A picture of Representative Keith Ellison
Keith E.
Democrat MN 5

About Rep. Keith
  • Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015

    by Representative Keith Ellison

    Posted on 2015-12-08

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    ELLISON. Mr. Speaker, I do support the fact that we are looking at the Visa Waiver Program. However, after scrutinizing this bill, I think that it is not the right bill and I don't plan on supporting it.

    It is not that I can't support any part of it. There are key things that I cannot abide, but I urge the parties to keep on working on it because I think the effort is proper.

    Here is what I think is specifically wrong with this. If it were to change, I might reconsider my position. The categorical stripping of the Visa Waiver Program privileges from all Iraqi and Syrian nationals I think is problematic. I think it is overbroad. I don't think it is necessary.

    Number two, I think there should be exemptions for people who do clearly recognized legitimate work, such as journalists, researchers, human rights investigators, and other such professionals.

    Number three, I think the 5-year sunset is too long. I think it should be shorter. I do think 3 years would work just fine.

    I just want to say that the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 does contain, as we stand here, discriminatory elements, which I don't believe will effectively stop terrorism. In fact, I think it sends a wrong message to dual nationals and Iraqi and Syrian tourists.

    This bill bars people who are dual nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan from participating in the Visa Waiver Program even if there is no evidence that they are a security risk. I think our focus should be on behavior, not just country of origin.

    This bill would also end visa waiver eligibility for people who traveled to Iraq or Syria in the last 5 years. For example, this bill would make an elderly French citizen who is a dual national of Syria go through an often lengthy visa approval process simply because she wanted to travel to the U.S. to attend a wedding or a birthday or something. What does this provision mean for a Swiss doctor who traveled to Iraq to work in a refugee camp providing medical care, but wants to come to the U.S. for a conference or something like that? While this bill does not restrict entry to the U.S., it creates additional barriers. It should be worked on a little more to fix these problems. I do thank the parties for working in a bipartisan way to bring greater safety to our country.

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