Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Conyers, Kildee, Dingell, Lawrence Release Joint Statement on Visa Waiver Program Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), and Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) released the following joint statement on H.R. 158, the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act,” which would, among other things, prevent dual nationals of Iraq and Syria, or individuals who have traveled to these countries, from participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

Dean of the U.S. House
                  of Representatives
                   John Conyers, Jr.
“The first responsibility of government is to keep the American people safe. The American people are rightfully concerned about the threat of terrorism following the attacks in Beirut, Paris and San Bernardino. Recently, Congress and the Administration have been examining changes to the Visa Waiver Program to ensure that there are not any vulnerabilities that could put the American people at risk. 

“There are many provisions of H.R. 158 that we support. Specifically, requiring all travelers under the Visa Waiver Program to have an unexpired, fraud-resistant electronic passport is an important security measure to take. We also support requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to study further ways to incorporate anti-fraud and deception technology into the Visa Waiver Program. Both of these steps will help improve our security here at home.

“However, we voted against the H.R. 158 today because we are concerned that the provisions in the legislation restricting the use of the visa waiver program to individuals who have travelled to Syria or Iraq or are dual nationals of these or other covered nations are discriminatory. These more controversial provisions have never been the subject of any committee hearing or markup and deserved more review and vetting before being considered on the House Floor.

“We are also concerned that these provisions contain no exceptions for journalists, researchers, human rights investigators or other professionals.  There is also an issue as to whether the new requirement will result in our partner nations placing new limits on travel by U.S. citizens to their own countries. 

“It is because of these concerns that numerous civil rights and civil liberties groups have expressed serious concerns or outright opposition to the overall legislation, including the ACLU, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab-American Civil Rights League, Human Rights Watch, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, among others. 

“We hope that these provisions will face further review and consideration before being taken up by the Senate or included in any year-end legislation.”  

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