VISA WAIVER PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT AND TERRORIST TRAVEL PREVENTION ACT OF 2015
(House of Representatives - December 08, 2015)

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[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 177 (Tuesday, December 8, 2015)]
[Pages H9047-H9061]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




VISA WAIVER PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT AND TERRORIST TRAVEL PREVENTION ACT OF 
                                  2015

  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (H.R. 158) to clarify the grounds for ineligibility for travel to 
the United States regarding terrorism risk, to expand the criteria by 
which a country may be removed from the Visa Waiver Program, to require 
the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a report on strengthening 
the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to better secure the 
international borders of the United States and prevent terrorists and 
instruments of terrorism from entering the United States, and for other 
purposes, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                                H.R. 158

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Visa Waiver Program 
     Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015''.

     SEC. 2. ELECTRONIC PASSPORT REQUIREMENT.

       (a) Requirement for Alien to Possess Electronic Passport.--
     Section 217(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 
     U.S.C. 1187(a)(3)) is amended to read as follows:
       ``(3) Passport requirements.--The alien, at the time of 
     application for admission, is in possession of a valid 
     unexpired passport that satisfies the following:
       ``(A) Machine readable.--The passport is a machine-readable 
     passport that is tamper-resistant, incorporates document 
     authentication identifiers, and otherwise satisfies the 
     internationally accepted standard for machine readability.
       ``(B) Electronic.--Beginning on April 1, 2016, the passport 
     is an electronic passport that is fraud-resistant, contains 
     relevant biographic and biometric information (as determined 
     by the Secretary of Homeland Security), and otherwise 
     satisfies internationally accepted standards for electronic 
     passports.''.
       (b) Requirement for Program Country to Validate 
     Passports.--Section 217(c)(2)(B) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(c)(2)(B)) is amended to read 
     as follows:
       ``(B) Passport program.--
       ``(i) Issuance of passports.--The government of the country 
     certifies that it issues to its citizens passports described 
     in subparagraph (A) of subsection (a)(3), and on or after 
     April 1, 2016, passports described in subparagraph (B) of 
     subsection (a)(3).
       ``(ii) Validation of passports.--Not later than October 1, 
     2016, the government of the country certifies that it has in 
     place mechanisms to validate passports described in 
     subparagraphs (A) and (B) of subsection (a)(3) at each key 
     port of entry into that country. This requirement shall not 
     apply to travel between countries which fall within the 
     Schengen Zone.''.
       (c) Conforming Amendment.--Section 303(c) of the Enhanced 
     Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 is repealed 
     (8 U.S.C. 1732(c)).

     SEC. 3. RESTRICTION ON USE OF VISA WAIVER PROGRAM FOR ALIENS 
                   WHO TRAVEL TO CERTAIN COUNTRIES.

       Section 217(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 
     U.S.C. 1187(a)), as amended by this Act, is further amended 
     by adding at the end the following:

[[Page H9048]]

       ``(12) Not present in iraq, syria, or any other country or 
     area of concern.--
       ``(A) In general.--Except as provided in subparagraphs (B) 
     and (C)--
       ``(i) the alien has not been present, at any time on or 
     after March 1, 2011--

       ``(I) in Iraq or Syria;
       ``(II) in a country that is designated by the Secretary of 
     State under section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 
     1979 (50 U.S.C. 2405) (as continued in effect under the 
     International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 
     et seq.)), section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 
     U.S.C. 2780), section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 
     1961 (22 U.S.C. 2371), or any other provision of law, as a 
     country, the government of which has repeatedly provided 
     support of acts of international terrorism; or
       ``(III) in any other country or area of concern designated 
     by the Secretary of Homeland Security under subparagraph (D); 
     and

       ``(ii) regardless of whether the alien is a national of a 
     program country, the alien is not a national of--

       ``(I) Iraq or Syria;
       ``(II) a country that is designated, at the time the alien 
     applies for admission, by the Secretary of State under 
     section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 
     U.S.C. 2405) (as continued in effect under the International 
     Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)), 
     section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2780), 
     section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 
     2371), or any other provision of law, as a country, the 
     government of which has repeatedly provided support of acts 
     of international terrorism; or
       ``(III) any other country that is designated, at the time 
     the alien applies for admission, by the Secretary of Homeland 
     Security under subparagraph (D).

       ``(B) Certain military personnel and government 
     employees.--Subparagraph (A)(i) shall not apply in the case 
     of an alien if the Secretary of Homeland Security determines 
     that the alien was present--
       ``(i) in order to perform military service in the armed 
     forces of a program country; or
       ``(ii) in order to carry out official duties as a full time 
     employee of the government of a program country.
       ``(C) Waiver.--The Secretary of Homeland Security may waive 
     the application of subparagraph (A) to an alien if the 
     Secretary determines that such a waiver is in the law 
     enforcement or national security interests of the United 
     States.
       ``(D) Countries or areas of concern.--
       ``(i) In general.--Not later than 60 days after the date of 
     the enactment of this paragraph, the Secretary of Homeland 
     Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the 
     Director of National Intelligence, shall determine whether 
     the requirement under subparagraph (A) shall apply to any 
     other country or area.
       ``(ii) Criteria.--In making a determination under clause 
     (i), the Secretary shall consider--

       ``(I) whether the presence of an alien in the country or 
     area increases the likelihood that the alien is a credible 
     threat to the national security of the United States;
       ``(II) whether a foreign terrorist organization has a 
     significant presence in the country or area; and
       ``(III) whether the country or area is a safe haven for 
     terrorists.

       ``(iii) Annual review.--The Secretary shall conduct a 
     review, on an annual basis, of any determination made under 
     clause (i).
       ``(E) Report.--Beginning not later than one year after the 
     date of the enactment of this paragraph, and annually 
     thereafter, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit 
     to the Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on 
     Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on 
     Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House 
     of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security 
     and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on Foreign Relations, 
     the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on 
     the Judiciary of the Senate a report on each instance in 
     which the Secretary exercised the waiver authority under 
     subparagraph (C) during the previous year.''.

     SEC. 4. DESIGNATION REQUIREMENTS FOR PROGRAM COUNTRIES.

       (a) Reporting Lost and Stolen Passports.--Section 
     217(c)(2)(D) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 
     1187(c)(2)(D)), as amended by this Act, is further amended by 
     striking ``within a strict time limit'' and inserting ``not 
     later than 24 hours after becoming aware of the theft or 
     loss''.
       (b) Interpol Screening.--Section 217(c)(2) of the 
     Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(c)(2)), as 
     amended by this Act, is further amended by adding at the end 
     the following:
       ``(G) Interpol screening.--Not later than 270 days after 
     the date of the enactment of this subparagraph, except in the 
     case of a country in which there is not an international 
     airport, the government of the country certifies to the 
     Secretary of Homeland Security that, to the maximum extent 
     allowed under the laws of the country, it is screening, for 
     unlawful activity, each person who is not a citizen or 
     national of that country who is admitted to or departs that 
     country, by using relevant databases and notices maintained 
     by Interpol, or other means designated by the Secretary of 
     Homeland Security. This requirement shall not apply to travel 
     between countries which fall within the Schengen Zone.''.
       (c) Implementation of Passenger Information Exchange 
     Agreement.--Section 217(c)(2)(F) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(c)(2)(F)), as amended by this 
     Act, is further amended by inserting before the period at the 
     end the following: ``, and fully implements such agreement''.
       (d) Termination of Designation.--Section 217(f) of the 
     Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(f)) is amended 
     by adding at the end the following:
       ``(6) Failure to share information.--
       ``(A) In general.--If the Secretary of Homeland Security 
     and the Secretary of State jointly determine that the program 
     country is not sharing information, as required by subsection 
     (c)(2)(F), the Secretary of Homeland Security shall terminate 
     the designation of the country as a program country.
       ``(B) Redesignation.--In the case of a termination under 
     this paragraph, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall 
     redesignate the country as a program country, without regard 
     to paragraph (2) or (3) of subsection (c) or paragraphs (1) 
     through (4), when the Secretary of Homeland Security, in 
     consultation with the Secretary of State, determines that the 
     country is sharing information, as required by subsection 
     (c)(2)(F).
       ``(7) Failure to screen.--
       ``(A) In general.--Beginning on the date that is 270 days 
     after the date of the enactment of this paragraph, if the 
     Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State 
     jointly determine that the program country is not conducting 
     the screening required by subsection (c)(2)(G), the Secretary 
     of Homeland Security shall terminate the designation of the 
     country as a program country.
       ``(B) Redesignation.--In the case of a termination under 
     this paragraph, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall 
     redesignate the country as a program country, without regard 
     to paragraph (2) or (3) of subsection (c) or paragraphs (1) 
     through (4), when the Secretary of Homeland Security, in 
     consultation with the Secretary of State, determines that the 
     country is conducting the screening required by subsection 
     (c)(2)(G).''.

     SEC. 5. REPORTING REQUIREMENTS.

       (a) In General.--Section 217(c) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(c)), as amended by this Act, 
     is further amended--
       (1) in paragraph (2)(C)(iii)--
       (A) by striking ``and the Committee on International 
     Relations'' and inserting ``, the Committee on Foreign 
     Affairs, and the Committee on Homeland Security''; and
       (B) by striking ``and the Committee on Foreign Relations'' 
     and inserting ``, the Committee on Foreign Relations, and the 
     Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs''; 
     and
       (2) in paragraph (5)(A)(i)--
       (A) in subclause (III)--
       (i) by inserting after ``the Committee on Foreign 
     Affairs,'' the following: ``the Permanent Select Committee on 
     Intelligence,'';
       (ii) by inserting after ``the Committee on Foreign 
     Relations,'' the following: ``the Select Committee on 
     Intelligence''; and
       (iii) by striking ``and'' at the end;
       (B) in subclause (IV), by striking the period at the end 
     and inserting the following: ``; and''; and
       (C) by adding at the end the following:

       ``(V) shall submit to the committees described in subclause 
     (III), a report that includes an assessment of the threat to 
     the national security of the United States of the designation 
     of each country designated as a program country, including 
     the compliance of the government of each such country with 
     the requirements under subparagraphs (D) and (F) of paragraph 
     (2), as well as each such government's capacity to comply 
     with such requirements.''.

       (b) Date of Submission of First Report.--The Secretary of 
     Homeland Security shall submit the first report described in 
     subclause (V) of section 217(c)(5)(A)(i) of the Immigration 
     and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. (c)(5)(A)(i)), as added by 
     subsection (a), not later than 90 days after the date of the 
     enactment of this Act.

     SEC. 6. HIGH RISK PROGRAM COUNTRIES.

       Section 217(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 
     U.S.C. 1187(c)), as amended by this Act, is further amended 
     by adding at the end the following:
       ``(12) Designation of high risk program countries.--
       ``(A) In general.--The Secretary of Homeland Security, in 
     consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and 
     the Secretary of State, shall evaluate program countries on 
     an annual basis based on the criteria described in 
     subparagraph (B) and shall identify any program country, the 
     admission of nationals from which under the visa waiver 
     program under this section, the Secretary determines presents 
     a high risk to the national security of the United States.
       ``(B) Criteria.--In evaluating program countries under 
     subparagraph (A), the Secretary of Homeland Security, in 
     consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and 
     the Secretary of State, shall consider the following 
     criteria:
       ``(i) The number of nationals of the country determined to 
     be ineligible to travel to the United States under the 
     program during the previous year.
       ``(ii) The number of nationals of the country who were 
     identified in United States Government databases related to 
     the identities of known or suspected terrorists during the 
     previous year.

[[Page H9049]]

       ``(iii) The estimated number of nationals of the country 
     who have traveled to Iraq or Syria at any time on or after 
     March 1, 2011 to engage in terrorism.
       ``(iv) The capacity of the country to combat passport 
     fraud.
       ``(v) The level of cooperation of the country with the 
     counter-terrorism efforts of the United States.
       ``(vi) The adequacy of the border and immigration control 
     of the country.
       ``(vii) Any other criteria the Secretary of Homeland 
     Security determines to be appropriate.
       ``(C) Suspension of designation.--The Secretary of Homeland 
     Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may 
     suspend the designation of a program country based on a 
     determination that the country presents a high risk to the 
     national security of the United States under subparagraph (A) 
     until such time as the Secretary determines that the country 
     no longer presents such a risk.
       ``(D) Report.--Not later than 60 days after the date of the 
     enactment of this paragraph, and annually thereafter, the 
     Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the 
     Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State, 
     shall submit to the Committee on Homeland Security, the 
     Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee 
     on Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the 
     House of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland 
     Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on Foreign 
     Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the 
     Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report, which 
     includes an evaluation and threat assessment of each country 
     determined to present a high risk to the national security of 
     the United States under subparagraph (A).''.

