Congress

Hurd urges changes to Visa Waiver Program

Will Hurd

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas)

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA officer, said the European allies participating in the Visa Waiver Program with the United States are not disclosing full information on travelers.

"Many of them have signed agreements with us saying that they will share terrorist watch-list data," Hurd said in the weekly Republican address on Dec. 12. "We learned that some of them only share the names of convicted terrorists and not the suspects. Some [only] promise to share the names of people traveling to the United States."

Under the Visa Waiver Program, citizens of participating countries can travel to the U.S. without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, as long as they meet all the requirements.

The House recently passed a bill that would strengthen the program by increasing information sharing between the U.S. and the 38 countries that participate. It would require that countries share biometric data from passports, and it would bar Syrian and Iraqi citizens or anyone who has travelled to those countries since 2011 from participating in the program.

Hurd, who spent nine years as an undercover CIA officer, said the bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security to suspend a country from the program if it does not provide the U.S. with the information needed to track down terrorists. Because the European Union has few internal border checkpoints, it makes the U.S. vulnerable to entry by terrorists via the Visa Waiver Program, he added.

"If we're not careful, it can be a weak spot in our defenses," Hurd said.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has said he hope to have similar legislation incorporated into the omnibus spending bill this year.  And DHS officials say they have been refining the program since 2014 -- but that the agency is looking to Congress for practical help in a number of areas.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.