A bipartisan proposal to limit the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
is gaining traction this week in Washington, in the wake of the Paris attacks
that left 129 dead last Friday.
While many lawmakers are proposing to halt or limit the
number of refugees admitted to the U.S., suggesting that potential terrorists
could enter among them, an alternative response has been a proposal to tighten
the rules for travelers from VWP countries.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jeff Flake
(R-Ariz.) told reporters they plan to introduce a bill today that would
disallow any citizen from a Visa Waiver country who has traveled to Iraq or
Syria within the past five years from entering the U.S. as part of the program.
Such travelers would have to secure a visa.
"Let's say France has had 2,000 people leave to go and
fight," Feinstein told reporters, according to the Huffington Post.
"They're a Visa Waiver country, so people come back to France and then
they come into the United States. So the bill we would propose would strictly
The VWP allows citizens of member countries to enter the
U.S. without a visa for 90 days or less, if they meet certain requirements.
Most of the Paris attackers were citizens of France or Belgium, countries
in the VWP, as are all Western European
"That's of much more concern, frankly, than refugee
vetting," Flake said, the Post reported.
Earlier this week, Sen. Rand Paul proposed legislation that
would impose a 30-day waiting period for all entries to the U.S. (including
citizens from VWP countries) in order for background checks to be completed,
unless the traveler has been approved through the Global Entry program.
The U.S. Travel Association urged lawmakers not to undermine
the VWP, saying the program itself is a security tool.
“[The VWP] makes the world safer through secure travel
partnerships between allied countries, with rigorous additional standards for
passport security, intelligence sharing and inspection of each other's
screening protocols,” stated Jonathan Grella, U.S. Travel’s executive vice
president for public affairs. “We urge Congress to thoroughly review the
security and facilitation aspects of the program, as well as the effectiveness
of new requirements, before rushing to legislate."
Grella said the U.S. Travel Association is "concerned
that VWP critics are not taking the proper time to listen to security experts,
who overwhelmingly extol the security benefits of the program.”
“We are concerned even more by the unknown consequences or
expenses of an elaborate new 'system' — devised and deployed in an instant — to
overhaul VWP without appropriate vetting or scrutiny.”