     SEC. 7. ENHANCEMENTS TO THE ELECTRONIC SYSTEM FOR TRAVEL 
                   AUTHORIZATION.

       (a) In General.--Section 217(h)(3) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(h)(3)) is amended--
       (1) in subparagraph (C)(i), by inserting after ``any such 
     determination'' the following: ``or shorten the period of 
     eligibility under any such determination'';
       (2) by striking subparagraph (D) and inserting the 
     following:
       ``(D) Fraud detection.--The Secretary of Homeland Security 
     shall research opportunities to incorporate into the System 
     technology that will detect and prevent fraud and deception 
     in the System.
       ``(E) Additional and previous countries of citizenship.--
     The Secretary of Homeland Security shall collect from an 
     applicant for admission pursuant to this section information 
     on any additional or previous countries of citizenship of 
     that applicant. The Secretary shall take any information so 
     collected into account when making determinations as to the 
     eligibility of the alien for admission pursuant to this 
     section.
       ``(F) Report on certain limitations on travel.--Not later 
     than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this 
     subparagraph and annually thereafter, the Secretary of 
     Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of 
     State, shall submit to the Committee on Homeland Security, 
     the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Foreign 
     Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on 
     Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on 
     the Judiciary, and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the 
     Senate a report on the number of individuals who were denied 
     eligibility to travel under the program, or whose eligibility 
     for such travel was revoked during the previous year, and the 
     number of such individuals determined, in accordance with 
     subsection (a)(6), to represent a threat to the national 
     security of the United States, and shall include the country 
     or countries of citizenship of each such individual.''.
       (b) Report.--Not later than 30 days after the date of the 
     enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in 
     consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the 
     Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on the 
     Judiciary, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House 
     of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security 
     and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on the Judiciary, and 
     the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report on 
     steps to strengthen the electronic system for travel 
     authorization authorized under section 217(h)(3) of the 
     Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187(h)(3))) in 
     order to better secure the international borders of the 
     United States and prevent terrorists and instruments of 
     terrorism from entering the United States.

     SEC. 8. PROVISION OF ASSISTANCE TO NON-PROGRAM COUNTRIES.

       The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with 
     the Secretary of State, shall provide assistance in a risk-
     based manner to countries that do not participate in the visa 
     waiver program under section 217 of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187) to assist those countries 
     in--
       (1) submitting to Interpol information about the theft or 
     loss of passports of citizens or nationals of such a country; 
     and
       (2) issuing, and validating at the ports of entry of such a 
     country, electronic passports that are fraud-resistant, 
     contain relevant biographic and biometric information (as 
     determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security), and 
     otherwise satisfy internationally accepted standards for 
     electronic passports.

     SEC. 9. CLERICAL AMENDMENTS.

       (a) Secretary of Homeland Security.--Section 217 of the 
     Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187), as amended 
     by this Act, is further amended by striking ``Attorney 
     General'' each place such term appears (except in subsection 
     (c)(11)(B)) and inserting ``Secretary of Homeland Security''.
       (b) Electronic System for Travel Authorization.--Section 
     217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1187), 
     as amended this Act, is further amended--
       (1) by striking ``electronic travel authorization system'' 
     each place it appears and inserting ``electronic system for 
     travel authorization'';
       (2) in the heading in subsection (a)(11), by striking 
     ``electronic travel authorization system'' and inserting 
     ``electronic system for travel authorization''; and
       (3) in the heading in subsection (h)(3), by striking 
     ``electronic travel authorization system'' and inserting 
     ``electronic system for travel authorization''.

     SEC. 10. SENSE OF CONGRESS.

       It is the sense of Congress that the International Civil 
     Aviation Organization, the specialized agency of the United 
     Nations responsible for establishing international standards, 
     specifications, and best practices related to the 
     administration and governance of border controls and 
     inspection formalities, should establish standards for the 
     introduction of electronic passports (referred to in this 
     section as ``e-passports''), and obligate member countries to 
     utilize such e-passports as soon as possible. Such e-
     passports should be a combined paper and electronic passport 
     that contains biographic and biometric information that can 
     be used to authenticate the identity of travelers through an 
     embedded chip.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. 
Lofgren) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Virginia.

                              {time}  1530


                             General Leave

  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their 
remarks and include extraneous materials on H.R. 158 currently under 
consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Virginia?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that debate on 
this motion be extended by 10 minutes on each side.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Virginia?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I support H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement 
and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
  The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of 38 countries to travel to 
the United States for a maximum of 90 days for business or tourism 
purposes without obtaining a visa. The travelers must present a valid 
machine-readable passport and meet certain other immigration and 
security requirements.
  In order to be designated a VWP country, a nation must offer 
reciprocal visa-free travel to U.S. citizens, agree to share security-
related information such as whether citizens of that country traveling 
to the U.S. represent a threat to U.S. security or welfare, agree to 
timely report lost and stolen passports, and have less than a 3 percent 
visa refusal rate in the year prior to designation years, among other 
requirements.
  The VWP was created in 1986 as a way to promote and facilitate travel 
and tourism to the United States. It has done just that, with hundreds 
of millions of foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. since the 
program's implementation. So the positive effects of the VWP on the 
U.S. economy should not be understated.
  Yet no amount of economic stimulation is worth risking the lives of 
our constituents, and recent events around the world necessitate 
changes to the VWP in order to help ensure its safety. Of particular 
concern is the rise of ISIS in the Middle East and the large number of 
Europeans and other nationalities who have gone to Syria, Iraq, and 
other countries of concern in order to train and fight alongside ISIS 
and the radical Islamist terrorists.
  With their VWP country passports, those terrorists can board a plane

[[Page H9050]]

bound for the U.S. and can reach U.S. shores with relative ease. In VWP 
cases, there is no in-person interview with a U.S. consular officer, 
and there is no pretravel enhanced screening. So we must help make sure 
that the VWP is as secure as possible.
  H.R. 158 takes constructive steps in this direction with provisions 
preventing dual nationals of, or those who have recently traveled to, 
Iraq, Syria, or other countries of concern, from visa-free travel to 
the U.S. Among other security enhancements, the bill requires VWP 
countries to issue e-Passports to their nationals and continuously 
share terrorism and foreign traveler data with us.
  The VWP is only one part of the national discussion that we should be 
having. There are Islamist terrorists looking at all aspects of our 
immigration policy to find any way possible to exploit it. We learned 
that lesson on 9/11, and we learned that lesson last week in San 
Bernardino.
  Mr. Speaker, I hope this body continues to address deficiencies in 
U.S. immigration policy by taking up and passing additional House 
Judiciary Committee bills, including those reported out of the 
Judiciary Committee to reform the U.S. asylum process, to change the 
way unaccompanied alien minors are treated when they cross the U.S. 
border so that there is no longer an incentive to run across the 
border, and to finally prevent the interior immigration enforcement 
switch from being turned off at the whim of whoever resides at 1600 
Pennsylvania Avenue.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Michigan (Mrs. Miller) and 
the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, as well as their staff 
members, for their work on the bill.
  Much more needs to be done to prevent exploitation of U.S. 
immigration policy by terrorists, but H.R. 158 is another good step in 
helping to ensure the safety of Americans, and I support it.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, today we come together to address vulnerabilities in our 
Visa Waiver Program to make our country safer.
  What is the Visa Waiver Program? It was established long before 9/11. 
In order for a country to be admitted to the Visa Waiver Program, fewer 
than 3 percent of its applicants for a visitor visa can be denied. 
Often, the denial of a visitor's visa has nothing to do with security. 
Rather, it is frequently based on a judgment of whether the applicant 
is likely to return to his home country.
  It is fair to say that persons who are poor are often judged to be 
less likely to return to their home country than a more affluent 
applicant with extensive financial ties to his or her home. That is the 
reason why there are no impoverished countries in the Visa Waiver 
Program.
  Most of Europe, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, and the 
like are in the program--38 countries in all. The 38 countries agree to 
share security information with the United States.
  The Visa Waiver Program also is reciprocal, allowing Americans to 
travel to these 38 countries without getting a visitor's visa. For 
these 38 countries, visitors fill out a form in advance that is then 
checked against databases. An ePassport is required for travel, but no 
visa. However, at the point of entry, an intending visitor from a visa 
waiver country can be turned away if he is not found admissible under 
immigration law. For example, a visa waiver visitor who reveals he 
intends to study in the United States or to marry and remain in the 
U.S. will be denied entry at the airport by a Customs and Border 
Protection officer.
  Mr. Speaker, people who do not reside in these 38 countries can still 
visit the United States, but they have to obtain a visitor's visa to do 
so, and this is exactly the same for those who are ineligible for the 
Visa Waiver Program under this bill.
  The Visa Waiver Program enables millions of tourists and business 
travelers to come to the U.S. every year for short trips that 
altogether bring over $190 billion a year in business and tax revenue. 
This program is important to our economy and the country.
  At the same time, Mr. Speaker, in the wake of the November 13 
terrorist attacks, we must review this program to make sure it meets 
our present-day security needs since it was designed prior to 9/11. 
This bipartisan bill incorporates simple changes to enhance security in 
the Visa Waiver Program.
  The most important parts of the legislation provide for specific, 
concrete changes to ensure better information sharing among 
intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

                              {time}  1545

  It requires screening of all travelers against INTERPOL databases. It 
makes it harder to falsify identity by requiring fraud-resistant e-
Passports that contain biometric information. It compels U.S. security 
agencies to conduct more frequent threat assessments of visa waiver 
countries, something not currently part of the law.
  For those who have traveled to or are nationals of certain high-
threat countries, a visa interview, rather than visa-free travel, will 
be required. These individuals are not barred from traveling to the 
United States.
  We know that thousands of European citizens have traveled to Syria. 
Some are there on humanitarian missions, like Doctors Without Borders, 
and we thank them. Some went to fight with ISIS. The visa interview, 
conducted by a U.S. consular official, will establish the circumstances 
of the visit. If you are a German citizen who visited Syria last year, 
you will have the same visa process that every Israeli, every Pole, 
every Ethiopian, and every Mexican has. None of us has said it is 
unreasonable that people in Thailand, India, or Brazil undergo 
interviews for visitor visas. And this change in the Visa Waiver 
Program is not unreasonable either.
  This visa waiver legislation stands in stark contrast to the 
Republican-led refugee bill that was rushed to the floor 3 weeks ago. 
That ineffective and mean-spirited bill would shut down the U.S. 
refugee program for Syrians and Iraqis fleeing civil war and the 
brutality of ISIS. And it does so notwithstanding the fact that 
refugees are subject to 18 to 24 months of thorough screening before 
ever setting foot on U.S. soil, a more rigorous process than any other 
immigrant or traveler to the United States is subject to.
  The refugee bill does absolutely nothing to make us safer, and it is 
a betrayal of our values. It would have us turn our back on refugee 
women and children and on our proud history as a country that provides 
safe haven to the world's most vulnerable. I will continue to do 
everything in my power to see that it never becomes law.
  While the refugee bill showed our country and this body at its worst, 
today's bill makes sensible improvements to the security of the Visa 
Waiver Program. I thank my colleagues for working with me and the 
Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and the White 
House to craft this targeted legislation. I strongly urge its support.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentlewoman from 
Michigan (Mrs. Miller), the chief sponsor of this legislation, who is 
also the chairman of the House Administration Committee.
  Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for 
yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, the 9/11 Commission said that ``For terrorists, travel 
documents are as important as weapons.'' And I couldn't agree more. We 
simply cannot give people from other countries special access to our 
country if we don't have all of the information that we absolutely need 
to ensure that they are not a threat to our national security.
  I believe that the bill that we are considering today is the first of 
many, quite frankly, aimed at improving our security protocols. We need 
to have a comprehensive, complete review of all of our visa programs, 
including K1 visas, the so-called ``fiance visa,'' which was used by 
the female terrorist in the San Bernardino attack to enter the United 
States. As well, the issue of visa overstays also needs to be 
addressed.
  Today, the House is taking a very important step forward by 
considering this bill, which is focused on those traveling to the U.S. 
without a visa.
  As was said, the Visa Waiver Program actually was established back in

