Press Releases

33 Members of Congress Urge Congressional Leadership to Consider Improvements To Visa Waiver Bill Provisions

Washington, DC, December 11, 2015

Today, Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), joined by 29 Members of Congress, issued a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) asking them to consider possible improvements to the House-passed version of H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015. The letter was signed by Members who voted for and against H.R. 158.

The House-passed H.R. 158 would result in discrimination against people simply because they are dual citizens based on ancestry, which could result in our Visa Waiver Program partner nations placing new limits on travel by U.S. citizens to their countries. The bill would also bar certain humanitarian workers from traveling under the Visa Waiver Program, and thus could result in less assistance reaching some of the most vulnerable individuals in the world.  Additionally, the House-passed bill also fails to include a sunset provision for the new visa waiver procedures, denying Congress the opportunity to reevaluate their efficacies and determine if additional changes are needed.

In the letter, the Members wrote:

“We all agree that the first responsibility of government is to keep the American people safe, and the American people are rightfully concerned about the threat of terrorism.  This is why we are pleased that Congress and the Administration have been examining changes to the Visa Waiver Program to ensure that any vulnerabilities that could put the American people at risk are addressed. 

“Requiring all travelers under the Visa Waiver Program to have an unexpired, fraud-resistant electronic passport is an important security measure to take.  We also support new requirements for Interpol screening of travelers and reporting on theft of passports.  These provisions are included in H.R. 158 and would help improve our security here at home, should the bill be enacted into law.

“Making sure that we avoid as many unintended consequences as possible is particularly important when we are proposing to disqualify specific populations of people from long standing immigration practices.”

Specifically, the Members would like the Senate to consider making three possible improvements to the House-passed version of H.R. 158:

·         Provisions that discriminate based on dual citizenship based on ancestry should be eliminated.

·         Exceptions are needed from the bars on visa waiver travel for those who have spent time in Syria, Iraq, and other designated countries to provide medical or humanitarian aid or as journalists or researchers.

·         Changes to the visa waiver program should require reauthorization after a specified period of time. 

The letter was signed by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI),  Dan Kildee (D-MI),  Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY),Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mike Honda (D-CA), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Raúl Manuel Grijalva (D-AZ),Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Karen Bass (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Mark Takai (D-HI), and Ted Lieu (D-CA).

Click HERE for a copy of the letter.