Buchanan Backs New Travel Restrictions to Fight Terrorism
WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, voted today for legislation to deny visa waivers to people who have traveled to Syria, Iraq and other high-risk nations during the previous five years.
“We cannot allow terrorists to slip into the United States through a porous visa program,” Buchanan said after the House approved the legislation by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. “The safety of Americans must come first.”
Buchanan noted that more than 30,000 foreign fighters from over 100 countries have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside terrorist groups like ISIS. He said at least 5,000 of these individuals are from European countries and could easily enter America through visa waivers unless the program is changed.
The visa waiver program was originally established in the 1980s to facilitate travel to the U.S. and increase tourism. Currently, citizens with passports from 38 countries – 30 of them in Europe – are eligible to participate in the reduced-screening program that allows them to visit the United States for 90 days without a visa. About 20 million visitors come to the U.S. each year on the visa waiver program.
The legislation passed today by the House would ban waivers for anyone who has traveled to Syria, Iraq, Sudan or Iran since March 1, 2011, which is when Syrian civil war started.
Buchanan also said Congress should look at reforming the K-1 fiancée visa that was used by Tashfeen Malik, the shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. The congressman also supports legislation passed by the House to freeze the influx of Syrian refugees. The SAFE Act, which passed the U.S. House 289-137 last month, requires the FBI director, the secretary of Homeland Security and the director of National Intelligence to personally certify that each and every refugee from Syria and Iraq is not a security threat.