[[Page H9051]]

the eighties to expedite tourism and trade as well, and it has worked 
very, very well economically for our country. Today there are 38 
companies that participate; and their citizens, although they are 
required to have a passport, are not required to go to a U.S. Embassy 
or to a consulate to obtain a visa.
  Obviously, the world is a much different place today, and our 
security measures must evolve to meet any and all threats, which is why 
I introduced this bill.
  This bill has gone through regular order. As chairman of the Border 
and Maritime Security Subcommittee, I have held two hearings on this. 
It actually passed out of the full Homeland Security Committee as well 
on a unanimous vote, every Republican, every Democrat. Because before 
we are anything else, we are all Americans first, and we all recognize 
the vulnerabilities of our current program.
  Information sharing, especially with our European allies, is vital, 
absolutely vital to help combat the threat of foreign fighters bound 
for the United States. There is absolutely no second for having good 
information. We need to be certain that participating countries are 
giving us all of the information that we need from either their own 
terror watch list or travel manifests, and that all of the information 
protocols are being shared.
  As we know, sometimes it is not until after the fact that some of the 
participating countries actually provide us the names of individuals 
who they knew were a terror threat. That is unacceptable.
  This bill will change that because what this bill does is it gives 
the authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to either suspend 
or terminate a country's participation in this program if we don't feel 
confident that we are getting all the critical information that we need 
to stop terrorists from exploiting this program to travel into the U.S.
  So, at this time, we still have an information sharing problem with 
some of our closest allies. And as the 9/11 Commission also accurately 
noted, we need to move from the mindset of the need-to-know information 
to the need-to-share information.
  Information sharing must happen, and this bill gives America the 
leverage that it needs to make sure that the information critical to 
our homeland security is being shared appropriately.
  It will also disqualify anyone who has traveled to Syria, Iraq, 
Sudan, and Iran within the past 5 years from participating in this 
program. In an abundance of caution, we will now require those 
individuals to apply for a visa and go through the formal visa 
screening process.
  It will also give the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion 
to designate other countries that have significant terror concerns, or 
become terror safe havens in the future.
  Additionally, we will be requiring all participating countries to 
adopt e-Passports, like we have here in the United States, so that we 
are able to eliminate passport fraud.
  Mr. Speaker, as Americans, we live in a free and open society, and 
enemies of freedom are looking to use our freedoms against us. This 
bill will stop the enemies' ability to move internationally by 
strengthening the Visa Waiver Program. It is a critical component of 
keeping our homeland safe.
  I want to thank the House leadership for ensuring prompt 
consideration of this bill on the floor. I certainly want to thank 
Chairman McCaul and Chairman Goodlatte for working as well. And I also 
want to give a special thanks as well to Representative Katko from New 
York, who is the chairman of the Foreign Fighter Task Force, which 
really helped make this bill a much stronger product.

  It is my hope that a very strong, bipartisan vote on this bill today 
will send a message to terrorists that America is prepared to take any 
and all measures to protect our homeland.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the 
gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers), the ranking member of the full 
committee.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, as much as any Member 
in this body, I appreciate the unique situation our Nation is in as we 
struggle to effectively combat terrorism, while adhering to our 
Nation's commitment to freedom and liberty.
  I fully recognize and appreciate that the bill before us today 
represents an effort to craft a more bipartisan response to recent 
terrorist incidents, particularly when compared to the seriously flawed 
refugee bill that this body voted on only several weeks ago.
  I commend the office for including many commonsense improvements to 
the Visa Waiver Program that will improve the system in a neutral and 
nondiscriminatory manner. However, I believe that provisions in the 
legislation restricting the use of the Visa Waiver Program to 
individuals who have traveled to Syria or Iraq or are dual nationals of 
these or other covered nations are discriminatory. I understand that 
these individuals are not banned from traveling to our Nation and are 
simply subject to increased questioning and scrutiny before they can 
travel here.
  However, history has shown us that arbitrary across-the-board 
judgments based on broad characteristics such as these do nothing to 
enhance our security and only cast a cloud of suspicion over entire 
communities here in our country.
  Equally problematic is the provision's overbreadth. It contains no 
exceptions for journalists, researchers, human rights investigators, or 
other professionals. This will make it harder, not easier, to document 
and respond to human rights violations and other abuses. I also believe 
the provision should have included a sunset date so that we can assess 
its efficacy. I am further concerned that the new requirement will 
result in our partner nations placing new limits on travel by United 
States citizens to their own countries.
  It is because of these problems that numerous civil rights and civil 
liberties groups have expressed serious concerns or outright opposition 
to the overall legislation, including the American Civil Liberties 
Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, 
the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American 
Immigration Lawyers Association, the Council on American-Islamic 
Relations, the Arab-American Civil Rights League, Human Rights Watch, 
and the League of United Latin American Citizens, among others.
  Mr. Speaker, I include in the Record letters from those groups.

                                                 December 8, 2015.
     Re: Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorism Travel Prevention 
         Act of 2015, H.R. 158

     U.S. Senate,
     House of Representatives.
       Dear Legislator: The Arab-American Civil Rights League 
     (``ACRL'') writes with grave concern regarding H.R. 158, the 
     Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorism Travel Prevention Act 
     of 2015 (``HR 158''). HR 158 would amend the Visa Waiver 
     Program by mandating that individuals who have traveled to 
     Syria or Iraq in the past five years be barred from 
     participation in the Visa Waiver Program. The ACRL strongly 
     opposes such legislation on the grounds that it is both 
     discriminatory and ineffective--an ill-conceived legislative 
     backlash to recent tragedies.
       HR 158's blanket ban upon persons who have visited the 
     countries of Iraq and Syria in the past five years will only 
     harm those who have legitimate reasons to visit the United 
     States, and will not effectively deter or prevent terrorists 
     and criminals from seeking to enter this country and do us 
     harm. Simply put, nefarious individuals seeking to enter the 
     United States to commit illegal acts of terror, will not be 
     dissuaded by federal law. It is nothing less than absurd to 
     think that an individual trying to enter the United States to 
     commit acts of terror will abide by our laws.
       On the other hand, HR 158 will ban individuals who have 
     visited Syria and Iraq for legitimate reasons in the last 
     five years, for no other reason than their physical presence 
     in said countries. Consider the types of individuals that 
     would be banned: journalists, members of the clergy, family 
     visitors, and myriad others. HR 158 targets and punishes 
     entire swathes of people who have done nothing wrong, while 
     failing to effectively target those who seek to harm this 
     country. In all essence, HR 158 presumes that there are no 
     reasons for people to visit Syria and Iraq, and that anyone 
     who has been to those two countries should be suspected of 
     terrorism.
       Far from enhancing our safety and security, HR 158 will 
     only further isolate and alienate people of Arab, Middle 
     Eastern, and South Asian descent. In this sense, HR 158 is a 
     victory for the terrorists, whose true goal is to disrupt our 
     society through acts of shocking violence and barbarism. Far 
     from playing into their hands, we should reaffirm our 
     national commitment to liberty, and continue to embrace 
     pluralism. At our core, we remain a nation of many cultures,

[[Page H9052]]

     ethnicities, and faiths, and are far stronger when we defend 
     our core values and refuse to act in fear. Federal policy 
     must be carefully drafted and deliberated given its wide-
     ranging scope and effect. As we have seen in the past with 
     other pieces of national security legislation, such 
     legislative acts can lead to slippery slopes. We at the ACRL 
     urge you to oppose HR 158, and specifically its mandatory 
     exclusion provisions, because they are ineffective, ill-
     conceived, and un-American.
           Respectfully submitted,
                                               Arab-American Civil
     Rights League (ACRL).
                                  ____


  AILA: Congress Should Reject H.R. 158 Until Its Visa Waiver Program 
                   Changes Are More Carefully Weighed

       Washington, DC.--The American Immigration Lawyers 
     Association (AILA) expressed concerns regarding the Visa 
     Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act, H.R. 
     158, and recommended Congress vote ``NO'' on the bill unless 
     modifications and clarifications are made.
       ``Protecting our nation from terrorists is absolutely 
     essential, and AILA understands and supports efforts to 
     strengthen the Visa Waiver Program, but Congress must 
     consider any legislative proposal carefully, and this bill is 
     getting rushed to the House floor without ever being reviewed 
     in Committee. In fact, the bill was not even made public 
     until just a day or two ago,'' said AILA President Victor 
     Nieblas Pradis.
       ``AILA has serious concerns that H.R. 158 would broadly 
     target descendants of Syrian or Iraqi nationals, or those 
     from other countries alleged to be supporting terrorism, who 
     may have little or no connection to those countries except by 
     parentage,'' Mr. Nieblas continued, referring to the bill's 
     blanket termination of participation in the Visa Waiver 
     Program (VWP) for anyone who is a ``national'' of Iraq or 
     Syria, or other designated countries. ``As written, the bill 
     could result in discrimination that will exclude people 
     without consideration of legitimate risk factors. For 
     instance, a child who has never been to Syria, but was born 
     in France to Syrian parents, would be ineligible for the 
     VWP.''
       H.R. 158 also excludes from the program anyone who 
     travelled to countries alleged to be supporting terrorism 
     within the past five years, without sufficient authority to 
     waive revocation for those who clearly pose no threat. ``This 
     per se ban will hurt humanitarian workers and journalists who 
     are traveling to Iraq and Syria or other designated countries 
     to do life-saving work or to report on international events. 
     The bill's waiver will not help any of these people who have 
     visited for legitimate, even compelling reasons,'' Mr. 
     Nieblas noted, referring to a provision that allows the 
     Secretary of Homeland Security to waive the exclusion if the 
     waiver is in the interest of law enforcement or national 
     security, but makes no mention of humanitarian or other 
     grounds.
       ``History has shown overbroad programs that target people 
     based on nationality, race, ethnic origin or religion are not 
     effective at combatting terrorism. After 9/11, our government 
     forced thousands of people from Middle-Eastern countries, and 
     countries with predominantly Arab and Muslim populations, to 
     undergo special processes to register themselves with the 
     federal immigration authorities,'' Mr. Nieblas said, 
     referring to the 2002 special-registration program under 
     National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). 
     The U.S. government described special-registration as an 
     ``inconvenience'' in the same way some are now justifying 
     H.R. 158's exclusion from VWP. He continued, ``Not a single 
     known terrorism-related conviction ever came out of NSEERS. 
     NSEERS is a stain on our nation's history that we should 
     never repeat.''
       H.R. 158 would also establish additional reporting 
     requirements to Congress regarding use of the program, 
     additional eligibility requirements for VWP countries, and 
     enhancements to the Electronic System for Travel 
     Authorization (ESTA). The agencies involved in the VWP have 
     sought to continually improve and adapt the program as 
     circumstances change. As Congress aims to enhance the 
     program, it is essential that any changes are both workable 
     and effective.
       ``Standing by our founding principles of freedom and 
     liberty is what keeps us strong. AILA urges Congress to show 
     leadership by ensuring any legislation it passes is 
     consistent with our values as a nation, and is crafted in a 
     way that is workable, sensible, and based on good policy, not 
     political expediency,'' Mr. Nieblas concluded.
                                  ____

                                      The Leadership Conference on


                                       Civil and Human Rights,

                                 Washington, DC, December 8, 2015.
     Oppose H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 
         2015

