Local House members support tighter controls on visa-free travel to US
Posted on December 11, 2015 09:49 am CST
The House has approved legislation tightening controls on travel to the U.S. and requiring visas for anyone who's been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years. Local members of the Arkansas and Missouri delegation voted with the majority.
The bill was approved 407-19. It takes aim at the "visa waiver" program, which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without first obtaining a visa. Belgium and France, home to most of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, are among the participating countries.
The legislation would institute changes, including the new visa requirement, for citizens of Iraq and Syria or anyone who's traveled to those countries in the previous five years.
“We must ensure that the Visa Waiver Program doesn’t turn into an easy entrance fast-track for foreign nationals who wish to harm us,” said Rep. Billy Long, (R) Missouri-7th District. “Given the legitimate threat that terrorists could come to the United States through participant countries, this bill takes commonsense steps to protect national security and the safety of our citizens.”
“In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, perpetrated partially by radicalized citizens from visa waiver countries, it is clear that more must be done to ensure Americans’ safety,” added Rep. Vicky Hartzler, (R) Missouri – 4th District. “The current Visa Waiver Program contains a number of security gaps we address with this legislation. The threat of an extremist traveling from a visa waiver country to the United States is a real concern and must be addressed.”
“The tragic San Bernardino terrorist attack has reminded us that our visa system isn’t immune to abuse by those who wish to harm our nation,” said Rep. Steve Womack, (R) Arkansas – 3rd District. “We must scrutinize all aspects of our immigration system – including our visa waiver system – to ensure the safety and security of all Americans and to thwart attempts by Islamic extremists to gain entry into our nation.”
The legislation is supported by the White House and may end up attached to a sweeping year-end spending bill now being finalized on Capitol Hill.