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Friday, April 19, 2013

Visa Waiver

In the aftermath of the Boston bombings, Lloyd Green writes at The Daily Beast:
A free America remains porous enough that terror can creep in, and so one area that warrants reexamination is America’s VISA Waiver program. According to the State Department, “the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less” for “business, tourism, visiting or pleasure.” Presently, 37 countries across Europe, Asia, and Oceania participate in the program, including England, France, Germany, Brunei, Japan, Singapore, and New Zealand—though not Russia or Kyrgyzstan, where the Tsarnaev brothers reportedly lived before coming to America. NATO member Turkey, meanwhile, does not participate in the program.

The VWP screens for country of citizenship but may not sufficiently take into account other factors that could affect whether grievances are being transported to our shores. According to a former senior New York Police Department intelligence expert, the “VISA Waiver program is one that seems like it is ripe to being exploited.” He explained that a “Frenchman of Algerian origin comes to the United States on VISA waiver, and it is that much more difficult to identify him as a potential threat if he has a clean record.” And yes, ethnicity and family ties are not absolute predictors of anything, but they cannot be dismissed as irrelevant.