       Dear Representative: On behalf of The Leadership Conference 
     on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 
     national civil and human rights advocacy organizations, we 
     urge you to oppose H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program 
     Improvement Act of 2015. Section 3 of H.R. 158 would open the 
     door to the use of profiling on the basis of national origin, 
     while doing little, if anything, to promote national 
     security.
       While H.R. 158 calls for a number of bipartisan 
     improvements to the visa waiver program (VWP), Section 3 
     would make two significant and unhelpful changes. First, it 
     would bar travelers from utilizing the process if they are 
     dual nationals of a VWP country and also of Iraq, Syria, or 
     other countries that are named as state sponsors of 
     terrorism. Its overly-broad language would apply to nationals 
     of those countries even if they have never set foot there, 
     and are only dual citizens because of the nationality of 
     their parents.
       Second, it would exclude visitors from the VWP if they have 
     traveled to Iraq, Syria, or other designated countries, even 
     if they did so to provide medical or humanitarian assistance 
     or many other legitimate purposes. The effect of this on 
     national security is negligible at best, because it would 
     only affect people who entered those countries through 
     legitimate channels and accurately reported their travels--
     not those who snuck in through the poorly-secured borders in 
     those countries to work with terrorist groups. In other 
     words, it would simply penalize travelers for being honest.
       While Iraqi or Syrian dual nationals, or people who have 
     visited those countries, could still apply at a U.S. 
     consulate for a nonimmigrant visa, they would be subjected to 
     a process that raises concerns about ethnic and national 
     origin profiling and other arbitrary practices. Under current 
     procedures, consular decisions are not reviewable, which 
     raises the likelihood that low-risk individuals would be 
     barred from traveling to the United States altogether, while 
     high-risk individuals would simply find other ways of doing 
     harm.
       We would support amendments to Section 3 that add due 
     process protections for affected travelers. Because the bill 
     is coming up on the suspension calendar, however, no such 
     amendments will be allowed. We recognize that Congress is 
     highly motivated to enact greater national security 
     protections in the wake of the Paris and San Bernadino 
     terrorist attacks, but we hope that you will reject this bill 
     in its current form and demand that it be improved.
       Thank you for your consideration. If you have any 
     questions, please contact either of us or Rob Randhava, 
     Senior Counsel.
           Sincerely,
     Wade Henderson,
       President & CEO.
     Nancy Zirkin,
       Executive Vice President.
                                  ____

                                                 December 7, 2015.
     Re ACLU Concerns With the ``Visa Waiver Program Improvement 
         and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015'' (H.R. 158)

       Dear Representative: On behalf of the American Civil 
     Liberties Union (ACLU), we urge you to amend the ``Visa 
     Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention 
     Act of 2015'' (H.R. 158).


I. H.R. 158 arbitrarily discriminates against nationals of Iraq, Syria, 
   Iran, or Sudan who are citizens of visa waiver program (``VWP'') 
          countries--based on their nationality and parentage.

       The VWP is a long-established program that permits 
     nationals of certain countries to enter the U.S. as visitors 
     (tourists or business) without a visa, for up to 90 days. 
     H.R. 158 terminates travel privileges for all citizens of VWP 
     countries who are dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or 
     Sudan. This revocation of VWP privileges would apply to all 
     nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan even if they have 
     never resided in or traveled to Iraq or Syria. By singling 
     out these four nationalities to the exclusion of other dual 
     nationals in VWP countries, H.R. 158 amounts to blanket 
     discrimination based on nationality and national origin 
     without a rational basis.
       There is no sufficient reason to justify the differential 
     treatment of VWP citizens who are nationals of Iraq, Syria, 
     Iran, or Sudan. There is no evidence to support assertion 
     that citizens of VWP countries, who are dual nationals of 
     these four are more likely to engage in terrorist acts 
     against the U.S.
       Not only is H.R. 158 discriminatory, it is arbitrary. 
     Unlike the U.S. which grants citizenship to all children born 
     on U.S. soil, birth within Syria does not automatically 
     confer citizenship. Rather Syrian citizenship is conferred by 
     naturalization or descent. With respect to descent, Syrian 
     citizenship is conferred to children ``born of a Syrian 
     father, regardless of the child's country of birth'' or 
     children ``born of a Syrian mother and an unknown or 
     stateless father.'' The proposal would yield the untenable 
     result of folding such gender-based distinctions into U.S. 
     law.
       Therefore, if H.R. 158 were to become law, the following 
     types of travelers would automatically lose their VWP 
     privileges, even if they have never been to Iraq or Syria:
       Dual-national French citizen (born to Syrian father) 
     traveling to U.S. for business conferences and meetings;
       Dual-national German citizen (born to Syrian father) 
     traveling to U.S. with vacation tour group;
       Dual-national Austrian citizen (born to Syrian father) 
     traveling to the U.S. to take care of grandchild.
       It is wrong and un-American to punish groups without reason 
     solely based on their nationality, national origin, religion, 
     gender, or other protected grounds.


II. H.R. 158 would end VWP privileges for all recent travelers to Iraq 
 or Syria, including those who traveled there for professional purposes

       H.R. 158 would terminate VWP travel privileges for all who 
     have been present in Iraq or Syria at any time on or after 
     March 1, 2011. This broad travel restriction contains a very

[[Page H9053]]

     narrow exception for certain military personnel and 
     government officials. All other travelers would automatically 
     lose their VWP privileges. Affected travelers would include 
     journalists, scholars, refugee caseworkers, humanitarian aid 
     workers, human rights investigators, and many others.
       Under H.R. 158, the following types of travelers would 
     automatically lose their VWP privileges based on their travel 
     to Syria or Iraq since March 2011:
       British citizen, working as a reporter for the London-based 
     Daily Telegraph who traveled to Syria to cover the civil war;
       Swiss citizen, working as a social worker in a Kurdish 
     refugee camp in northern Iraq;
       Belgian citizen, working as a human rights investigator to 
     document abuses committed by ISIL against Syrians.
       Many of these VWP travelers have gone to Syria or Iraq for 
     professional purposes and are producing reports and providing 
     services that the U.S., indeed the whole world, depends upon, 
     now more than ever. They should not lose their VWP travel 
     privileges for their work in Syria or Iraq.


III. Congress must place a time limit on measures to revoke VWP travel 
                               privileges

       When Congress created the VWP years ago, Congress 
     authorized the Attorney General, in consultation with the 
     Secretary of State, to designate certain countries as VWP 
     countries. Congress has never codified any nationality-based 
     prohibitions for VWP program designation. If the House passes 
     this bill, it will be enshrining into statute that VWP 
     citizens, who happen to be Iraqi or Syrian nationals, are 
     categorically ineligible for VWP travel privileges even if 
     they have never been to Iraq or Syria.
       In view of this extraordinary discriminatory measure, 
     Congress should limit the duration of this VWP restriction 
     and place a two-year sunset on this travel restriction. A 
     sunset provision would require Congress to reassess in two 
     years whether nationals of Iraq and Syria warrant such 
     selective targeting for VWP travel restriction purposes.


                             IV. Conclusion

       While the ACLU recognizes the importance of a Congressional 
     response to the increase in recent terrorist attacks, we urge 
     Congress to exercise caution and to avoid passing legislation 
     that would broadly scapegoat groups based on nationality, and 
     would fan the flames of discriminatory exclusion, both here 
     and abroad. We, therefore, urge the House to amend H.R. 158 
     by: (1) Deleting the langpge that categorically strips VWP 
     privileges from all Iraqi and Syrian nationals; (2) Expanding 
     the exemption to include journalists, researchers, human 
     rights investigators, and other professionals; and (3) 
     Inserting a two-year sunset date to the travel restrictions 
     on the use of VWP.
       In the absence of such changes, we have grave reservations 
     about this proposal.
       For more information, please contact ACLU Legislative 
     Counsel Joanne Lin or Policy Counsel Chris Rickerd.
           Sincerely,
     Karin Johanson,
       Director; Washington Legislative Office.
     Joanne Lin,
       Legislative Counsel.
     Chris Rickerd,
       Policy Counsel.
                                  ____



                                     House of Representatives,

                                                 December 7, 2015.
     Re Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel 
         Prevention Act, H.R. 158.

       Dear Representative: On behalf of the American-Arab Anti-
     Discrimination Committee (ADC), I write to strongly urge you 
     to Vote No on the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and 
     Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, H.R. 158. We have serious 
     concerns on the application and enforcement of this bill if 
     it were to become law, specifically Section 3 which 1) 
     imposes a mandatory and categorically bar to the Visa Waiver 
     Program (VWP) on any individual who is a dual citizen of 
     Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Iran; and 2) prohibits any person 
     whom has traveled to Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan since March 
     1, 2011.
       We understand that the U.S. House of Representatives may 
     push forward H.R. 158 through the omnibus appropriations 
     bill, and strongly request you to Vote No to H.R. 158 and/or 
     its inclusion in an omnibus bill because H.R. 158 is: 1) 
     ineffective to actually secure safety; and 2) intentionally 
     discriminates and profiles persons based on their national 
     origin.
       Section 3's blanket exclusion of visitors to Iraq and Syria 
     would not be an effective security measure as it relies on 
     self-reporting accurate tracking of who visits those 
     countries that could be circumvented by someone intending to 
     do harm--the persons who are intent on engaging in terror 
     activities are not getting their passports stamped, they are 
     sneaking into Syria and Iraq. The provision is more likely to 
     screen out health and aid workers, clergymen, journalists, 
     teachers, military personnel, translators, family visitors 
     and others who are helping protect Americans or have 
     legitimate or completely innocent reasons to visit Syria or 
     Iraq--essentially penalizing them for their honesty and 
     performing humanitarian work.
       It is not black and white, nor simple to suggest that H.R. 
     158 just requires individuals to get a visa. H.R. 158 is not 
     just a visa requirement, H.R. 158 is discriminatory. Section 
     3 imposes a mandatory bar to all persons whom are dual 
     citizens of Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Iran is blatant profiling 
     on its face. Only nationals of particular countries 
     regardless of whether they have traveled to a terrorist 
     support country or not, have to meet additional requirements 
     they would not otherwise have to go through if they were not 
     Arab. It is premised on the unreliable assumption that Arabs 
     are more prone to terrorism and to commit terrorist acts, and 
     further perpetuates stereotypes that Arabs are terrorists. 
     There is no separate assessment and/or security review is 
     done that determines that specific person on a case by case 
     basis is a security threat, non-related to their identity, 
     place of birth, or country of national origin.
       The fact is that terrorism is not limited to one particular 
     race, country of national origin, or religion, nor bound by 
     country borders. However, this bill paints Arabs as the 
     enemy, and makes VWP Arab nationals second class citizens in 
     their own country--they are not afforded the same benefits as 
     their fellow nationals. Many VWP nationals will be 
     arbitrarily denied entry by Customs and Border Patrol with 
     little to no notice of change in VWP requirements and no 
     review if that person actually presents a threat to national 
     security. Currently, Arabs face enormous scrutiny and 
     security checks to enter the U.S. and many have been denied 
     entry even with valid non-immigrant and immigrant visas, 
     based on no other reason but their national origin. You 
     should not support the further arbitrary exclusion of a group 
     of people based on nothing but that person's national origin.
       Historically programs with sweeping powers to exclude 
     people based on nationality, race, ethnic origin or religion 
     have proven to be ineffective. In 2002, the U.S. government 
     established the special-registration program under National 
     Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) requiring 
     heightened registration and scrutiny of people in the U.S. 
     who came from mostly Arab and Muslim countries. NSEERS was 
     initially portrayed as an anti-terrorism measure which 
     required male visitors to the U.S. from 25 Arab and Muslim 
     countries to be fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned 
     by immigration officers. Many whom complied with registration 
     were arbitrarily detained and deported. NSEERS proved to be 
     an ineffective counter-terrorism tool, and has not resulted 
     in a single known terrorism-related conviction. We also 
     should not forget the detrimental ramifications of blanket 
     immigration exclusion and discrimination against Asians with 
     the Chinese Exclusion Act.
       Rather than imposing an ineffective ban from VWP on people 
     who set foot in Syria and Iraq and excluding groups of people 
     based on their national origin, Congress should consider 
     other security measures that would more effectively enhance 
     the Department of Homeland Security's screening process 
     overall. We must also be weary of how VWP countries will 
     treat Americans of Arab and Middle Eastern background, and 
     may single out and exclude our citizens from entry in their 
     respective immigration processes.
       ADC strongly urges you to Vote No to H.R. 158 and stand up 
     against profiling. The automatic exclusion of dual citizens 
     of VWP countries and the designated Arab countries, and 
     recent visitors to Iraq and Syria is discriminatory. The 
     reactionary government actions following the Pearl Harbor 
     attack--Japanese Internment camps and 9/11--arbitrary 
     detention and surveillance of Arabs--are cautionary tales 
     that we must heed to now and remember that we cannot let fear 
     erode respect and protection of civil and human rights.
       Respectfully Submitted,
                                               Samer Khalaf, Esq.;
     ADC National President.
                                  ____



                                     House of Representatives,

                                                 December 4, 2015.
     Re Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act, S. 2337.

