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In a transparent attempt to win favor with the powerful tourism industry, President Obama announced that his administration will waive consular interview requirements for people renewing U.S. Visas. He also directed his administration to expand the number of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program.
Citizens of VWP nations can enter the U.S. without obtaining a Visa in advance. The net result of both changes – counterintuitive in a post-9/11 world – is that millions of additional people will enter the U.S. with less scrutiny.
“The changes the President is making to the Visa issuance process, without Congressional approval, weaken important safeguards against terrorism and increase the potential for more Visa over-stayers,” stated Dan Stein, president of Federation for American Immigration Reform. “The longstanding requirement for an in-person interview allows trained consular officers to identify people who might pose a threat to national security or who are likely to remain in the United States illegally.”
The proposal to significantly expand the VWP program ignores explicit warnings made by the 9/11 Commission which cited the VWP as a weakness that can be easily manipulated by terrorists. “It is exceedingly reckless to operate a Visa waiver system, much less expand it, in an age where terrorists carry many different passports.
Moreover, the U.S. still has no comprehensive system that matches the entry and exit of foreign travelers to ensure we are alerted when Visa holders stay in the country illegally,” Stein cautioned. This move by the Obama administration is the latest in a two-year campaign of unilateral policy changes designed to minimize immigration enforcement.
It is also a clear effort to appeal to business interests in an election year. The timing and location of the announcement is designed to boost the President’s sagging popularity in Florida, a state he believes he must win in November.
“President Obama claims his new initiatives will create jobs. If the President really wants to change immigration policy to expand jobs, he’d restore credibility to our immigration system by securing our border, stepping up interior enforcement, supporting mandatory E-Verify, and substantially reducing legal immigration.
That would reduce foreign competition for scarce jobs that Americans need. And in the process, not one of those things would jeopardize national security,” Stein concluded.