Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015by Representative Steve King
Posted on 2015-12-08
KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for working
together with others to bring this bill forward.
I rise in full support of H.R. 158, which is the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
We all know that it takes a lot of pieces of legislation to fill some of the holes that exist, but I am pleased that this bipartisan effort has come to the floor of the House of Representatives, Mr. Speaker.
I will say that, as I look at the language that is in here and the pieces of it, to recognize that as the tighter scrutiny to the Visa Waiver Program, which I have had some concern about over the years, 38 countries enjoy the relationship with the United States of a Visa Waiver Program.
The way it functions is, if an individual of one of the participating countries has a valid passport from their own country and they sit down in front of the Internet, they can input that information and essentially clear themselves to be able to travel to the United States without further bureaucracy.
That is a good thing on balance, but a bad thing when we have people that have dual nationalities or people who give indicators, such as having traveled back and forth to some of the countries that we have concerns about as being those countries where terrorists are, let's say, radicalized or sponsored.
I am a little concerned that our list isn't a little longer than this. The countries that are covered with this bill are Iraq, Syria, and, by definition, Sudan and Iran. I am hopeful that the Secretary of Homeland Security will take a look at some other countries to tighten this up a little bit more.
I just returned from that part of the world, Mr. Speaker, probably about a month ago, perhaps a little less. I traveled into Turkey, into Iraq, into the Kurdish region, Erbil, and then west as far as I could go up towards the ISIS lines.
I visited a refugee camp there and then back into Turkey, up to Hungary, down to Serbia, into Croatia, back out of there again, and then determined to skip Germany and Austria this time, but traveled up to Sweden to look at the other end of this.
There I sat with a briefing of our State Department. Some of that in that room is confidential, but we are working with these countries to tighten up our security. We are offering the expertise that we have developed here because we deal with a lot more people and a lot more travel than they do. I am hopeful that we will be able to share more of our intelligence also with the countries that are participating in a Visa Waiver Program.
This will help tighten it up. Mr. Speaker, it will identify those who have traveled to some of these terrorist-sponsoring countries, and it will also require that they exchange information with us so that we can monitor them more closely.
If someone travels and essentially lies about their travel--if they have, say, traveled to Iran, traveled to Iraq, maybe Sudan or Syria, and they apply for a visa waiver--we will either have a software program that will kick that out because it shows up on their passport or we will catch up with that and cancel their visa waiver. In any case, it is heightened scrutiny and heightened security for us. We need to do a lot of things to tighten this up, and this is one.
It is one also that respects our relationship with the visa waiver countries, those 38. It is prudent. It is careful. It puts authority into the hands of the Secretary of Homeland Security. It is the right bill. It is bipartisan. I urge its adoption.