Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015by Representative Candice S. Miller
Posted on 2015-12-08
MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for
Mr. Speaker, the 9/11 Commission said that ``For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.'' And I couldn't agree more. We simply cannot give people from other countries special access to our country if we don't have all of the information that we absolutely need to ensure that they are not a threat to our national security.
I believe that the bill that we are considering today is the first of many, quite frankly, aimed at improving our security protocols. We need to have a comprehensive, complete review of all of our visa programs, including K1 visas, the so-called ``fiance visa,'' which was used by the female terrorist in the San Bernardino attack to enter the United States. As well, the issue of visa overstays also needs to be addressed.
Today, the House is taking a very important step forward by considering this bill, which is focused on those traveling to the U.S. without a visa.
As was said, the Visa Waiver Program actually was established back in [[Page H9051]] the eighties to expedite tourism and trade as well, and it has worked very, very well economically for our country. Today there are 38 companies that participate; and their citizens, although they are required to have a passport, are not required to go to a U.S. Embassy or to a consulate to obtain a visa.
Obviously, the world is a much different place today, and our security measures must evolve to meet any and all threats, which is why I introduced this bill.
This bill has gone through regular order. As chairman of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, I have held two hearings on this. It actually passed out of the full Homeland Security Committee as well on a unanimous vote, every Republican, every Democrat. Because before we are anything else, we are all Americans first, and we all recognize the vulnerabilities of our current program.
Information sharing, especially with our European allies, is vital, absolutely vital to help combat the threat of foreign fighters bound for the United States. There is absolutely no second for having good information. We need to be certain that participating countries are giving us all of the information that we need from either their own terror watch list or travel manifests, and that all of the information protocols are being shared.
As we know, sometimes it is not until after the fact that some of the participating countries actually provide us the names of individuals who they knew were a terror threat. That is unacceptable.
This bill will change that because what this bill does is it gives the authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to either suspend or terminate a country's participation in this program if we don't feel confident that we are getting all the critical information that we need to stop terrorists from exploiting this program to travel into the U.S.
So, at this time, we still have an information sharing problem with some of our closest allies. And as the 9/11 Commission also accurately noted, we need to move from the mindset of the need-to-know information to the need-to-share information.
Information sharing must happen, and this bill gives America the leverage that it needs to make sure that the information critical to our homeland security is being shared appropriately.
It will also disqualify anyone who has traveled to Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Iran within the past 5 years from participating in this program. In an abundance of caution, we will now require those individuals to apply for a visa and go through the formal visa screening process.
It will also give the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to designate other countries that have significant terror concerns, or become terror safe havens in the future.
Additionally, we will be requiring all participating countries to adopt e-Passports, like we have here in the United States, so that we are able to eliminate passport fraud.
Mr. Speaker, as Americans, we live in a free and open society, and enemies of freedom are looking to use our freedoms against us. This bill will stop the enemies' ability to move internationally by strengthening the Visa Waiver Program. It is a critical component of keeping our homeland safe.
I want to thank the House leadership for ensuring prompt consideration of this bill on the floor. I certainly want to thank Chairman McCaul and Chairman Goodlatte for working as well. And I also want to give a special thanks as well to Representative Katko from New York, who is the chairman of the Foreign Fighter Task Force, which really helped make this bill a much stronger product.
It is my hope that a very strong, bipartisan vote on this bill today will send a message to terrorists that America is prepared to take any and all measures to protect our homeland.