Marino Votes to Fortify Visa Waiver Program
Washington, D.C.—Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) voted in favor of H.R. 158 - the Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 407-19.
H.R. 158 reforms the existing Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to close certain gaps in the security screening process and provides for a stronger information sharing framework among the 38 VWP countries. Under the current program, some participant countries have refused to disclose suspected names to the U.S. intelligence community, issued “E-passports” without fraud protections, and/or have failed to run watch-list names through trusted databases.
This legislation remedies those security loopholes with six key provisions:
- Denies all individuals who have traveled to known terrorist hotspots in the past five years.
- Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to terminate a country from participating in the VWP if it does not share data on suspicious travelers and disallows reentry into the program until it complies with all data sharing requirements.
- Requires VWP countries to check names against trusted INTERPOL databases to ensure no criminal or terrorism activity is documented with more localized law enforcement agencies.
- Requires new and modernized passport issuances from VWP countries which include biometric information. It also requires countries to report lost and stolen passport information to centralized INTERPOL databases with 24 hours of reported loss or theft.
- Requires U.S. intelligence agencies to regularly audit the security threat of VWP countries for compliance. If an audit reveals noncompliance, the country’s participation if revoked.
- Directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary to immediately implement processes to better detect fraudulent information used by travelers seeking entry under the VWP.
Congressman Marino issued the following statement on passage of the legislation:
“As a Member of Congress who works closely with my European counterparts in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I have firsthand knowledge of the challenges VWP member countries face when screening individuals coming through their borders. They have warned us about the risks America faces.
This bill is critical to reforming a valuable program so we can better ensure the safety of the American people while still allowing the benefits the VWP affords its members. This also signals our allies that America is leading the way on broadening the intelligence and information sharing capabilities so we discourage, prevent and apprehend terrorists from entering our countries.”