Top Senate Democrats Call for Reforming U.S. Visa Waiver Program

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Top Senate Democrats called for legislation Thursday to reform a U.S. visa policy that they said could allow ISIS recruits to pass into the U.S. without sufficient security screening. The Senators took aim at the U.S. visa waiver program, which allows foreign visitors from designated countries to travel to and stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa.

“If a terrorist is going to try to come into this country, they’re much more likely to use loopholes in the visa waiver program to do it, instead of waiting two years to go through the refugee screening process,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a press conference in the Capitol.

The Democrats say terrorists could travel into the U.S. through that program without going through the more rigorous security checks that are attached to the traditional visa program, like biometric screening and an in-person interview.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and others are working on a bill to reform the program that Sen. Feinstein called the “soft underbelly of our national security policies.” Among the policies under consideration are a provision to bar foreign nationals who visited Syria or Iraq in the last five years from using the visa waiver program, and a requirement that would require more information, including fingerprints and photographs, from visitors using the visa waiver program.

Morning Consult