Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA), both Iraq War veterans, today announced legislation that will temporarily suspend the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for countries with citizens known to be fighting for Islamic extremist groups like ISIL. Hundreds of passport holders from European countries and the U.S have already traveled to fight with extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
“My first priority, at all times, is to ensure the safety of the American people,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a twice-deployed Army combat veteran and current captain in the Army National Guard. “If there is a weakness in our national security, we have a responsibility to fix it. This legislation will close a loophole in our visa process, to prevent possible terrorists from entering the U.S. freely. As things presently stand, Islamic extremists holding certain European passports can simply get on a plane and fly to the U.S. without a visa. By temporarily suspending the Visa Waiver Program, all visitors from these countries will be vetted and have to go through a visa application process before they are allowed to step on U.S. soil. If we do nothing to close this loophole, and allow a terrorist to carry out an attack on our homeland, the impacts will be devastating. Action is needed now.”
“We all learned on September 11, 2001 and in Benghazi two years ago that waiting to act until terrorists plan – or execute – an attack will cost American lives. We have to be pro-active in protecting our homeland. Terrorists with Western passports pose a clear risk the United States. We’ve already uncovered examples of foreign terrorists traveling to and from our country. Immediately suspending the visa waiver program with any country that has identified passport holders fighting with Islamic extremist organizations is a common-sense way to protect our citizens,” said Congressman Scott Perry.
The legislation would suspend the VWP for any country that has identified passport holders fighting with Islamic extremist organizations. Restoration of a country’s VWP participation would be determined by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence. Restored participation would be based on the ability of the suspended country and the U.S. to identify, track and negate the risk of terrorists from entering the U.S.
The VWP currently allows eligible citizens of 38 countries to visit the United States for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa.