Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., says that while the Syrian refugee crisis gets the big headlines, he and colleagues are concerned with changes they think are needed in the nation’s Visa Waiver Program.
“We have a Visa Waiver Program with 38 nations where if you visit [one of] these 38 nations, you don’t need to get a visa, you can just buy your ticket, carry your passport and come on in,” Kaine said in an interview with The Daily Signal, adding:
These 38 nations include nations like France and Belgium and other nations where there have been terrorist attacks. … To allow people to come in without even getting a visa from these 38 nations could open us up to some challenges.
The Obama administration has said it wants to tighten some rules and add screening requirements to the program, which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the State Department. Under the current program, travelers from the participating 38 countries may enter the United States for up to 90 days.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, are working on a bipartisan solution that would require those who have traveled to Iraq or Syria in the past five years to be interviewed before getting a U.S. visa.
David Inserra, a policy analyst in homeland security for The Heritage Foundation, argues for what he sees as the overwhelming benefits of the Visa Waiver Program:
The Visa Waiver Program is currently under fire by some who view the program as a security liability. Heritage Foundation research shows [the program] is a tremendous boon to U.S. security and while any program can and should be improved, doing away with the VWP would harm U.S. security.
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Kaine, who sits on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, said he believes that this is an area where compromise will be found. As for the Syrian refugee situation, agreement may be harder to come by.
Many Republicans want a stronger vetting process, but Kaine doesn’t think the current one is bad:
The screening process is really intense. That doesn’t mean we can’t make it better. … We can make it stricter still, a little bit, but it is already a very strict process.
Dozens of conservative leaders who make up the Conservative Action Project called Nov. 30 for tougher vetting of Syrian refugees.
Kaine contends that, despite views that America will let tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into the country, the U.S. actually is doing a good job limiting the influx. He said:
Four million have left Syria and registered as refugees with the U.N., and then many are trying to come to other countries. The U.N. already knows which countries will take refugees under what circumstances, so they will take about a year to pre-clear somebody. They’ve recommended out of the 4 million, 20,000 come to the United States. We have analyzed these 20,000, and we’ve allowed 2,000 in.
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Ken McIntyre contributed to this article.