U.S. intelligence officials just confirmed that at least 6,600 suspected ISIS fighters have passports from western countries. That means at least 6,600 terrorists could enter our country without a visa, travel throughout the United States, and visit death and destruction upon the homeland.
Not only does this staggering number reveal that the President’s current policy of containing ISIS is failing, it shows that Congress’s reforms to the visa waiver program were as prescient as they are necessary.
Before the new visa waiver program law, citizens of western nations could travel freely to America with little scrutiny. But terrorism is no longer contained to national borders. ISIS has been drawing tens of thousands of fighters from over 120 countries, and many of these fighters would be granted the greatest ease of travel to America under the old law.
Congress said “no.” It doesn’t matter where you are from, if you’ve travelled to Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Sudan, you cannot enter America at will. The safety of the American people will always come before the convenience of foreign citizens—especially terrorists.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration doesn’t see it the same way. Under an extremely limited waiver authority granted to the Administration under the law, the Department of Homeland Security is now considering granting waivers to certain categories of people who travel to such dangerous countries. The Administration’s actions not only goes against the law as written and agreed to, it also puts the American people at risk.
As Leader McCarthy and many House Chairman said to the Administration in a letter,
“These exemptions are contrary to the plain language of the statute. The national security and law enforcement exceptions were principally designed to allow for the continued surveillance and investigation of individuals of concern. However, we are deeply troubled because the exemptions announced by the Administration were discussed, at length, during negotiations and were explicitly rejected by Members of Congress… These actions are inappropriate and violate not only the agreement we reached but the law itself.”
The Administration has no excuse. To keep these thousands of ISIS fighters with western passports out, we have to defend one of the easiest way for them to get in—the visa waver program. That can only happen if the President starts following Congress’s bipartisan law as it is written.