Iranian-American groups are voicing their opposition to the House of Representatives' bill (H.R. 158) passed on Monday that curbs the visa waiver program. The bill contains measures viewed as discriminatory against Americans of Iranian origin. NIAC Action and PAAIA are among the groups that have issued statements opposing this bill.
NIAC Action Deeply Concerned by House Passage Discriminatory Visa Waiver Program Bill
Press Release by NIAC Action
Washington, DC - NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 158, a bill reforming the visa waiver program and containing discriminatory measures targeting Iranian dual nationals:
"Unfortunately, the House of Representatives took a page from Donald Trump today and voted for legislation that discriminates against certain dual nationals by barring them from the visa waiver program. Under the bill, dual nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan would be barred from entering the country without a visa, in addition to any citizens who have visited those countries in the past five years. This proposal will not make our country safer, it compromises our core values and risks discriminating against American citizens.
"If this bill passes into law, the European Union has warned that it will consider travel restrictions targeting American citizens because the visa waiver program operates on the system of reciprocity. This could mean that a second tier of American citizens, including Iranian Americans, would be forced to apply for a visa to travel to many nations in Europe and other eligible countries.
"We hope the Senate revises this legislation so that it does not discriminate on the basis of national origin or risk triggering unequal treatment of American citizens traveling abroad by rejecting this backward proposal."
NIAC Action is the grassroots, civic action organization committed to advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit and the 501(c)4 sister organization of the National Iranian American Council, which works to strengthen the Iranian-American community and promote greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.
PAAIA Expresses Serious Concerns with Discriminatory Reprecrussions of Visa Waiver Program Improvment Act of 2015 (H.R. 158)
Press Release by Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)
Washington, D.C. - The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) today expressed urgent concerns with the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 158), as amended. While the Iranian American community is dedicated to protecting America's national security in light of recent incidents of international terrorism, PAAIA has substantial concerns that provisions of the bill will unintentionally negatively impact the Iranian American community.
The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 participating countries to travel to the U.S., Europe, Japan, and South Korea without a visa for stays of 90 days or less. The legislation would exclude dual nationals from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria or anyone who has travelled to those countries in the past five years from using the program to enter the country.
Because the program is based on reciprocity, this would most likely trigger similar restrictions on American citizens from European and other participating countries. As such, Iranian Americans could be barred from the visa waiver program solely based on their national origin, and be impacted in a disparate fashion.
The United States is host to the largest expatriate community of Iranians in the world. Iranian Americans have contributed to the economic strength and cultural diversity of America. They serve as government officials, in the military and law enforcement, working to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect all Americans.
For the aforementioned reasons, PAAIA has been in direct communication with members of Congress to express the Iranian American community's concern with the legislation. We have recommended that the text of the legislation be amended to ensure that no particular group of Americans is adversely affected solely based on their national origin. Creating two classes of American passport holders is highly discriminatory, un-American, and of questionable legal validity.
PAAIA will continue to monitor the legislation as it moves through Congress. While the House is likely to adopt the current version of H.R.158, the Senate is considering differing legislation which does not include the damaging provisions. We look forward to working with members of Congress to address these concerns while ensuring that our nation's national security concerns are addressed.
PAAIA, Inc. is a nonprofit, bipartisan, nonsectarian organization that represents the interests of the Iranian American community before U.S. policymakers, opinion makers, and the American public at large.
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