       Dear Representative: The undersigned organizations write to 
     express our concern regarding the Visa Waiver Program 
     Security Enhancement Act, S. 2337, specifically Section 2 of 
     the bill which imposes a mandatory and categorical bar to the 
     Visa Waiver Program (VWP) on any individual who has traveled 
     to Syria or Iraq within the previous five years. We 
     understand that the House of Representatives may look to S. 
     2337 as it related to pushing forward on H.R. 158, the Visa 
     Waiver Program Improvement Act. In any discussions regarding 
     reforms to the VWP, including the omnibus appropriations 
     bill, we urge you to remove provisions that specifically 
     target people who visit or are from Syria or Iraq.
       The bill's blanket exclusion of visitors to Iraq and Syria 
     would not be an effective security measure as it relies on 
     self-reporting accurate tracking of who visits those 
     countries that could be circumvented by someone intending to 
     do harm--the persons who are intent on engaging in tenor 
     activities are not getting their passports stamped, they are 
     sneaking into Syria and Iraq. The provision is more likely to 
     screen out health and aid workers, clergymen, journalists, 
     military personnel, translators, family visitors and others 
     who are helping protect Americans or have legitimate or 
     completely innocent reasons to visit Syria or Iraq 
     essentially penalizing them for their honesty.
       The provision is premised on the unreliable assumption that 
     people from those countries are more likely to commit 
     terrorist acts, and

[[Page H9054]]

     it makes anyone who visits those countries automatically 
     suspect of terrorism. While the draft legislation on its face 
     applies to all persons who have traveled to Syria or Iraq, in 
     reality the legislation will have a disparate impact on 
     people of Syrian and Iraqi descent. Historically programs 
     with sweeping powers to exclude people based on nationality, 
     race, ethnic origin or religion have proven to be 
     ineffective. In 2002, the U.S government established the 
     special-registration program under National Security Entry-
     Exit Registration System (NSEERS) requiring heightened 
     registration and scrutiny of people in the U.S. who came from 
     mostly Arab and Muslim countries. NSEERS proved to be an 
     ineffective counter-terrorism tool, and has not resulted in a 
     single known terrorism-related conviction. Department of 
     Homeland Security (DHS) suspended NSEERS in 2011.
       Rather than imposing an ineffective ban from VWP on people 
     who set foot in Syria and Iraq, Congress should consider 
     other security measures that would more effectively enhance 
     the Department of Homeland Security's ability to identify and 
     screen out terrorists and dangerous individuals who pose 
     threats to our nation.
       The automatic exclusion of recent visitors to Iraq and 
     Syria is discriminatory and will alienate Americans of Arab, 
     Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. The better 
     way to combat terrorism in the U.S. is to ensure strong 
     relations with these communities. With respect to Syrian 
     refugees, former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright said ``Our 
     enemies have a plan. They want to divide the world between 
     Muslims and non-Muslims, and between the defenders and 
     attackers of Islam. In the aftermath of recent terrorist 
     attacks, America must show its leadership by ensuring we 
     remain an open society that welcomes people of all 
     nationalities, faiths and backgrounds.
           Respectfully Submitted,
       American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), American 
     Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Asian Americans 
     Advancing Justice (AAJC), Asian Law Caucus, Council on 
     American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Human Rights Watch, Iraq 
     Veterans Against the War, Just Foreign Policy, League of 
     United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), The Leadership 
     Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, National 
     Immigration Law Center, National Network for Arab American 
     Communities, Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities 
     (STAND), SustainUS.

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, while there are many positive aspects to 
the legislation, I believe, in the end, we cannot countenance anything 
in our laws that judges individuals based on their nationality rather 
than their character.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Texas (Mr. McCaul), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
  Mr. McCAUL. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and 
Chairman Miller for their leadership.
  I rise in support of this bill, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement 
and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.
  Our Nation faces the highest terror threat environment since 9/11, 
and we must do everything possible to shut down terrorist pathways into 
this country. We are working hard to do just that with this bill. Last 
month, the House voted overwhelmingly to pass bipartisan legislation I 
drafted to prevent terrorists from entering the United States posing as 
refugees.
  They have already done this to attack Paris. And this year, the 
Office of the Director of National Intelligence warned me that the 
National Counterterrorism Center has identified individuals with ties 
to terrorist groups in Syria attempting to gain entry to the U.S. 
through the U.S. refugee program.
  I am concerned that terrorists are attempting to exploit the U.S. 
refugee program to enter our country and that we currently lack the 
ability to confidently vet Syria refugees to weed out individuals with 
potential terrorist ties. Top law enforcement and intelligence 
officials have testified before my Committee that terrorist groups have 
expressed a desire to infiltrate refugee programs to enter the United 
States and Europe, and ISIS has said in their own words that they 
intend to do so. In Paris, we saw them follow through on those pledges, 
sneaking at least two operatives into Europe posing as refugees. It 
also appears that individuals with extremist links have already tried 
to gain entry to our country as refugees. This year the Office of the 
Director of National Intelligence informed me in writing that the 
National Counterterrorism Center has identified ``. . . individuals 
with ties to terrorist groups in Syria attempting to gain entry to the 
U.S. through the U.S. refugee program.'' This is deeply troubling. At 
this time, I am concerned that serious intelligence gaps preclude us 
from conducting comprehensive screening to detect all Syrian refugees 
with terrorist ties, and as a result I have proposed adding additional 
national security checks to the process before the United States 
approves any further admissions. Naturally, the States are concerned 
that the refugees being resettled in their communities may not have 
been effectively screened--especially given the volume of refugees the 
Administration has committed to accepting. Refugee resettlement is 
within the purview of the federal government. However, the 
Administration must be transparent in sharing information with the 
States about the people being resettled within their borders. The 
Refugee Act of 1980 requires that the federal government ``shall 
consult regularly'' with state and local governments and private 
nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the intended distribution of 
refugees. In Texas, it appears the federal government has not fully 
held-up its end of the bargain.
  But we must go further. More than 30,000 individuals from 100 
countries have gone to Syria to join jihadist groups, and 5,000 of them 
have Western passports. This includes several of the Paris attackers, 
who could have traveled to the United States without a visa.
  That is why this legislation is so important before us here today. It 
will close security gaps in the Visa Waiver Program to keep terrorists 
from entering our country undetected. It also includes several 
recommendations from the bipartisan Task Force on Combating Terrorist 
and Foreign Fighter Travel, which I created earlier this year.
  This Member-led panel uncovered gaping security weaknesses overseas, 
including the fact that some countries are not sharing intelligence on 
terrorists, many are not screening travelers against critical 
counterterrorism databases, and too few of them are cracking down on 
passport fraud.
  This bill would help close those security gaps to keep terrorists 
from crossing borders. And it would implement several of the task 
force's top recommendations to ensure Visa Waiver Program countries are 
living up to their obligations and ramping up security.
  With that, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the chairman of the Judiciary 
Committee. I also want to thank those on the other side of the aisle 
for working in a bipartisan spirit, in a cooperative nature on what I 
consider to be one of the biggest security gaps we have facing this 
country after the Paris attacks and after San Bernardino. And I want to 
thank our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

                              {time}  1600

  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from 
Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee), a member of the Judiciary Committee as well as 
of the Homeland Security Committee.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me thank the gentlewoman for her leadership. As 
well, I thank the gentleman from Mississippi (Mr. Thompson), the 
chairman of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, of which I 
am a member--Chairman Miller--and Messrs. McCaul and Goodlatte.
  Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, in my having been on the floor 
today, America is looking for the homeland to be secure, and they are 
looking for it to be done in a thoughtful manner.
  Just a week ago, I did not vote for a bill that would have stopped 
innocent refugees who had been in camps for 2 years or more--mothers 
and fathers and seniors and children--because I knew there was a 21-
list vetting system that would ensure that those refugees who had 
languished in refugee camps and who had been suffering would be a small 
number--an infinitesimal number--coming into the United States.
  We heard debate earlier today about another loophole that could be 
ended, and that is to stop terrorists from getting guns--a thoughtful 
proposal. Most Americans didn't realize the loophole existed.
  Now we come to a program that is, likewise, a thoughtful program. It 
has nothing to do with refugees. It has nothing to do with ending the 
Visa Waiver Program of 38 nations. What it has to do with is, if you 
have been in the areas where the caliphate is, where the fight has been 
taken to, Syria and Iraq, we just ask for an added interview. I might 
imagine that, in the course of that, there will be human rights 
activists and journalists. I would imagine, as well, that our officials 
who will be doing the interviews will be sensitive to the fact of 
legitimate journalists who have gone to do their reporting.

[[Page H9055]]

