'Taking Page From Donald Trump,' US House Votes for Restrictions on Visa Waiver Program

In a move that civil liberties groups decried as allowing for “blanket discrimination,” the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to increase restrictions on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

The legislation passed easily in a 407-19 vote.  The New York Times called it “a rare area of bipartisan agreement,” and noted that it has the backing of President Barack Obama.

The VWP allows citizens of 38 countries, which include many western European nations like France, the UK, and Ireland, to travel to the U.S. without needing a visa for stays of 90 days or less. Among other things, the revamp would deny the visa-free entry to citizens of those countries who have traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan within the last five years.

“It also would also require countries participating in the program to share information with U.S. authorities about suspected terrorists,” Reuters reports.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) praised the passage of the measure authored by Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) as “a major step forward in our effort to prevent foreign terrorists from reaching our shores.”

But that spin was countered by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who criticized what she described as unnecessary restrictions, saying in statement Wednesday: “The legislation that was voted on today claims to prevent terrorists from entering this country, but instead of preventing high-risk individuals from entering this country, many low-risk individuals will be barred from the Visa Waver Program.” The measure, H.R. 158, “would only prevent many law abiding individuals from entering this country,” she stated.

H.R. 158 was also opposed by a number of rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC).