|For Immediate Release
June 23, 2011
Contact: Jessica Baker, (202) 225-3951
Committee Approves Secure Visas Act
Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved the Secure Visas Act (H.R. 1741), a bill to help prevent terrorists from obtaining U.S. visas and to allow U.S. officials to expedite the removal of terrorists who are in the United States on a visa. The bill was reported favorably to the House floor by a vote of 17-11.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the bill’s sponsor, today praised the Committee vote.
Chairman Smith: “The events of the past decade underscore the need to strengthen and improve visa security. We know terrorists use loopholes in our immigration system to enter the United States.
“The Secure Visas Act makes the visa process more secure. The bill requires placement of Visa Security Units at all U.S. consular posts in highest-risk countries such as Algeria, Lebanon and Syria. Just as cautious landlords perform background checks on new renters, we should have Visa Security Units at all high-risk consular offices. The Secure Visas Act also allows U.S. officials to more easily remove terrorists and others already in the U.S. after their temporary visas have been revoked.
“Many national security officials warn of future attacks. We don’t need national security officials to simply predict attacks. We need them to prevent attacks. That means we must prevent terrorists from entering this country before they act. The Secure Visas Act allows us to do just that. Visa security is critical to national security. Terrorists will continue to enter the U.S. legally if we do not improve and secure our visa process.”
Background: Terrorists continue to use loopholes and weaknesses in our immigration system to enter the United States. In fact, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, the terrorist who attempted to blow up a plane en route to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, had a valid visa at the time of the attempted terror attack. Abdulmutallab was issued a visa in July 2008, and even after his father expressed concerns to U.S. authorities about his son’s radicalization, his visa was not revoked.
Earlier this year, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a 20-year-old citizen of Saudi Arabia in the U.S. on a student visa, was charged with the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. According to media reports, he listed the home of former President George W. Bush as a potential target. All of the 9-11 hijackers also obtained U.S. visas.
Below is a summary of some of the main components in H.R. 1741:
Ends Judicial Review for Revocation of Terrorists’ Visas: The bill makes clear that revocation of an alien’s visa is not subject to judicial review. Under current law, if an individual is denied a visa by the consular officer, there is no judicial review of that decision. However, if an alien entered the United States on a visa and their visa is subsequently revoked, they are entitled to fight their deportation case in court. H.R. 1741 simply applies the same review standard to visa revocations that is currently applied to visa denials.
Maintains and Increases Visa Security Units in “Highest-Risk” Countries: The Secure Visas Act also mandates that DHS maintain U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Visa Security Units (VSU) at the 19 consular posts that already have them and expand units to the numerous posts that ICE has designated as “highest-risk.” Some of these “highest-risk” countries include Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Lebanon and Algeria. VSUs are critical for national security: at VSU-staffed consular posts, 100% of applicants receive additional screening; at non-VSU posts, fewer than 2% of applications get extra screening.