over the past few years, it has emerged as a country transformed from a "culture of self-pity" into a "culture of action."

Orbán ended his address by providing his opinion on what he considers to be a successful leader and administration:
Sándor Márai taught us that we don’t know the meaning of mediocrity. This is also the cast-iron rule for Hungary’s political leadership. The Hungarians can never be satisfied with mediocre leadership and a mediocre government: we need more, and we deserve more. But the question is this: what makes a good administration and what makes a good leader? In my opinion, good administration takes people to the finish line so that that when they get there, they feel that they hadn’t needed leaders at all.
May 2017 be a year which, when it is over, we feel that it went by like a charm.
Go Hungary! Go Hungarians!

May God continue to bless Hungary with success in 2017 and beyond.