Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015by Representative Chris Van Hollen
Posted on 2015-12-08
in the house of representatives
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, today while I rise in support of H.R.
158 the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015, I must also note
my reservations about some of the provisions in this bill.
President Obama in an address to the American people from the Oval Office specifically asked Congress to pass legislation to address any weaknesses within our visa waiver program (VWP) and for a ``stronger screening for travelers to the U.S. without a visa to check if they have travelled to warzones.'' After the terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernandino, California we must ensure [[Page E1792]] that a law created to encourage travel and cultural exchange is not exploited by those who would do us harm. We must scrutinize and strengthen our VWP and many of the provisions in this bill do just that. I support the provisions in this bill that encourage our allies to share biometric data, improve data sharing on criminal and security concerns and stronger vetting systems This bi-partisan effort is a significant improvement over H.R. 4038, a bill which did nothing but target innocent refugees and exploited xenophobic and unsubstantiated fears.
While I support the overall thrust of this bill, I do have some reservations. I am concerned that there are not exceptions for journalists, ministers or aid workers who provide vital services to a needy population. The exclusion for law enforcement or military personnel should be extended to include people who visit Syria, Sudan, or Iraq for completely innocent and humanitarian reasons. We should continue to scrutinize the VWF so that we do not unnecessarily target innocent travelers.
I hope our colleagues in the Senate take these reservations into account when they consider this bill.