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 Iran Election: What's at Stake
On Friday, Iranians will go to the polls to elect members of Parliament and the Assembly of Experts. Here’s why this matters.
Q. What’s at stake?
A. Iranians will elect a Parliament that passes laws and a clerical council that is technically in charge of naming a successor to the supreme leader when he dies. But analysts say that the choice of a successor to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 76, will in all likelihood be deemed too important to be left to the assembly — it will instead confirm preselected candidates. The assembly also monitors the supreme leader, but that function has minimal effect.
Q. Is Iran a democracy?
A. It’s a hybrid country with religious and civil institutions. It has an elected president and Parliament, with limited powers. It also has a Supreme Leader who wields civil and religious authority and a Guardian Council, which comprises six religious experts and six legal experts to interpret the Constitution.
Q. Doesn’t the supreme leader control everything?
A. Yes, and no. The supreme leader has final say on all matters of religion and state. But he also needs to balance the demands and interests of competing power centers like the Revolutionary Guards and the judiciary. Ayatollah Khamenei, according to the Constitution, cannot annul Friday’s vote. Parliament and the Assembly of Experts are officially independent powers, but parliaments — particularly the departing one — take their cues from him. (The New York Times)
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.
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):
Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.
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."
Iran threatens response to new U.S. visa restrictions
Iran will take reciprocal measures in response to any breach of this year's nuclear deal, the Foreign Ministry warned on Monday, after Tehran said new U.S. visa restrictions contravened the historic agreement.
Iran has started to restrict its nuclear program under the terms of the July 14 deal with six world powers, including the United States. When the restrictions are completed, international sanctions on Tehran will be lifted.
But decades-old mistrust between Tehran and Washington is as high as ever, and each side has accused the other of undermining the pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress passed a law restricting visa-free travel rights for people who have visited Iran or hold dual Iranian nationality, a measure that Iran's foreign minister called a breach of the deal. (Reuters)
Tensions rise over U.S. visa measures that could affect Iran nuclear accord
Tensions mounted between Iran and the United States on Wednesday over a new American law that limits visa-free travel, which the Iranians regard as a sanction and a violation of the recently completed nuclear accord.
The Iranian foreign minister and Republican critics of Iran traded warnings about the visa law, which is barely a week old. The law applies to foreigners who would otherwise be eligible to travel to the United States without a visa. It denies that privilege to anyone who has visited Iran in the past five years or who holds Iranian citizenship. The same restriction applies to citizens of or visitors to Syria, Iraq or Sudan.
The law is part of an American antiterrorism response to the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., and is primarily directed at suspected members and supporters of the Islamic State, the extremist Sunni group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria. Sudan and Iran were included partly because they have been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for many years. (The New York Times)