  I think it is very important that the American people know that we 
are working to craft a thoughtful approach. This is a thoughtful 
approach. It simply asks for individuals to go for an interview who are 
part of the Visa Waiver Program in the countries that they have them or 
who are dual nationals.
  Likewise, I have introduced legislation, H.R. 48, No Fly for Foreign 
Fighters, that asks for an added vetting for the terrorist watch list 
to make sure that no one on that list who is coming from overseas gets 
on an airplane. This will protect the American people.
  In the course of trying to be constructive, I think the hearings that 
we had in Homeland Security indicated another layer, another level, of 
just making sure that those who are trying to use the Visa Waiver 
Program are not abusing the Visa Waiver Program. That is our effort 
here today, that they not abuse it and, by some ill fate, allow someone 
who comes to this Nation to do us harm. Homeland security, protecting 
the national security, is a layer that is constructive and 
constitutional. This is constructive, and it is constitutional.
  I ask my colleagues to support the underlying legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, this has been a stressful year in our country and our 
world with past senseless gun violence and terroristic acts against 
Americans and citizens the world over.
  I rise in support of H.R. 158--the Visa Waiver Program Improvement 
and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act'' because it facilitates a rigorous 
vetting of tourists seeking to enter into our country.
  In addition to the steps laid out by the President, I also believe 
there are additional steps the Congress should take, including bringing 
to the floor for debate and vote H.R. 48, the ``No Fly for Foreign 
Fighters Act,'' that I introduced earlier this year.
  My legislation would require the TSA to check the Terrorist Screening 
Database and the terrorist watch list used in determining whether to 
permit a passenger to board a U.S.-bound or domestic flight and to take 
appropriate steps to ensure that those who pose a threat to aviation 
safety or national security are included in the Terrorism Database.
  From San Bernardino to Paris, to Nigeria, to Mali, to Beirut, the 
carnage of violence has been perpetrated on the human family by those 
who should never be in possession of violent weapons or power.
  But we cannot allow these atrocities to dissuade us from interacting 
with and welcoming those interested in traveling to and learning more 
about our country.
  Mr. Speaker, as a Member of Congress and senior member on the 
homeland security and ranking member on the Judiciary subcommittee on 
Crime, Terrorism and Homeland, my top priority is the safety of the 
American people.
  In times of conflict and stress and trauma, our natural inclination 
is to point fingers and seek to cast blame as we have seen Mr. Donald 
Trump do.
  But we all know that deep down, this does us no good and that it runs 
afoul of our American ideals.
  What we must do is focus our efforts on the most likely security 
threats to our homeland and not scapegoat the thoroughly screened 
individuals who seek to come to the U.S. through the Waiver Program.
  We cannot throw a net of suspicion over an entire nation, even as the 
United States accepts more refugees--including Syrians.
  Our system facilitates the most rigorous screening and security 
vetting of ANY category of traveler or immigrant to the United States 
before the refugee sets foot on U.S. soil.
  Indeed, the Republican bill, H.R. 4038, that passed the House in 
November would immediately shut down refugee resettlement from the 
Syria and Iraq region and severely handicap refugee resettlement in the 
future.
  To date, there is no reliable evidence that the individuals who 
committed the heinous attacks in Paris on November 13th were refugees.
  Currently, the Visa Waiver Program allows citizens from 38 countries 
from around the world, including the United Kingdom, France, Belgium 
and Japan, to enter the United States without a visa.
  One of the main intents of the Visa Waiver Program is to stimulate 
the U.S.' economy by encouraging tourism, cultural exchange, business, 
and job growth between the United States and our international 
partners.
  The travel industry estimates that the VWP contributed $190 billion 
to our economy in 2014.
  It should be noted that Visa waiver travelers cannot simply grab 
their passports and hop on the next flight to the United States.
  Rather, under current law, citizens from participating Visa Waiver 
Program countries are required to complete a U.S government online 
security screening form prior to their admission to the United States.
  These participants also undergo an additional level of screening at 
the port of entry by a Customs and Border Patrol official.
  This bipartisan bill provides for specific, concrete changes that 
will ensure better information-sharing among intelligence and law 
enforcement agencies.
  The Program requires screening of all travelers against INTERPOL 
databases to identify high-risk travelers.
  The Program makes it challenging for extremists to falsify their 
identities by requiring fraud-resistant e-passports that contain 
biometric information.
  The Program compels U.S. security agencies to conduct more frequent 
threat assessments of VWP countries.
  The bill also requires nationals of Iraq, Syria, and other designated 
countries, or those who have visited such countries, to have an in-
person interview with a U.S. Department of State Consular official and 
undergo more lengthy screenings prior to travel to the United States.
  This bill employs intelligent measures to enhance the security of the 
American people by improving information sharing between VWP country 
partners and the United States, including a requirement that WP 
countries report theft/loss of their citizens' passports to the United 
States within 24 hrs.
  This bill is a more appropriate response than the Republican drafted 
the ``American SAFE Act of 2015.''
  It deserves a vote in the House.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Louisiana (Mr. Scalise), the majority whip.
  Mr. SCALISE. I thank my colleague from Virginia for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this important legislation 
by the gentlewoman from Michigan (Mrs. Miller).
  To defeat ISIS, it is going to take strong leadership, and it is 
going to take a strong strategy. I think it is clear that the 
President's approach isn't working. In fact, our intelligence officials 
tell us that ISIS is not only not being contained, but now we are 
seeing that they are coming to America, that they are attacking 
America, and that has been their stated goal. It is incumbent upon us 
to do everything we can. Frankly, the American people deserve to know 
that their government is doing everything in its power to protect them 
from the threat of terrorists. These are very real threats.
  In the House, we have been taking decisive action. We have already 
passed a bill to address the problems of the lack of vetting in the 
refugee program, a program that ISIS, itself, has said it plans to 
exploit in order to bring terrorists into America. The FBI Director has 
even confirmed those concerns that we have expressed, and we have 
passed legislation to address that.
  Today, Mr. Speaker, we are bringing forth strong, bipartisan 
legislation to reform the troubled Visa Waiver Program. We have seen 
that thousands of people with Western passports, including from the 
Visa Waiver Program nations, have been going to some of the troubled 
regions, like Syria, like Iraq, like other countries. There ought to be 
a higher level of scrutiny. This bill requires the Department of 
Homeland Security to work with those nations in order to have a higher 
level of scrutiny so as to ultimately lead to a more secure United 
States of America.
  I encourage all of my colleagues to pass this legislation. Let's 
continue to do what we need to do in the House of Representatives to 
protect the American people from the real threat that ISIS poses.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Mississippi (Mr. Thompson), the ranking member of the Homeland Security 
Committee.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. I thank the gentlewoman from California 
for yielding the time.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver 
Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
  This bipartisan legislation will help better secure the Visa Waiver 
Program, which facilitates travel to the U.S. for 20 million visitors 
from 38 participating countries for both business and pleasure.
  While the program provides important security benefits through 
information-sharing agreements between participating countries and 
significant

[[Page H9056]]

economic benefits from tourism, the potential security vulnerabilities 
of this program have been a concern.
  I was a primary author of provisions in the Implementing 
Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, which bolstered the 
security of the Visa Waiver Program by requiring an Electronic System 
for Travel Authorization, called ESTA. Through the ESTA program, Visa 
Waiver travelers are vetted prior to their departure to the U.S.
  I applaud the Department of Homeland Security for its recent efforts 
to make further enhancements to the ESTA program. These improvements 
will better secure the Visa Waiver Program, but Congress needs to do 
its part. That is why I am pleased to support H.R. 158. The bill was 
reported unanimously by voice vote from the Committee on Homeland 
Security earlier this year, and additional security-related provisions 
were added on a bipartisan basis in recent days.
  H.R. 158 would strengthen passport requirements for Visa Waiver 
travelers and require Visa Waiver participants to report lost or stolen 
passports within 24 hours. Enhanced information-sharing requirements 
would also be in place for Visa Waiver countries. In addition to that, 
it would mandate that Visa Waiver countries screen arriving and 
departing noncitizens against INTERPOL databases. Mr. Speaker, this is 
a good bill. Its time has come.
  I thank Mrs. Miller of Michigan for her diligence in bringing it 
before our committee, and I thank Ms. Lofgren for her work in this 
effort. I look forward to the passage of this bill.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Texas (Mr. Poe), a member of the Judiciary Committee.
  Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, we all know that ISIS is not 
contained. ISIS, in fact, is expanding its reign of terror. Its 
fighters hold passports from different countries around the world. We 
know they are embedded in Western countries, are able to travel freely, 
and are hard to track down--and they want to do us harm.
  Under the current Visa Waiver Program, individuals from 38 countries 
are exempt from the standard vetting process to get a visa and come to 
America. Hold a passport from one of these 38 countries, and you can 
just jump on a plane and come here. Those 38 countries are supposed to 
share their watch lists with us, but some of them don't. That makes it 
easier for the bad guys to fly to America.
  So this bill fixes that real loophole in the current system. Those 38 
countries will now be required to share their watch lists with us. If 
they don't, they are prohibited from being in the Visa Waiver Program. 
Foreign citizens who have recently traveled to Iraq and Syria will also 
be required to go through additional screening.
  Mr. Speaker, terrorist fighters have America in their hateful, evil 
sights. We must do all we can to stop them from coming here, and the 
status quo just won't keep us safe. As chairman of the Terrorism, 
Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs 
Committee, I totally support this commonsense legislation.
  And that is just the way it is.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Maryland (Mr. Hoyer), our whip.
  Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation.
  I want to thank Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, Ms. Lofgren, who 
worked very hard on this, and Democrats on the Homeland Security 
Committee and on the immigration policy and enforcement Judiciary 
subcommittee for their hard work to ensure that this bill will protect 
Americans from the threat of terror while we remain true to our highest 
principles and ideals.
  House Democrats and House Republicans have no greater priority than 
keeping Americans safe. That is neither a partisan issue nor is it a 
partisan difference.
  Many Americans are frustrated with the pace of progress against ISIS 
in Iraq and Syria. I want to see the administration and Congress 
working together to protect our Nation. The reforms in this bill are an 
excellent start. What we have before us today, Mr. Speaker, is an 
example of what we can achieve when both sides work together to craft 
responsible reforms in a spirit of unity and common purpose, which is: 
in the face of the threats we challenge, we ought to summons.
  I want to thank the majority leader, Mr. McCarthy, for working with 
me and our side of the aisle, and I want to thank those on the 
Republican side of the aisle for working together to get this bill 
done.
  The Visa Waiver Program has long been a tool to promote business ties 
and tourism, both of which are vital to our economy. We cannot--nor 
should we--simply shut our doors to the world if we want to continue to 
lead the world. This legislation will make it easier for law 
enforcement to vet those visitors who are coming from Visa Waiver 
countries, such as in Europe, to ensure that we are not admitting those 
who have traveled to places like Iraq and Syria and link up with ISIS.
  This is now the third major bipartisan piece of legislation to come 
to the floor in the past 2 weeks after the highway bill, which included 
a provision to reopen the Export-Import Bank, and the Elementary and 
Secondary Education Reauthorization Act. I hope--and I think the 
American people would expect--again, in light of the challenges that 
confront us, that we can build on this progress and complete a 
bipartisan agreement to keep government open before the week is done.
  I want to thank, once more, Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren, who knows so 
much about this issue and who has been so faithful in her attention to 
both our values and the protection of the American people. I thank 
Bennie Thompson as well, the ranking member of the Homeland Security 
Committee, on our side of the aisle. I also want to thank the chairman 
of the Judiciary Committee for his leadership on this issue as well as 
all of those who have worked on a number of issues.
  This will not be the last word, but it is a good word, and I urge my 
colleagues to support it.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
New Jersey (Mr. Lance).
  Mr. LANCE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the Visa 
Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, which 
will strengthen the Visa Waiver Program in order to help prevent 
foreign terrorists from entering the United States.
  This legislation comes at a critical time. The heinous acts of terror 
and mass murder perpetrated in Paris and San Bernardino demonstrate the 
alarming strength and reach of ISIS and its allies.

                              {time}  1615

  This threat is certainly not contained, and our fight against radical 
jihadists at home and abroad must be the Nation's most pressing issue.
  Passing H.R. 158 will close a dangerous loophole that we know 
terrorists will exploit to carry out acts of terror here in the United 
States. Terrorists such as the September the 11th so-called 20th 
hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, and the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, both 
used a Visa Waiver Program to enter the United States.
  We must be ever vigilant in the face of these great threats. I urge a 
``yes'' vote on H.R. 158.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Schiff), the ranking member of the Intelligence 
Committee.
  Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 158, the Visa 
Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.
  The Visa Waiver Program is overall an excellent program that 
facilitates the travel of more than 20 million people to the United 
States each year, travelers who encourage cultural exchange and 
contribute significantly to our economy through tourism and job growth.
  The overwhelming majority of travelers who utilize the program are 
not a threat in any way. However, even a small number of individuals 
can do us grave harm. Among those of greatest concern are European 
citizens who return to countries like France and Belgium after 
traveling to Iraq and Syria to train with terror forces.
  It is incumbent upon us to take every precaution to ensure these 
individuals cannot exploit the Visa Waiver Program to enter the United 
States.

[[Page H9057]]

  The reforms we are voting on today are reasonable, and they are 
appropriately targeted improvements to this important program. 
Specifically, they will require that nationals of Iraq and Syria as 
well as other designated countries and those who have traveled to these 
countries since 2011 undergo an in-person interview with a U.S. 
official and more rigorous security screening processes prior to 
traveling to the United States. It will also require DHS to strengthen 
its background check procedures and ensure improved information sharing 
among intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
  In the wake of the recent terror attacks, we must continue to review 
our existing security efforts to ensure we are doing all we can to 
protect the country. Rather than focus on the refugee resettlement 
program, which is the most heavily screened and lengthy process to 
enter the United States, Congress should focus our energy on closing 
known vulnerabilities that could allow those who mean us harm to enter 
the United States quickly and with little scrutiny. This bill does just 
that.
  I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this legislation.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Iowa (Mr. King), a member of the Judiciary Committee.
  Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for working 
together with others to bring this bill forward.
  I rise in full support of H.R. 158, which is the Visa Waiver Program 
Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
  We all know that it takes a lot of pieces of legislation to fill some 
of the holes that exist, but I am pleased that this bipartisan effort 
has come to the floor of the House of Representatives, Mr. Speaker.
  I will say that, as I look at the language that is in here and the 
pieces of it, to recognize that as the tighter scrutiny to the Visa 
Waiver Program, which I have had some concern about over the years, 38 
countries enjoy the relationship with the United States of a Visa 
Waiver Program.
  The way it functions is, if an individual of one of the participating 
countries has a valid passport from their own country and they sit down 
in front of the Internet, they can input that information and 
essentially clear themselves to be able to travel to the United States 
without further bureaucracy.
  That is a good thing on balance, but a bad thing when we have people 
that have dual nationalities or people who give indicators, such as 
having traveled back and forth to some of the countries that we have 
concerns about as being those countries where terrorists are, let's 
say, radicalized or sponsored.
  I am a little concerned that our list isn't a little longer than 
this. The countries that are covered with this bill are Iraq, Syria, 
and, by definition, Sudan and Iran. I am hopeful that the Secretary of 
Homeland Security will take a look at some other countries to tighten 
this up a little bit more.
  I just returned from that part of the world, Mr. Speaker, probably 
about a month ago, perhaps a little less. I traveled into Turkey, into 
Iraq, into the Kurdish region, Erbil, and then west as far as I could 
go up towards the ISIS lines.
  I visited a refugee camp there and then back into Turkey, up to 
Hungary, down to Serbia, into Croatia, back out of there again, and 
then determined to skip Germany and Austria this time, but traveled up 
to Sweden to look at the other end of this.
  There I sat with a briefing of our State Department. Some of that in 
that room is confidential, but we are working with these countries to 
tighten up our security. We are offering the expertise that we have 
developed here because we deal with a lot more people and a lot more 
travel than they do. I am hopeful that we will be able to share more of 
our intelligence also with the countries that are participating in a 
Visa Waiver Program.
  This will help tighten it up. Mr. Speaker, it will identify those who 
have traveled to some of these terrorist-sponsoring countries, and it 
will also require that they exchange information with us so that we can 
monitor them more closely.
  If someone travels and essentially lies about their travel--if they 
have, say, traveled to Iran, traveled to Iraq, maybe Sudan or Syria, 
and they apply for a visa waiver--we will either have a software 
program that will kick that out because it shows up on their passport 
or we will catch up with that and cancel their visa waiver. In any 
case, it is heightened scrutiny and heightened security for us. We need 
to do a lot of things to tighten this up, and this is one.
  It is one also that respects our relationship with the visa waiver 
countries, those 38. It is prudent. It is careful. It puts authority 
into the hands of the Secretary of Homeland Security. It is the right 
bill. It is bipartisan. I urge its adoption.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to my good friend from 
Minnesota (Mr. Ellison).
  Mr. ELLISON. Mr. Speaker, I do support the fact that we are looking 
at the Visa Waiver Program. However, after scrutinizing this bill, I 
think that it is not the right bill and I don't plan on supporting it.
  It is not that I can't support any part of it. There are key things 
that I cannot abide, but I urge the parties to keep on working on it 
because I think the effort is proper.
  Here is what I think is specifically wrong with this. If it were to 
change, I might reconsider my position. The categorical stripping of 
the Visa Waiver Program privileges from all Iraqi and Syrian nationals 
I think is problematic. I think it is overbroad. I don't think it is 
necessary.

