WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and a bipartisan group of senators to introduce legislation to strengthen the security of the Visa Waiver Program in order to help prevent terrorists from entering the United States.
“In the aftermath of the Paris attacks we need to keep our eye on the enemy and prevent terrorists from entering the United States. It is imperative that Congress work across party lines to prevent terrorist attacks here at home and I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to address security gaps that exist within the Visa Waiver Program. This legislation will enhance security screenings in the Visa Waiver Program and close loopholes that need to be closed.” said Senator Baldwin.
The Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act would improve the security of the Visa Waiver Program by doing the following:
Addressing security gaps
The bill would strengthen the Visa Waiver Program in the following ways:
1. Preventing foreign fighters from using the Visa Waiver Program: An estimated 5,000 European citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight. More than 1,500 of them are from France. If they return to their home countries, these individuals may be able travel to the United States without a visa.
2. Requiring additional biometric information: In cases where the foreign national has never been to the United States before, U.S. law enforcement cannot run biometric information from that visa waiver program traveler against key databases in advance of the person’s first arrival in the United States.
3. Requiring electronic passports for participation in the Visa Waiver Program: Although electronic passports with built-in chips carrying biometric data are now required to be issued by Visa Waiver Program countries, some existing designated countries are effectively allowed to phase-in this requirement over several years because older passports can remain valid.
4. Requiring additional information sharing between countries: Information-sharing with the United States is a means of protecting national security while allowing individuals to travel without a visa. Information-sharing must be improved to ensure threats are detected.
5. Increasing security in the air: All Visa Waiver Program countries should have signed federal air marshal agreements, which provide legal protection to air marshals in situations where they need to take action.
The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).