Skift Take

Conservative politicians don't seem to understand that the Visa Waiver Program actually contributes to domestic security through improved information sharing.

In the aftermath of last week’s brutal attacks in Paris, conservative U.S. politicians are calling for a crack down on travel from 30 countries with muslim residents.

Sen. Rand Paul introduced legislation on Monday that would “impose a 30-day waiting period for all entries to the U.S. in order for background checks to be completed, unless the traveler has been approved through the Global Entry program.”

It would also “suspend issuance of visas to nationals of countries with a high risk of terrorism” until more stringent screening and surveillance methods are put into place by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Nominally the bill is designed to keep Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., although Paul originally introduced similar legislation in 2013.

The details of the legislation put forth this week would essentially toss aside the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which lets travelers from a number of countries enter the U.S. without a visa.

The U.S. Travel Association announced its opposition to the bill, calling the Visa Waiver Program a crucial security tool.

“Certainly, there’s been more intense discussions [about visa waivers] in the last few days than there has been in a while,” said Jonathan Grella, executive vice president of public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association. “But those who are proponents of the program have yet to be convinced that there is a major flaw with it.”

According to Grella, overturning the Visa Waiver Program would create a huge problem for travelers, and also adversely affect the organizations that safeguard the U.S. It would also hamper trade and international business travel.

“Some people are very gifted in dreaming up scenarios under which bad things can happen,” said Grella. “Nobody is making the case that one program is everything. But this program is a net-plus-plus-plus positive in terms of security. It’s a program that is beloved by the Department of Homeland Security and Commerce Department.”

He drew connections between Paul’s rhetoric and the reaction that took place following 9/11.

“There’s a political sentiment pervasive out there where the instinct is in favor of locking things down,” he said. “Our view is that to deal with the challenges we have, we shouldn’t create new ones. Even more than that, we need to make peace with the fact we’ve got to proceed with our lives and not hand our enemies more of a victory.”


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Tags: visa waiver

Photo credit: Flyers at Denver International Airport's security checkpoint. oddharmonic / Flickr

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