Bill will hurt in­no­cent trav­el­ers

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED -

AS AN Ira­nian-Amer­i­can, I was sad­dened to see the Jour­nal’s re­port that New Mex­ico’s three con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tives had voted in fa­vor of H.R. 158, a re­vi­sion of the Visa Waiver Pro­gram that was re­vived in re­sponse to the re­cent San Bernardino, Calif., shoot­ing.

De­spite warn­ings by many civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions, H.R. 158 was added to the $1.1 tril­lion catch-all spend­ing bill that was signed by Pres­i­dent Obama on Dec. 18.

The Visa Waiver Pro­gram al­lows Amer­i­can cit­i­zens to travel with­out a visa to 38 coun­tries. If signed by the pres­i­dent, the bill changes the pro­gram by ex­clud­ing dual-na­tion­als from Iran, Syria, Iraq and Su­dan — or any­one who has trav­eled to those coun­tries in the past five years — from the pro­gram.

Last week, am­bas­sadors of 28 EU na­tions warned of pos­si­ble reper­cus­sions, which could in­clude legally man­dated re­cip­ro­cal mea­sures.

Ac­cord­ing to their joint state­ment, “[a] blan­ket re­stric­tion on those who have vis­ited Syria or Iraq, for ex­am­ple, would most likely only af­fect le­git­i­mate travel by busi­ness­peo­ple, jour­nal­ists, hu­man­i­tar­ian or med­i­cal work­ers while do­ing lit­tle to de­tect those who travel by more clan­des­tine means over­land.”

The broad lan­guage of the bill could af­fect hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who have never set foot in any of th­ese coun­tries and are only dual cit­i­zens be­cause of the na­tion­al­ity of their par­ents.

Our con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tives should not hes­i­tate to sup­port any leg­is­la­tion that does, in fact, pro­tect our na­tional se­cu­rity; this bill, as it was passed, does not.

What it does how­ever, is to dis­crim­i­nate against Amer­i­can cit­i­zens like me.

Even if such a mea­sure is jus­ti­fied, one won­ders why Pak­istan and Saudi Ara­bia, coun­tries where the two San Bernardino shoot­ers came from were not in­cluded in the bill. HOOMAN HEDAYATI Mem­ber, Na­tional Ira­nian Amer­i­can Coun­cil Al­bu­querque

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