Stop the Discriminatory Visa Waiver Legislation!
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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.
The new visa waiver restrictions are complicated and can be confusing to understand. In this video, I break it down by interviewing a lawyer from the ACLU, a former American nuclear negotiator, and an Iranian-German dual citizen who was recently affected by the law. Watch the video, then share it with your friends who need to learn about the issue.
Amin Shokrollahi, the German-Iranian dual citizen and mathematics professor who was profiled in the AIC's video about the discriminatory visa waiver restrictions, was recently profiled in The Intercept.
The United States Department of State just issued a memo announcing that implementation of the changes to the Visa Waiver Program would begin today. The American Iranian Council has strongly opposed these changes in their current form on the grounds that they are both discriminatory and will not improve national security.
The following is a memo issued by the US Department of State regarding the implementation of changes to the Visa Waiver Program.
For Immediate Release
January 21, 2016
United States Begins Implementation of Changes to the Visa Waiver Program
The United States today began implementing changes under the /Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015/ (the Act). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
AIC Director of Communications Kayvon Afshari discussed the visa waiver issue ("HR158") on Brooklyn's BRIC TV, a newly-launched community television station in Brooklyn. He argued that the addition of Iran in the law is both discriminatory and fails to improve national security.
He elaborated on the reason that he is personally opposed to the law.
"Sometimes people say that this law just produces a small inconvenience, and that you should just apply for a visa. However, to me it's not about the inconvenience. I'm affronted by the implication of the law." he said. "And the implication is this: that I, because I am an Iranian-American dual citizen and have traveled to Iran, just may perhaps be a terrorist."
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Omnibus spending bill, a $1.1 trillion dollar spending package to fund the government, that includes the problematic, discriminatory visa waiver legislation that the American Iranian Council has been advocating against in recent weeks. In the lower chamber, the vote was 316 in favor and 113 against. We are now monitoring the deliberations in the Senate, which is expected to vote on it later today. President Obama has also indicated that he will sign into law the omnibus, despite the discriminatory consequences of the visa waiver legislation
The normalization of Tehran's ties with Washington, as many believe, can be further hampered by the US Visa Waiver Program, which imposes some restrictions on foreigners intending to visit the US.
“I believe the HR 158 Bill [the US Visa Waiver Program], which is now a part of an omnibus budget bill considered by the US congress, is partly designed to prevent Iran from benefiting from the JCPOA [the nuclear deal],” Hooshang Amirahmadi, the president of American Iranian Council, believes.
Further speaking on the issue, Amirahmadi told Trend Dec. 16 that the move will indeed impact Iran’s economy.
On behalf of the American Iranian Council, I am writing to express my deep concern about the discriminatory consequences of a bill that is currently being considered in the Congress, and is set to be bundled into the Omnibus spending bill that will be voted on shortly. The Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act (H.R.158 in the House and S.2362 in the Senate) could unfairly strip Iranian-Americans and other Americans holding certain dual nationalities of some of their travel rights under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). We respectfully request that you urgently attend to this Act and rectify its discriminatory consequences.