December 23, 2015

Iranian-American Organizations Urge President Obama to Waive Discriminatory Visa Language

Washington, DC – A coalition of Iranian American organizations issued the following joint-statement regarding legislation recently passed into law concerning the Visa Waiver Program:

As Iranian American civil rights and advocacy organizations, we are dismayed that Congress passed legislation to amend the U.S.’s Visa Waiver Program in a manner that risks discriminating against the Iranian-American community and other communities. 

We call on President Obama and his administration to waive discriminatory visa restrictions that could punish American dual nationals and persons who have traveled to Iran.

Under the legislation, which was signed into law as part of the omnibus spending bill, nationals of Europe or any of the thirty-eight Visa Waiver Program countries will be unable to visit the U.S. under the program if they are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or if they traveled to these countries since March 2011. Due to the reciprocal nature of the program, Europe and other countries may respond with similar restrictions on Americans.

Our community is understandably concerned that we will be caught in the middle. Because Iranian citizenship is conferred to any child born to an Iranian father, and because a significant number of Iranian Americans travel to Iran each year, many within our community could potentially be impacted. Our passports would be treated differently from those of our fellow Americans as we would potentially be excluded from visa-free travel to European and other Visa Waiver Program countries unlike our peers.

We are shocked that Congress would pass legislation that risks turning American dual nationals into second-class citizens. We support efforts to protect U.S. national security, but these discriminatory provisions do not advance that goal. We therefore call on Congress to repeal the discriminatory provisions of this legislation and we encourage President Obama to immediately take steps to limit the impact of these discriminatory provisions by waiving these restrictions on Iranian and other dual nationals, as well as for travelers to Iran. Doing so will help ensure that the President keeps America safe while at the same time protecting our civil rights and core values.

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB)
Iranian American Bar Association (IABA)
National Iranian American Council for Action (NIAC Action)
PARS Equality Center
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)
United For Iran 

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