|For Immediate Release
May 5, 2011
Contact: Jessica Baker, (202) 225-3951
Chairman Smith Introduces Secure Visas Act
Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced the Secure Visas Act (H.R. 1741) to help prevent terrorists from obtaining U.S. visas and to allow U.S. officials to expedite the removal of terrorists who are in the United States on a visa.
Chairman Smith introduced similar legislation last year following reports that Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, the terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane en route to Detroit on Christmas Day, had a valid visa at the time of the attempted terror attack. Abdulmutallab was issued a visa in July 2008, and even after his father expressed concerns to U.S. authorities about his son’s radicalization, his visa was not revoked.
Terrorists continue to use loopholes in the U.S. visa process to enter the U.S. legally. Earlier this year, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a 20-year-old citizen of Saudi Arabia in the U.S. on a student visa, was charged with the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. According to media reports, he listed the home of former President George W. Bush as a potential target. And all of the 9-11 hijackers also obtained U.S. visas.
Chairman Smith: “Visa security is critical to America’s national security. Recent events underscore the need to strengthen and improve visa security. We know terrorists use loopholes and weaknesses in our immigration system to enter the U.S. In fact, all of the 9-11 terrorists entered the U.S. legally on visas. And terrorists will continue coming to the U.S. legally if we do not improve and tighten our visa security process.
“The Secure Visas Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to expand the number of visa security units overseas to areas designated as ‘highest-risk’ for terror threats. Visa security units ensure that thorough background checks are conducted on all visa applicants, not just a select few.
“In addition to making it harder for terrorists to enter the U.S., the Secure Visas Act allows U.S. officials to expedite the removal of suspected terrorists already in the U.S. Under current law, a terrorist whose visa has been revoked is allowed to remain in the U.S. to fight their deportation instead of being sent home. Giving litigation rights to terrorists makes no sense. The Secure Visas Act closes this loophole and allows the terrorist to be removed from American soil.”
The Immigration Subcommittee will hold a hearing on H.R. 1741, the Secure Visas Act on Wednesday, May 11 at 1.30 pm.
Original cosponsors include Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Steve King (R-Iowa), Ted Poe (R-Texas), and Dennis Ross (R-Fla.).
Background Information on H.R. 1741
Ends Judicial Review for Revocation of Terrorists’ Visas: The bill makes clear that revocation of an alien’s visa is not subject to judicial review. Under current law, if an individual is denied a visa by the consular officer, there is no judicial review of that decision. However, if an alien entered the United States on a visa and their visa is subsequently revoked, they are entitled to fight their deportation case in court. H.R. 1741 simply applies the same review standard to visa revocations that is currently applied to visa denials.
Maintains and Increases Visa Security Units in “Highest-Risk” Countries: The Secure Visas Act also mandates that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintain U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Visa Security Units (VSU) at the 19 consular posts that already have them and expand units to the numerous posts that ICE has designated as “highest-risk.” Some of these “highest-risk” countries include Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Lebanon, and Algeria. VSUs are critical for national security: at VSU-staffed consular posts, 100% of applicants receive additional screening; at non-VSU posts, fewer than 2% of applications get extra screening.
Bill Text PDF: "Secure Visas Act"