Washington, DC | www.adc.org | December 7, 2015- The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) strongly urges Congress to vote no to H.R. 158, the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015”.
H.R. 158 authorizes profiling based on a person’s national origin and prohibits their travel into the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). First, H.R. 158 directly targets Syrians, Iraqis, and Sudanese with blanket exclusion, prohibiting even European nationals who hold dual citizenship from traveling into the U.S. via the VWP. This prohibition will apply to even those who were born in Europe and never stepped foot in any of the designated countries.
Second, the bill prohibits anyone who has traveled to Syria and Iraq since March 1, 2011 from traveling to the U.S. via the Visa Waiver Program. This would effectively penalize people who traveled to Syria, Iraq, Iran and Sudan for humanitarian work. There are other avenues to strengthen security other than placing blanket exclusion on all countries designated under this bill and groups of people based on their national origin.
H.R. 158 is an ineffective mechanism to prevent terrorism or protect the security of our nation. The bill would not be an effective security measure as it relies on self-reporting by people who visit those countries, which could easily be circumvented by someone intending to do harm. The persons who are intent on engaging in terror activities are not getting their passports stamped. They are not self-reporting to the U.S. government that they went to these designated countries. Instead, they are sneaking in. There is no accurate way to ascertain who has traveled to these designated countries with the intent to engage in terrorism.
Historically, programs with sweeping powers to exclude people based on nationality, race, ethnic origin or religion have proven to be ineffective. In 2002, the U.S. government established the special-registration program under National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), requiring heightened registration and scrutiny of people in the U.S. who came from mostly Arab and Muslim countries. NSEERS proved to be an ineffective counter-terrorism tool, and has not resulted in a single known terrorism-related conviction.
ADC opposes H.R. 158 in its entirety for the following reasons:
- The bill intentionally discriminates against Arabs and engage in profiling based on national origin, forcing dual citizens to have to relinquish their identity to be treated and provided the same benefits that all citizens are afforded in their own country;
- The bill fails to provide legitimate exemptions or waiver to nationals whom traveled to designated countries for humanitarian (doctors and nurses, journalists, translators), business, and familial reasons; and
- The bill fails to include a sunset provision – which would make this legislation expire and require passage of new legislation, thus allowing for review of its need and effectiveness; and
- The bill fails to provide any review process to VWP nationals to be exempt by the U.S. Embassy or consulate in their home country.