WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Adobo Chronicles) – Senate Democrats, in an effort to head off legislation that would overhaul a program to take in Syrian and Iraqi refugees, are focusing instead on tightening a program that makes it easier for foreigners to travel to the U.S. without obtaining a visa. And Republicans are vehemently against the move.
The visa waiver program (VWP) allows foreign citizens of 38 countries to enter the U.S. for as long as 90 days without a visa, thereby avoiding an in-person interview at an embassy or consulate. At least 19 million foreign nationals enter the U.S. each year through the visa waiver program.
The program is under scrutiny following the Paris terror attacks over concerns that it could be a weak spot in the security system. Islamic State operative Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected of organizing the Paris attacks, was a citizen of Belgium, which participates in the visa waiver program. Richard Reid, a British citizen who is now in prison for attempting to blow up a plane flying to the U.S. with a bomb in his shoe, is a citizen of the U.K., which also participates in VWP.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Monday, said that his party strongly opposes any changes to the existing VWP on the grounds that this would be discriminatory.
“If we are going to do this, we must also do it for Mastercard, American Express and Discover,” Ryan pointed out.