Albuquerque Journal

Bill will hurt innocent travelers


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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