The Visa Waiver Program, or VWP, has recently been questioned in its ability weed-out terrorists attempting to travel to the U.S. This program requires member countries to meet certain security measures, including an increase in airport security, an increased sharing of intelligence on known suspected terrorists, and an exchange of biometric, biographic, and criminal data with the U.S.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has called to temporarily suspend the Visa Waiver Program in wake of the Paris attacks. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has also been critical of the program.
These requirements, according to The Heritage Foundation’s Steve Bucci, actually “enhance security by providing U.S. law enforcement and security agencies with more information and intelligence on potential terrorists and other bad actors.”
This information consists of flight, passport, traveler, terrorist, and threat, in addition to the domestic and international database information sharing.
Although the concern regarding a threat coming from overseas is warranted, it ignores the fact that 63 of the 74 Islamist inspired terror plots and attacks in the U.S. since 9/11 have been homegrown – according to a recent report from The Heritage Foundation.
But the program, now wrongfully caught up in the debate over Syrian refugees, is in fact a valuable tool for increasing U.S national security.
In an interview on CNN, Gabbard made her case for suspending the Visa Waiver Program, suggesting,
“They [VWP members] should be required to go through the normal visa application process, so that we can thoroughly vet exactly who’s trying to come into the United States”.
In testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security this year Bucci has asserted that “The VWP promotes security and the ISIS threat only emphasizes the importance of the VWP’s intelligence-sharing requirements and adding appropriate nations to the program”.
The streamlining of security information makes the Visa Waiver Program a security enhancer, not a vulnerability. The debate over Syrian refugees is important, as highlighted here, but should not be used in arguments against the Visa Waiver Program.
With the threat of ISIS and radicalized Westerns bigger than ever, the U.S. needs all of its intelligence tools and the Visa Waiver Program is a proven tool for the job.