A bill in the Congress is seeking to redress discriminatory aspects of the new visa waiver restrictions, which recently went into effect (If you’re unfamiliar with the visa waiver restrictions, see AIC’s brief explainer video on it). This bill, known as The Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016 (S.2449) was introduced by Sen. Jake Flake (R-AZ) and is reportedly being offered as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill.
Essentially, The Equal Protection in Travel Act would remove the clause that bars nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Iran from participating in the visa waiver program. Notably, it would not remove the clauses that target individuals who have traveled to those four countries in the past five years.
The American Iranian Council welcomes the removal of the targeting on the basis of nationality, but continues to object to the unfair targeting of tourists, businesspeople, and visitors wishing to see their families in Iran. Moreover, the Council remains concerned about the impediment this poses for trade and economic relations with Iran. Indeed, according to the text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the EU, its member states, and the US were to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran.” This clause targeting travelers effectively disincentivizes businesspeople from visiting Iran and engaging in trade and economic relations with the country in a post-JCPOA era. While much excitement was generated over the prospect of improved trade relations after the nuclear accord was adopted, it is clear that this is not materializing and this visa waiver legislation is but one example.
For these reasons, the AIC wishes to see the Equal Protection in Travel Act expanded to cease the targeting on the basis of nationality as well as the targeting of travelers to Iran, who pose no risk to the security of the United States. This step is in line with AIC’s 25-year-old mission of improving US-Iran relations.
The American Iranian Council