In Light of Horror in France, U.S. Visa Waiver Program Should be Halted

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

January 7, 2015

The visa waiver program (VWP) is one of dozens of ways foreign nationals can enter the U.S. on nonimmigrant entry permits. According to VWP’s guidelines, an overseas visitor from any of 38 nations coming to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes can simply show his western passport, and he’s allowed to enter and remain for up to 90 days. Canadians, however, have a six-month window.

Visa waiver program gives terrorists easy entry into the U.S.
  Visa Waiver Program gives terrorists easy entry into the U.S.

France is one of the 38 countries to which the U.S. extends VWP privileges. Like many other European and Asian nations, France has a growing population of native-born citizens whose parents migrated from terrorist-sponsoring countries. Since they hold western passports, they could under VWP enter the U.S. to perpetrate the same type of violence that occurred in France on January 7 when three terrorists entered a secure building and gunned down 12 innocent citizens, including a police officer.
 
As it stands today, residents of VWP-qualifying countries have only to fill out an online application instead of going to a U.S. Consulate abroad to provide tangible evidence of their identity and proof that they intend to return home. Then, once at a U.S. airport, VWP travelers rarely undergo face-to-face interviews with customs officials who might weed out any discrepancies between the online application and what the traveler claims. Another reason to eliminate VWP is because the sheer volume of processing visa applications in the country of origin slows down travel to the U.S., a good thing given the levels of fraud and the ability travelers have to overstay their visas, undetected.

The question that’s again coming to the forefront in light of the French tragedy is whether terminating VWP would make America safer. Given the Paris massacre and the risk-reward ratio of maintaining a domestic ease-of-entry system that potentially gives terrorists trouble-free access to the U.S., VWP should be immediately curtailed in the name of national security.
 
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