Saturday, December 19, 2015

Visa Waiver "Reform" Just Happened

Yesterday, President Obama signed an omnibus spending bill that will fund the government through September.

The bill also "reforms" the visa waiver program. (The changes are at pages 1869-1888 of the bill). As I explained last week, the changes include:

  • excluding from the VWP travelers who have "been present" in Iraq, Syria, Iran or the Sudan since March of 2011.
  • excluding from the VWP travelers who are dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran or the Sudan.

Let's talk about who this bill is going to affect. It will affect journalists, missionaries, and doctors. It will affect dual citizens who traveled home to check on family and friends in a time a crisis. And it will affect Americans.

Yes, Americans. Because, as noted on the this week, our partners in the VWP are almost certainly going to respond in kind. And that means American travelers who have been to these countries or who are dual nationals, will be subject to similar treatment.

And what's the point of these hoops? To deter terrorism? To ferret out those who have visited terror training camps recently?

If so, singling out travelers and nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran or the Sudan is a pretty poor proxy. In the past few months, reporting on overseas terrorist camps has focused on Afghanistan, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Libya, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and Yemen.

My point is not to suggest broadening the exclusion list. (Congress has suggested it's willing to do that.) Rather, it's to show that the bill, if targeting to combat terrorism, is a total mismatch.

We have to remember the point of the VWP. It's to facilitate travel for business and tourism from countries that we consider friends and allies. The new hurdles and exclusions just created are unlikely to have any real effect in the war on terrorism. They do, however, have the potential to tarnish our important global relationships.


Current Affairs | Permalink


Post a comment