Visa Waiver Program - Some Known Unknowns

Article author: 
Coleen Rowley and Georgianne Nienaber
Article publisher: 
The Unz Review
Article date: 
3 December 2015
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

All the hyped political angst regarding the possible resettling of a few thousand Syrian refugees stands in stark contrast to the relative lack of congressional concern about the equally, if not more inherently problematic Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This long-standing, historically-proven dangerous, but little understood Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-administered program, allowed 21,231,396 foreign visitors from 38 countries to pass through U.S. ports of entry with minimal to no screening according to 2013 official records (the most recent data published). The numbers should give pause, since visitors admitted each year via the VWP are over 2000 times greater than the “up to 10,000” refugees proposed a few months ago by President Obama for eventual resettlement in the U.S. The number of VWP entrants is nearly 20,000 times greater than the 1,300 Syrians previously allowed into the U.S. since the conflict began over four years ago. The VWP program allows 300 times more foreign visitors into the U.S. than refugees from all countries combined.

Of those entering under the VWP: 293,217 came from Belgium; 1,804,035 from France; and 512,299 from Sweden.[1] Even before the more recent Charlie Hebdo and November 13th attacks in Paris, it was known that the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Sweden were emerging [2] as home bases for Islamic extremists joining ISIL. So do these countries, among others in the waiver program, offer potentially easy access to the United States for some of their increasingly radicalized citizens now supporting known terrorist organizations?

Visa Waiver Program: What we know and don’t know

We suggested last year in the Huffington Post[3] that the United States has a gaping hole in its DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) monitoring. There had been little public discussion of the VWP,[4] a program that thirty-eight countries currently participate in. Participating countries agree to loosen travel restrictions in order to encourage tourism, trade and business travel...

“Upon landing in the U.S.,” according to the optimistic March 2015 testimony [6] of the Director of the Heritage Foundation Steven P. Bucci, “individuals must provide biographic and biometric information that is checked against additional sets of biometric databases controlled by DHS (Automated Biometric Identification System or IDENT) and the FBI (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System or IAFIS). The individual is once again checked through TECS, the ATS, and the APIS and undergoes additional inspection if necessary. At any point in this process, security officials can prevent an individual from entering the U.S. if they are deemed a security risk or ineligible for travel to the U.S.” Bucci testified before the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Committee on Homeland Security, in the United States House of Representatives.
Bucci’s description makes it sound like a “robust screening process” but what we don’t know, what is critically missing from his rosy prognosis, is how many of the over 1.1 million terrorist suspects that have made it onto key “terrorist watchlists” can be conclusively identified by biometric data alone, as Bucci’s testimony suggests...
Could it be more likely that the only real barrier to entrance to the United States is the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry, who stamps the passport, with or without a few questions, and with little means of verification? Unless a match comes up with someone entered on the Terrorist Watch List or the no-fly list, the VWP traveler is free to enter for up to 90 days or vanish underground...


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Visa overstays - CAIRCO research.

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