  Number two, I think there should be exemptions for people who do 
clearly recognized legitimate work, such as journalists, researchers, 
human rights investigators, and other such professionals.
  Number three, I think the 5-year sunset is too long. I think it 
should be shorter. I do think 3 years would work just fine.
  I just want to say that the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and 
Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 does contain, as we stand here, 
discriminatory elements, which I don't believe will effectively stop 
terrorism. In fact, I think it sends a wrong message to dual nationals 
and Iraqi and Syrian tourists.
  This bill bars people who are dual nationals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, 
and Sudan from participating in the Visa Waiver Program even if there 
is no evidence that they are a security risk. I think our focus should 
be on behavior, not just country of origin.
  This bill would also end visa waiver eligibility for people who 
traveled to Iraq or Syria in the last 5 years. For example, this bill 
would make an elderly French citizen who is a dual national of Syria go 
through an often lengthy visa approval process simply because she 
wanted to travel to the U.S. to attend a wedding or a birthday or 
something. What does this provision mean for a Swiss doctor who 
traveled to Iraq to work in a refugee camp providing medical care, but 
wants to come to the U.S. for a conference or something like that?
  While this bill does not restrict entry to the U.S., it creates 
additional barriers. It should be worked on a little more to fix these 
problems. I do thank the parties for working in a bipartisan way to 
bring greater safety to our country.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from 
Arizona (Ms. McSally), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency 
Preparedness, Response, and Communications of the Homeland Security 
Committee.
  Ms. McSALLY. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairwoman Miller for this 
thoughtful legislation. I rise today in support of H.R. 159.
  I was a proud member of the Committee on Homeland Security's task 
force on combatting terrorists and foreign fighter travel. The task 
force bipartisan report, which was a culmination of 6 months of 
investigative activities, contained many troubling findings related to 
the ease with which foreign fighters from Visa Waiver Program-
participating countries could seek entry into the United States.
  Of the estimated 30,000 foreign fighters that we are aware of, at 
least 4,500 hold western passports. This is made even more alarming by 
the fact that 30 of the 38 Visa Waiver Programs are in Europe.
  I am pleased that this legislation that we are considering today 
takes

[[Page H9058]]

steps to address many of the task force's findings related to this 
program. The bill prohibits individuals that travel to Iraq and Syria 
from using the program. It requires termination of a participating 
country for failing to screen against INTERPOL's criminal and terrorism 
databases. It authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend 
participating countries when it is determined that they pose a high 
risk to the national security of the United States.
  ISIS has better resources and is more brutal and more organized than 
any terrorist organization to date. We must use all the tools at our 
disposal to defeat them. I am particularly pleased that this bill 
recognizes the need to continually update and secure the Electronic 
System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, a key task force 
recommendation.
  As part of this effort, we must leverage new and innovative 
technologies. The bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to 
explore opportunities to incorporate technology into ESTA that will 
detect deception and fraud.
  A number of promising deception detection technologies have been 
developed, including one developed at the University of Arizona in my 
district. Deception can be difficult to detect when you are 
interviewing an individual face to face. It is even more difficult to 
detect the deception in online forums like ESTA uses.
  The technology developed at the University of Arizona called Neuro-
Screen identifies typing, scrawling, and other computer-use patterns to 
capture motor nervous system signals associated with deceptive and 
suspicious behavior. We must leverage technology, such as Neuro-Screen, 
to enhance screening programs like ESTA.
  Mr. Speaker, we all want to ensure that people from around the world 
can travel here to experience all the wonders and the freedoms of the 
United States. As we welcome travelers here, we must do so in a way 
that keeps us safe.
  That is why I support H.R. 1158. I urge all our Members to support 
this thoughtful bipartisan legislation.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the gentlewoman 
from Nevada (Ms. Titus).
  Ms. TITUS. Mr. Speaker, as the Representative from Las Vegas, one of 
the world's greatest tourist and business travel destinations, I, too, 
rise in favor of H.R. 158.
  This bill strengthens the Visa Waiver Program to help ensure that 
potential terrorists are not able to abuse it to bypass security checks 
and come to the U.S. to do us harm.
  We must remain cognizant, however, of the fact that the VWP program 
is not only a significant aspect of our Homeland Security, but it is 
also critical to expediting and welcoming tourists and business 
travelers to the United States.
  In 2014, more than 20.4 million visitors arrived in the U.S. through 
the VWP, representing almost 60 percent of all overseas visitors. These 
travelers stayed an average of 18 nights and spent $4,400 per visit, 
generating $190 billion, which supported nearly 1 million jobs. In Las 
Vegas, 20 percent of our visitors come from foreign countries, many of 
whom use this program.
  So, in short, yes, we must be cautious. We cannot afford to 
unnecessarily crush the growing tourism industry or risk retaliatory 
measures by other countries, which would make it difficult for 
Americans to travel abroad for business or a holiday.
  I believe H.R. 158 strikes the right balance between security and 
accommodation. I urge my colleagues to support it. I also caution 
against carrying xenophobia too far.
  Mr. GOODLATTE: Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Royce), the chairman of the Foreign Relations 
Committee.

                              {time}  1630

  Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Speaker, I am recently back from London, where I had 
an opportunity to speak to British authorities about the challenge that 
Europeans find themselves in at this point in time. There are literally 
5,000 Europeans who have gone to fight in Syria and in Iraq and have 
come back. Part of the problem here is a manpower problem of managing 
to be able to have a handle on that.
  Now, we cannot have people automatically coming to the United States 
without being vetted. They should not be allowed to just get on a plane 
and fly here. This bill is going to bolster our defenses because what 
it is going to do is to ensure that those who have traveled to a terror 
hotspot, like Syria, and then come back into Europe or another Visa 
Waiver country will get that thorough investigation before they are 
being cleared to travel. That will allow our authorities to prevent 
that travel.
  It is going to give our law enforcement a new tool as well in terms 
of detecting fraud and stolen passports. You also saw the story in 
Honduras of five Syrians with stolen passports trying to get into the 
United States.
  So the Visa Waiver Program is good for America's economy and good for 
our leadership overseas. We can strengthen it. Let's urge our 
colleagues in the Senate to get this soon to the President's desk.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire how much time remains.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman from California has 6\1/2\ 
minutes remaining.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman 
from Illinois (Mr. Quigley), a former member of the Committee on the 
Judiciary.
  Mr. QUIGLEY. Mr. Speaker, the Visa Waiver Program plays an absolutely 
essential role in growing the American economy. If we don't have 
foreign travel, it is just going to be Michigan competing against 
Wisconsin, Las Vegas competing against Orlando; and while Chicago has 
no peer, we are really not being productive. Also, over the last 
decade, we have successfully used the incentives of this program to 
require participating countries to implement the strictest security 
standards and increase vital intelligence sharing with U.S. law 
enforcement.
  As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 
I can't stress enough the value of intelligence we gather from the 38 
Visa Waiver countries in thwarting terror plots and preventing attacks 
on our homeland. That is why I have been a longtime supporter of the 
Visa Waiver Program and for including important allies like Poland. But 
I have also led the effort to strengthen the security requirements of 
the program to respond to the evolving threats we face.
  The bipartisan JOLT Act, sponsored by myself and Mr. Heck, includes 
many of the security programs and reforms included in this bill we are 
debating today. It will also strengthen the security of the program and 
reduce fraud and also provide the U.S. with greater intelligence 
capacity.
  As policymakers, we must continuously reevaluate the reforms that are 
necessary to respond to keep America safe. The bill before us provides 
that proper balance by making the Visa Waiver Program even more secure 
and reaffirming our commitment to the program for the future.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
New York (Mr. Katko), the chairman of our Foreign Fighter Task Force.
  Mr. KATKO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 158, the Visa 
Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
  This bill, which I cosponsored, will close a critical gap in our 
Nation's security that is vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists and 
other nefarious actors seeking to do us harm. This bill strengthens the 
security of the Visa Waiver Program by requiring participating nations 
to increase counterterrorism information sharing, screen travelers 
against INTERPOL's databases, and enhance passport security features.
  As chair of the Committee on Homeland Security's Foreign Fighter Task 
Force, I spent countless hours with my colleagues examining weaknesses 
in our Nation's defenses against the threat posed by foreign fighters. 
The provisions in this bill address several of the key findings in that 
report. I thank Mrs. Miller for her leadership on this important issue.
  I also want to thank and note the continuing bipartisan cooperation 
that is part of the Committee on Homeland Security. I commend my 
colleagues on the other side of the aisle for their continuing good 
work on that committee.
  In closing, I would like to urge my colleagues to support this 
important legislation.

