Action Alert: Oppose Blanket Exclusions under the Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act
Washington, DC | www.adc.org | December 4, 2015 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) opposes blanket exclusions under Senate bill 2337, the Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act, which Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced on December 1, 2015.
ADC is deeply concerned that S.2337 would penalize people who traveled to Syria and Iraq for humanitarian work. Rather than enhancing security, the bill penalizes health aid workers, doctors, journalists, translators, and military support personnel who traveled to Syria and Iraq.
Alarmingly, this bill also disproportionately impacts Arabs who traveled to Syria and Iraq for family and loved ones, and sought to get their families out of harm’s way. Without substantive changes, S.2337 will be effective at discriminating against Arabs and humanitarians, but ineffective at actually securing the safety of Americans.
There are other avenues to strengthen security other than placing blanket exclusion on all countries designated under this bill. Under this bill, aid workers, doctors, journalists and news reporters, translators, military support personnel, and even the Pope would be prohibited from entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
The ADC opposes this bill in its entirety. However, at the very least, we must make sure to put in place provisions that:
1) Allow for review of this legislation to assess feasibility, need, and effectiveness after 2 years of enforcement; and
2) Allow nationals who traveled to designated countries for humanitarian, business, and familial reasons to not be blatantly excluded under VWP.
1) The bill would prohibit nationals of countries recognized under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) from traveling to the United States under VWP if they have traveled to Syria and Iraq within the last 5 years.
2) The bill would require that all nationals seeking to travel under VWP must use an electronic chip passport.
3) The bill also prescribes for implementation of information sharing agreements between the United States and VWP recognized countries, and termination of a country under VWP for failure to not share information as determined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
4) Continued designation of a country under VWP would also require consideration of whether that country shares with the United States, collected data and analysis of biometric information on refugee, asylum seekers, and other non-refoulement protected statuses. This is alarming as this seems as an coercive measure that is applied even where refugees and asylum seekers in VWP countries are not coming to the U.S., and/or applying for an U.S. immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.