PAAIA Expresses Serious Concerns with Discriminatory Reprecrussions of Visa Waiver Program Improvment Act of 2015

Dear PAAIA Supporter,

Washington, D.C. – The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) today expressed urgent concerns with the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 158), as amended.  While the Iranian American community is dedicated to protecting America’s national security in light of recent incidents of international terrorism, PAAIA has substantial concerns that provisions of the bill will unintentionally negatively impact the Iranian American community.

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 participating countries to travel to the U.S., Europe, Japan, and South Korea without a visa for stays of 90 days or less. The legislation would exclude dual nationals from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria or anyone who has travelled to those countries in the past five years from using the program to enter the country.   

Because the program is based on reciprocity, this would most likely trigger similar restrictions on American citizens from European and other participating countries.  As such, Iranian Americans could be barred from the visa waiver program solely based on their national origin, and be impacted in a disparate fashion.  

The United States is host to the largest expatriate community of Iranians in the world. Iranian Americans have contributed to the economic strength and cultural diversity of America. They serve as government officials, in the military and law enforcement, working to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect all Americans.

For the aforementioned reasons, PAAIA has been in direct communication with members of Congress to express the Iranian American community’s concern with the legislation.  We have recommended that the text of the legislation be amended to ensure that no particular group of Americans is adversely affected solely based on their national origin.  Creating two classes of American passport holders is highly discriminatory, un-American, and of questionable legal validity. 

PAAIA will continue to monitor the legislation as it moves through Congress.  While the House is likely to adopt the current version of H.R.158, the Senate is considering differing legislation which does not include the damaging provisions.  We look forward to working with members of Congress to address these concerns while ensuring that our nation’s national security concerns are addressed. 

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