Bill will hurt innocent travelers

Letter to the Editor: Bill will hurt innocent travelers
Albuquerque Journal – AS AN Iranian-American, I was saddened to see the Journal’s report that New Mexico’s three congressional representatives had voted in favor of H.R. 158, a revision of the Visa Waiver Program that was revived in response to the recent San Bernardino, Calif., shooting. Despite warnings by many civil rights organizations, H.R. 158 was added to the $1.1 trillion catch-all spending bill that was signed by President Obama on Dec. 18. The Visa Waiver Program allows American citizens to travel without a visa to 38 countries. If signed by the president, the bill changes the program by excluding dual-nationals from Iran, Syria, Iraq and Sudan — or anyone who has traveled to those countries in the past five years — from the program. Last week, ambassadors of 28 EU nations warned of possible repercussions, which could include legally mandated reciprocal measures. According to their joint statement, “[a] blanket restriction on those who have visited Syria or Iraq, for example, would most likely only affect legitimate travel by businesspeople, journalists, humanitarian or medical workers while doing little to detect those who travel by more clandestine means overland.” The broad language of the bill could affect hundreds of thousands of people who have never set foot in any of these countries and are only dual citizens because of the nationality of their parents. Our congressional representatives should not hesitate to support any legislation that does, in fact, protect our national security; this bill, as it was passed, does not. What it does however, is to discriminate against American citizens like me. Even if such a measure is justified, one wonders why Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, countries where the two San Bernardino shooters came from were not included in the bill.

Member, National Iranian American Council Albuquerque

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