Human Rights Groups Request Information on U.S. Monitoring of Israel‘s Compliance with Visa Waiver Program

Washington, D.C. | | December 1, 2023 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the National Immigration Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, Muslim Advocates, and Van Der Hout LLP submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for information about how the United States is monitoring the Israeli government’s compliance with the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program. 

Under the United States’ Visa Waiver Program, nationals from certain designated countries can enter the U.S. as temporary visitors without first obtaining a visa. In order for a country to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, it must meet a number of conditions by law, including offering reciprocal privileges to U.S. citizens – i.e., treating all U.S. citizens the same, without imposing restrictions on entry into or visits within the partner country based on national or ethnic identities.

Months before Israel was admitted into the Visa Waiver Program, in July 2023, the United States and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that established different classes of U.S. citizens subject to different treatment by Israel. In particular, the MOU singled out various categories of Palestinian-Americans based on their “residency” and authorized Israel to discriminate against U.S. citizens who are residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli government has since prevented Palestinian Americans from entering Israel from the West Bank, raising new concerns regarding that government’s non-compliance with the Visa Waiver Program’s requirements and even the terms of the discriminatory MOU.

Advocates had raised concerns about Israel’s eligibility from the outset, highlighting the country’s long history of discriminatory treatment of Americans of Palestinian descent. These concerns were amplified following the signing of the MOU, with advocates noting that it was replete with provisions that enshrined Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians, was in violation of the reciprocity requirements under the governing statute, and would inevitably result in discriminatory treatment of U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin.

The FOIA request can be found here. 

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