Washington, DC – NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi issued the following statement in support of legislation introduced in the House and Senate to address recent discriminatory changes to the Visa Waiver Program:
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“NIAC Action strongly supports the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016, which was introduced today to repeal recent discriminatory changes to the Visa Waiver Program. This bill will help ensure that the United States does not discriminate on the basis of national origin or heritage and does not threaten to turn many Americans into second-class citizens when traveling abroad. We applaud Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI), John Conyers (D-MI), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Senators Jeff Flake (D-AZ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) for introducing this important legislation.
“Changes to the visa waiver program were rushed through Congress in late December as part of the omnibus government spending bill that would restrict certain dual nationals from visiting the U.S. under the program. Given that the Iranian-American community and many dual nationals in the U.S. could face reciprocal restrictions from countries participating in the program, it is vital for Congress to reverse these provisions without delay.
“The bill is welcome step forward for the Iranian-American community and will enjoy significant support. NIAC Action members alone generated over 81,000 messages and calls in opposition to the visa waiver changes that were eventually included and passed in the omnibus.
“The passage of this bill would be a key first step toward ending all discriminatory visa waiver restrictions. The second step would be the executive waiver of restrictions on foreign nationals who have traveled to Iran since March 2011. Without executive action, this restriction would affect a large percentage of the Iranian diaspora in Europe, in addition to the Iranian-American community if reciprocated.
“NIAC Action and a coalition of Iranian American organizations have urged the White House to waive the restrictions on travel to Iran as well as the other the discriminatory restrictions on dual nationals. With the passage of this legislation, and a waiver of the restrictions on travel to Iran by the Obama Administration, the visa waiver issue can be resolved. Additionally, NIAC Action has contacted the countries in the VWP to urge them to abstain from any reciprocal restrictions against Americans.