Urges Visa Waiver Program Reforms, Improved Training and Response Measures
Washington, D.C. - In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is continuing to urge Congress to pass new security measures to improve the ability of our law enforcement and border enforcement officials to stop terrorists from coming to the United States and to prevent and respond to terrorism and threats.
In a statement released today, Bennet is calling on Congress to bring up and pass the bipartisan Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act he helped introduce in December and the Defeat ISIS and Protect and Secure the United States Act that he cosponsored.
"We need to defeat ISIS to keep Coloradans and all Americans safe. Following the recent attacks in Brussels, San Bernardino, Paris, and around the world, we must remain vigilant, work smarter, and give our law enforcement and security personnel more effective tools to protect us. Congress should quickly pass bills that would address the security gaps in our visa waiver program to ensure terrorists cannot board a plane to the United States, as well as improve homeland security training, prevention, and response efforts."
The Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act would improve the security of the Visa Waiver Program. It would:
- Require travelers using the Visa Waiver Program to submit advanced biometric information, in the form of fingerprints and a photograph, before they travel to the United States.
- Require enhanced intelligence-sharing between Visa Waiver Program countries and the United States, including information on foreign fighters.
Critical sections of Bennet's bill passed in December as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016:
- Individuals who have traveled to Syria or Iraq in the past five years are required to acquire a traditional tourist visa instead of traveling without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. This process requires an in-person interview with an American consular official and the submission of the traveler's biometric information.
- All visa waiver travelers are required to use an electronic passport, which are more secure and harder to tamper with.
The Defeat ISIS and Protect and Secure the United States Act includes a number of measures to combat terrorism and protect the homeland, including:
- TSA officer training: The bill requires TSA to reform their training protocols to put a greater emphasis on counter-terrorism training and provides new funding for TSA to invest in training programs for TSA officers who operate security checkpoints and conduct baggage screening regarding evolving terrorist threats.
- New grant program for airports to secure infrastructure and reduce access points to the airport perimeter: The bill provides a grant program for security focused construction to help airports reduce the number of access points and to secure infrastructure.
- Law enforcement training for active shooter incidents: The bill would authorize state and local law enforcement to use Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Grant Program grant funds for training exercises to enhance preparedness for and response to active shooter incidents and security events that occur at public gatherings.
- Assistance to state and local governments for active shooter incident response: The bill would also authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide assistance to State, local, tribal, territorial, private sector and nongovernmental partners for the development of response plans for active shooter incidents in public spaces. Such plans may include strategies for evacuating and providing care to victims, a plan for communications during the incident, a schedule for testing communications equipment, and a schedule for exercise and training. The Secretary of Homeland Security would also be required to identify and share best practices with State, local, tribal, territorial, private sector, and nongovernmental partners regarding security incident planning, management, and training for responding to active shooter incidents in publicly accessible spaces.