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Hoyer, Lofgren, Thompson Announce Support for Visa Waiver Program Improvement Bill

Dec 4, 2015
Press Release

(WASHINGTON) – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee, announced their support for H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. In light of the recent Paris attacks, Reps. Hoyer, Lofgren, and Thompson worked with senior Republicans to draft this legislation in order to address long-standing shortcomings in the current visa waiver program.

“I’m pleased that Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to make constructive changes to our visa waiver program,” said Whip Hoyer. “These reforms will make it easier to prevent foreign terrorists from infiltrating the United States while still allowing for the entry of those pursuing the business and tourism that helps our economy. I want to thank Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Bennie Thompson for their leadership on this issue and for their hard work to move this compromise legislation forward. House Democrats will continue to promote policies that keep Americans safe, especially in light of last month’s tragic attacks in Paris.” 

“I am pleased that the House will get a chance next week to vote on critical legislation to strengthen the Visa Waiver Program that our Committee approved on a bipartisan basis," said Rep. Thompson. "It reflects years of homeland security oversight and urgent need to build in more safeguards to ensure that this program can continue.”‎

“This bipartisan agreement to close vulnerabilities in our visa waiver program is a meaningful improvement,” said Rep. Lofgren. “Unlike the Republican-led legislation which passed the House two weeks ago preventing women and children fleeing ISIS from receiving refuge in America, this bipartisan bill makes necessary and real security enhancements. This bill also has the support of the White House. I look forward to working with the Senate to advance this common-sense measure.”

The ‘‘Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015’’ makes commonsense improvements to the highly successful visa waiver program that has facilitated business and tourist travel between the United States and 38 countries around the world, requiring, among other key changes, that partner nations issue electronic passports to their citizens that are machine-readable, tamper resistant, and incorporate document authentication identifiers to improve security. The bill also bars individuals who are citizens of visa waiver nations who have been present in Iraq, Syria, countries that repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism or any other country or area of concern since March 1, 2011 from the visa waiver program. Further, the bill bars participation if the individual is a citizen of a visa waiver country as well as a national of Iraq, Syria, or repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism.

Yesterday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that H.R. 158 will be considered on the suspension calendar next week.

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Media contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978