WASHINGTON, DC – Recognizing the global terrorism realities threatening the US, Congress passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act, imposing additional screening on certain high-risk travelers connected to countries of concern. (The measure was included in the omnibus budget bill passed at the end of 2015.)
Shortly after signing the bill, the president carved out broad-based waivers, going beyond what Congress provided, apparently to placate Iran. Today the U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security and Subcommittee on Government Operations examine how the Obama administration’s offering of waivers will undermine U.S. security.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, will testify at today’s hearing.
Vaughan writes that the “sensible and modest changes” to the VWP were absolutely necessary, allowing “for more scrutiny of certain travelers coming from VWP countries, based on their dual nationality or their travel history, by requiring them to get a visa.” The Obama administration has decided to offer waivers to business travelers to Iran, “precisely the category of travelers that needs to be scrutinized more closely, because of past cases of espionage and illegal technology transfer.”
With more than 20 million visitors benefiting from the VWP – a 24 percent increase since 2008 – homeland security and counter-terrorism agencies are beyond their screening and tracking capacity. This is made clear by the 100 foreign-born individuals admitted to the U.S. who have been arrested for involvement in terror operations and the VWP over-stay abuse, which accounts for 29 percent of the total overstays by visitors admitted for short-term visits. The DHS reported a very deceptive VWP overstay rate of .73 percent, which is unsound because it is based on entries, not individuals.
Vaughan concludes: “The visa waiver privileges are neither an entitlement nor a human right, and the U.S. government ought to be weighing national security needs as a higher priority than the convenience of travelers.”