Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015by Representative Bennie G. Thompson
Posted on 2015-12-08
THOMPSON of Mississippi. I thank the gentlewoman from California
for yielding the time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
This bipartisan legislation will help better secure the Visa Waiver Program, which facilitates travel to the U.S. for 20 million visitors from 38 participating countries for both business and pleasure.
While the program provides important security benefits through information-sharing agreements between participating countries and significant [[Page H9056]] economic benefits from tourism, the potential security vulnerabilities of this program have been a concern.
I was a primary author of provisions in the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, which bolstered the security of the Visa Waiver Program by requiring an Electronic System for Travel Authorization, called ESTA. Through the ESTA program, Visa Waiver travelers are vetted prior to their departure to the U.S.
I applaud the Department of Homeland Security for its recent efforts to make further enhancements to the ESTA program. These improvements will better secure the Visa Waiver Program, but Congress needs to do its part. That is why I am pleased to support H.R. 158. The bill was reported unanimously by voice vote from the Committee on Homeland Security earlier this year, and additional security-related provisions were added on a bipartisan basis in recent days.
H.R. 158 would strengthen passport requirements for Visa Waiver travelers and require Visa Waiver participants to report lost or stolen passports within 24 hours. Enhanced information-sharing requirements would also be in place for Visa Waiver countries. In addition to that, it would mandate that Visa Waiver countries screen arriving and departing noncitizens against INTERPOL databases. Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. Its time has come.
I thank Mrs. Miller of Michigan for her diligence in bringing it before our committee, and I thank Ms. Lofgren for her work in this effort. I look forward to the passage of this bill.