[[Page H9059]]

  

  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman 
from California (Mr. Sherman).
  Mr. SHERMAN. Mr. Speaker, there are some 6 billion people in the 
world who aren't from one of the 38 favored countries and have to go 
through an in-person interview to visit the United States. It is not 
unfair for us to impose the same requirement on those Europeans who 
have visited ISIS-infested areas.
  This bill will do some good, but it is mostly evadable. Most ISIS 
foreign fighters go to Turkey. Their passport is stamped in Turkey, and 
then they walk into Syria. ISIS does not stamp their passport, and so 
they are free to say that they never went to Iraq or Syria. This bill 
will make sense only if it applies to those who visited Turkey.
  Even if they did get their passport stamped, say they flew to 
Baghdad, got it stamped by the Iraqi Government, all they have to do is 
go back to Europe and say, ``I want a new passport. My hair style has 
changed, I want a different picture.'' They get a new passport. Their 
old passport, holes are punched in it. It is returned to them, and so 
there is no record that they ever visited Iraq.
  Most of our European friends don't have a list of which of their 
citizens have visited Syria, Iraq, or Iran. If they did have such a 
list, they wouldn't share it with us because they have privacy laws. 
Now, they will cooperate with us on individual suspects, but not a list 
of tens of thousands of people who have visited Iraq, Syria, or Iran, 
and certainly not the millions who have visited Turkey. So they don't 
have a list. They won't share a list.
  Looking at a passport only tells you that somebody got a new 
passport. Seeing that it was stamped only in Turkey but not stamped in 
Syria just shows you that they walked into Syria and ISIS didn't stamp 
their passport.
  I look forward to passing this bill, and then getting serious on a 
bill that will accomplish its purposes.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from 
Indiana (Mrs. Walorski).
  Mrs. WALORSKI. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 158. In order 
to protect our national security and the safety of Americans, we must 
also adapt our policies to prevent terrorists from entering U.S. soil.
  As we have heard earlier, approximately 5,000 Europeans have traveled 
to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, many of whom are from countries that 
participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Many of these countries fail to 
provide the U.S. intelligence community with critical information 
needed to ensure those traveling under the program are not a threat to 
the U.S. Today's legislation addresses and helps fix the 
vulnerabilities of this program.
  Before an individual is permitted to enter the United States, 
additional vetting is required. This includes enhanced screening of 
individuals who have visited or are citizens of Iraq, Syria, and 
terrorist hotspots like Iran and Sudan, or other nations that have seen 
a rise in significant terrorist activities.
  It strengthens intelligence and information sharing with our allies. 
It cracks down on passport fraud by requiring Visa Waiver countries to 
upgrade to biometrics and electronic passports and forces Visa Waiver 
countries to ramp up counterterrorism screenings of travelers.
  As our enemies continue to evolve, we must do the same to protect the 
American people from the risks posed by this threat. I thank 
Congresswoman Miller for her hard work on this important piece of 
legislation.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from 
Arizona (Ms. Sinema).
  Ms. SINEMA. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairwoman Miller for introducing 
this legislation to address the serious security gaps in the Visa 
Waiver Program, and I thank Congresswoman Lofgren for putting our 
country's security over partisanship to advance this commonsense 
measure.
  I am a cosponsor of this legislation because it makes sensible, 
bipartisan changes to address the security gaps in the Visa Waiver 
Program and prevent Islamic State and other terrorist networks from 
using the program to gain access to the United States.
  The Islamic State is one of the world's most violent and dangerous 
terrorist groups. To keep our country safe, we must be one step ahead 
of them, preventing them from entering the United States and stopping 
their efforts.
  The Visa Waiver Program allows travelers from approved countries to 
visit the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. This program 
is an important tool that grows our economy and supports ease of travel 
for American citizens.
  The reasonable changes included in this bill strengthen the Visa 
Waiver Program. This bill requires partner nations to issue electronic 
passports, strengthening the screening process of program participants.
  It also addresses the concerns raised by my bill, H.R. 4122, 
introduced with Congressman Matt Salmon, to suspend the Visa Waiver 
Program for individuals who have traveled in the last 5 years to Syria 
and Iraq, to countries that are state sponsors of terrorism, or to 
countries with active terrorist networks. I thank Chairman Miller for 
including this important provision. I thank Congresswomen Miller and 
Lofgren for advancing this important legislation.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire how much time is remaining 
on each side.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Virginia has 5\1/2\ 
minutes remaining. The gentlewoman from California has 2\1/2\ minutes 
remaining.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
South Carolina (Mr. Duncan).
  Mr. DUNCAN of South Carolina. Mr. Speaker, this legislation is a step 
in the right direction. The changes that I like particularly to the 
Visa Waiver Program are a requirement to share counterterrorism 
information with the United States and that all visa waiver countries 
must submit lost and stolen passport information to INTERPOL's database 
within 24 hours.
  In May of 2014, a foreign fighter, radicalized on the battlefield in 
Syria after 1 year, traveled back to Europe. He traveled through Turkey 
and through Germany. It is believed that Germany had information on 
this individual, but it failed to share that information with its 
neighbors France and Belgium. He arrived in Brussels. In a 90-second 
attack with an automatic weapon on a Jewish museum, he killed 4 people 
before fleeing to France, making it all the way to the south of France, 
to the city of Marseille, where he hoped to cross the Mediterranean and 
disappear into the African continent.
  Why do I tell you this story? It is because of the freedom of travel 
in the Schengen region, or the open borders region in Europe, the 
radicalization of foreign fighters joining ISIS on the battlefield and 
having the ability to travel back to Europe and possibly, being 
undetected, travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program 
if the countries don't share the information.
  In addition, in the last 30 days, we have seen numerous instances 
where stolen or fraudulent passports have been used by migrants and 
terrorists to travel throughout Europe as well as across Latin America.
  Just recently, five Syrians traveled through the tri-border region, 
which is Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. It is a region in the 
northern area of Argentina. They traveled there from Syria on stolen 
Israeli passports, and then they purchased, in the tri-border region, 
Greek passports and were able to transit Latin America into Honduras, 
where they were stopped with those false passports.
  These are real examples of real issues, and it is why I support what 
we are trying to do today.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire if the gentleman has 
additional speakers.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. I am the only remaining speaker.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Then I will close on our side.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  A lot of things have been said today that will be very helpful, but I 
think clarifying some of these issues might be useful for Members.
  It has been said that there is discrimination in this bill. It is 
important to note that the Visa Waiver Program discriminates on the 
basis of nationality. That is why there is only one country, Chile, in 
Latin America that is in the Visa Waiver Program. Everybody else has to 
go in for a visa interview.

[[Page H9060]]

  There are no countries in Africa that are eligible for the Visa 
Waiver Program. Everybody in Africa has to go in for an interview to 
get a visitor's visa.
  There are only four sites--Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and South 
Korea--in Asia that are eligible. Everybody else has to go in for a 
visa interview.
  So a visa interview is not a terrible thing. It helps us understand 
what people are about.
  I include for the Record a letter from the U.S. Travel Association in 
favor of this bill. It is signed by a large number of groups, including 
the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and The Travel Technology 
Association.

                                      U.S. Travel Association,

                                 Washington, DC, December 8, 2015.
       Dear Members of the House of Representatives: On behalf of 
     the 14.6 million American workers whose livelihood depends on 
     safe international travel to the United States, we are 
     writing in support of H.R. 158, legislation to strengthen 
     homeland security in the wake of the recent terrorist 
     attacks.
       The horrific attacks in Paris underscore the need for every 
     possible measure to protect public safety. And no one 
     advocates for security precautions more vigorously than 
     travel professionals. Without public confidence in air 
     security, worldwide commerce will be crippled. The Visa 
     Waiver Program (VWP), originally created to facilitate 
     travel, today is one of our most effective tools against 
     global terror. Because of VWP, governments around the world 
     now are working cooperatively at the highest levels of law 
     enforcement to identify risky travelers--both before boarding 
     flights and upon arrival in the United States.
       For the 38 countries that are currently VWP members, the 
     U.S. has unparalleled authority to inspect their counter-
     terrorism, border control, aviation and travel document 
     security methods and facilities. VWP protocols require 
     participating nations to issue machine-readable passports 
     that are difficult to forge; promptly enter data on all lost 
     and stolen passports into a central INTERPOL database; and 
     collaborate with the United States law enforcement under 
     essential information-sharing agreements. Since this system 
     was established in 2008, we have denied entry to over 4,300 
     would-be travelers known or suspected of posing a threat. For 
     the many nations that hope to someday become a VWP member, 
     just that aspiration offers a strong incentive to raise 
     security standards unilaterally, even in advance of their 
     admission. The VWP is a rare, exemplary government program 
     that delivers both security and economic benefits.
       Even successful programs such as VWP can be improved. In 
     our view, the battery of reforms proposed in H.R. 158 will 
     help make us all safer. We support its provisions to add 
     additional layers of protection, including by increasing 
     preclearance and immigration advisory programs, working with 
     other governments to strengthen their watch lists and vetting 
     systems; and expanding Global Entry to enroll more rigorously 
     screened, trusted travelers. These are thoughtful, effective 
     reforms--and we especially commend bipartisan House leaders 
     for working together toward enacting H.R. 158. As this bill 
     makes its way through the legislative process, we will 
     continue to work constructively with its sponsors.
       This is a moment when the United States and our allies can 
     send a global message about the seriousness of our air 
     security protocols and our capacity for bipartisan consensus 
     on matters of national security. Thank you in advance and 
     please call on us if we can serve as a resource for your 
     deliberations.
           Sincerely,
       U.S. Travel Association,
       Airlines for America,
       American Gaming Association,
       American Hotel & Lodging Association,
       American Resort Development Association,
       American Society of Travel Agents,
       Asian American Hotel Owners Association,
       Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau,
       Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau,
       Destination DC,
       Destination Marketing Association International,
       Expedia, Inc.,
       Hilton Worldwide,
       International Association of Amusement Parks and 
     Attractions,
       Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board,
       Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority,
       Loews Hotels and Resorts,
       Marriott International, Inc.,
       National Retail Federation,
       National Tour Association,
       PSAV ,
       Sabre Corporation,
       The San Diego Tourism Authority,
       Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.,
       The Travel Technology Association,
       U.S. Tour Operators Association.

  Ms. LOFGREN. Why? Because it is important for our country that this 
program, this Visa Waiver Program, be tightened up, that we are assured 
that it is being operated in a safe and secure manner.

                              {time}  1645

  I am happy that we can work together on a bipartisan basis to do 
this, because we are at a time in our country when reckless and racist 
things are being said about some of our fellow Americans--people who 
are saying that if you are of the Muslim faith, somehow you are a 
threat to the United States. That is not true. And it is important for 
us to stand up against that rhetoric, to stand up for all Americans and 
people of all faiths, but also to work together on sensible, modest 
reforms to the VW Program.
  I am glad that we will, hopefully, stand together in the face of 
outrageous racist rhetoric and that we will also stand together 
supporting this modest reform to the program.
  I would note also the suggestion that the bill does not solve all the 
problems. As I said in my opening statement, the most important part of 
this program is the database provisions. If countries do not want to 
share their data, they can't be in the Visa Waiver Program. I think 
that, as we move forward, more and more countries will understand we 
need to collaborate together, and I urge support for the bill.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
  Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. I want to thank everybody on both 
sides of the aisle who have worked together to bring us to the point 
where we can pass this bill through the House. I hope it is taken up 
and passed in the Senate. I hope it is signed into law soon.
  It will do some good in stopping people who have ill intent from 
being able to abuse our immigration system and enter our country. But 
this bill is just one of many, many things with regard to our 
immigration system that need to be examined. Other legislation that has 
already passed out of the Homeland Security Committee and the Judiciary 
Committee needs to be brought to the floor of the House for 
consideration.
  We also need to examine our visa programs and the interview process, 
which may be called into question following the tragedy in San 
Bernardino. We also need to make sure that our borders--particularly 
our southern border, but all of our borders--are secure. People are 
crossing into our country undetected, and they are not just from South 
American and Central American countries. They are from all over the 
world, including from the country that we have been talking about here 
today.
  We need to make sure that our asylum program is not as rampant with 
fraud as it is today. We need to pass legislation introduced by 
Congressman Chaffetz of Utah that addresses that problem.
  We need to make sure that when people cross into our country 
illegally, no matter where they are from, they are apprehended and that 
they are not released into the interior of the country with the hope 
that they will someday reappear for a hearing. Congressman John Carter 
has legislation that addresses that problem.
  We need to make sure that when people enter the United States, for 
whatever purpose, they do so lawfully, and they not take jobs away from 
law-abiding American citizens. We need to make sure that our electronic 
verification of employment program is made mandatory, as legislation 
introduced and passed out of the committee, introduced by Congressman 
Lamar Smith, would do.
  We need to make sure that we are utilizing all of our law enforcement 
resources across our entire Nation to keep this country safe, including 
better cooperation between the Federal Government and our State and 
local governments on law enforcement issues and on immigration 
enforcement issues. I hear from judges and sheriffs and other law 
enforcement officials in my district about the messed up way that our 
current program is working. We need to have a clear, statutory role for 
State and local governments to participate in the enforcement of these 
laws.
  All of these things need to be brought to the floor of this House to 
make sure that our immigration programs are working properly, are 
working fairly, and are making this country safer than it is today. I 
urge my colleagues to support this legislation, which is a very good 
step in the right direction.
  I commend the gentlewoman from Michigan (Mrs. Miller), who is leaving

[[Page H9061]]

at the end of this Congress. This is a good note to end this debate 
upon. I thank her for her good work in making sure that we are keeping 
this country safe by improving the Visa Waiver Program. I urge my 
colleagues to support this legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) that the House suspend the 
rules and pass the bill, H.R. 158, as amended.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds 
being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further 
proceedings on this motion will be postponed.

                          ____________________