By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) voted for HR 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. This bill closes gaps existing in the program and adds additional layers of protection.
Currently, citizens of all 38 approved Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries can travel more easily to the United States than travelers from other countires. Rather than going to the US consulate to obtain a visa, citizens of VWP countries must provide detailed background information through an online form that is screened against US security systems. VWP applicants are approved or denied for travel to the US more quickly than citizens from non-VWP countries. This program enhances US security because the VWP countries must agree to strengthen their own security screening measures and to share crucial counterterrorism and law enforcement information with the US.
In light of the high terror threat environment, more needs to be done to close VWP security gaps and keep terrorists from entering into the US. HR 158 denies VWP travel to travelers who are nationals of – or have visited during the past five years- Iraq, Syria, and other countries with significant terrorist activity. These travelers will be required to seek a visa for entry into the United States through a more stringent process.
This bill also demands strong intelligence sharing by law enforcement, enhances screening of all travelers in VWP countries, prevents extremists from using fraudulent documents to evade detection, and takes steps to ensure VWP travelers do not falsify their background information.
Cook said, “ We need strong leadership to defeat ISIS. Despite our President’s assertion, ISIS is not a ‘junior varsity’ organization. They control more territory than al-Qaeda ever did in the Middle East. With the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, it’s clear we need to be doing more to improve our security screening to prevent future attacks. This bill takes an important step in the right direction by closing loopholes in the Visa Waiver Program and now is the time to pass it. Terrorists are not welcome in the United States of America.”
A member of the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Natural Resources Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.