President Barack Obama announced yesterday that Greece would join more than 30 other nations that make up the Visa Waiver program - a program that allows citizens of the country to visit the United States for less than 90 days without a visa. Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith, however, believes expanding the program to Greece will increase illegal immigration and threaten national security.
“The Obama administration’s decision to expand the Visa Waiver program is another blow to our national security," Rep. Smith (R-Texas) said.
“It makes no sense to expand the Visa Waiver program until the exit portion of U.S.-VISIT is fully implemented. Without an exit tracking system, visitors to the U.S. can stay here indefinitely and undetected. This leads to more illegal immigration and weakens our national security. September 11 conspirator Zacarious Moussaoui, ‘Shoebomber’ Richard Reid, and 1993 World Trade Center conspirator Ahmed Ajaj all entered or attempted to enter the U.S. through the Visa Waiver Program.
US-VISIT is a biometric entry/exit system with the goal of tracking individuals who pose a threat to the United States. The system has received funding from Congress and was mandated in 2007, but it's still not close to being fully functional. Pres. Obama's budget proposal for FY2011 will begin phasing out funding for US-VISIT.
“Unfortunately, the Obama administration has already demonstrated that it has no intention of implementing an exit system since the FY 2011 budget request includes no funding for the US-VISIT exit program," Rep. Smith said. "Without the exit portion of the U.S.-VISIT, there is no way to tell whether people who entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver program actually left the country."
“Without a fully-implemented exit program, the VWP facilitates illegal immigration. An estimated 40 percent of illegal immigrants came to the U.S. under the VWP or with temporary visas and simply overstayed their period of lawful admission.”