Olson Votes to Protect the Homeland
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) today acted to strengthen Americaâ€™s national security by voting to bolster the security of our Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows nationals from specific countries to travel to the US for up to 90 days for business or tourism without a US visa, by presenting a valid passport. To strengthen national security, Olson voted for H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Improvement and Protection Act. This bill will help the Department of Homeland Security identify and stop terrorists with Western passports from entering the United States. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support by a vote of 407 - 19.
â€œAs we continue our efforts to protect the safety and security of all Americans in the wake of terror attacks on our homeland, every precaution must be taken,â€ Rep. Olson said. â€œEnhanced screening of those seeking to come to the United States is a common sense precaution. Iâ€™m glad we had strong bipartisan support for this measure and look forward to seeing it become law.â€
Key provisions of H.R. 158:
- Requires countries participating in our Visa Waiver Program to continually share terrorism and foreign traveler data with the United States and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend their participation if they do not meet this requirement. (Currently, the Secretary can only suspend VWP participation for imminent national security threats.)
- Requires countries participating in our Visa Waiver Program to utilize INTERPOLâ€™s criminal and law enforcement databases by requiring countries to report lost and stolen passports within 24 hours and screen all passengers against all INTERPOL databases and notices, and requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend their participation if they do not meet this INTERPOL requirement. (Currently, with respect to INTERPOL, the Secretary can only suspend a countryâ€™s participation if they are not sharing lost and stolen passport data with INTERPOL or in emergency situations.)
- Requires all Visa Waiver Program travelers use Electronic Passports or â€œe-passportsâ€ with biometric enabled chips by April 1, 2016. VWP countries will also be required to have in place mechanisms to validate e-passports.
- Directs DHS to report to Congress, within 30 days, on steps to strengthen ESTA in order to better secure the United States and prevent terrorists from exploiting the Visa Waiver Program.
- Requires an annual national security threat assessment for â€œhigh-riskâ€ countries and allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend a countryâ€™s participation if it is deemed â€œhigh-risk.â€
Media Contact: Melissa Kelly