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"Keep calm. And then legislate."

WASHINGTON (November 19, 2015)—U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella issued the following statement in response to congressional moves that would undermine the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in the wake of terror activity in Europe:

"It would be a grave error by Congress to scapegoat a successful program—without as much as a hearing—that had zero to do with a recent tragedy. On crucial matters of security above all others, Congress is obligated to be as clear-eyed and deliberative as possible, and not fall prey to the time-honored tradition of rushed, emotional overreactions.

"We are concerned that VWP critics are not taking the proper time to listen to security experts, who overwhelmingly extol the security benefits of the program. We are concerned even more by the unknown consequences or expenses of an elaborate new 'system'—devised and deployed in an instant—to overhaul VWP without appropriate vetting or scrutiny.

"Members who are just tuning into this issue need to be aware that the VWP is a rare, exemplary government program that delivers both security and economic benefits. It makes the world safer through secure travel partnerships between allied countries, with rigorous additional standards for passport security, intelligence sharing, and inspection of each other's screening protocols. It also significantly bolsters travel to the U.S., which happens to be serious business that could easily go elsewhere. We urge Congress to thoroughly review the security and facilitation aspects of the program, as well as the effectiveness of new requirements, before rushing to legislate.

"There are more effective measures that would increase travel security without such an economic risk, which could easily garner bipartisan support. Some of these we hope to see Congress consider and enact:

  • faster and wider expansion of the preclearance and immigration advisory programs that move security screening overseas and relieves pressure on gateway airports;
  • working with other governments to build their watchlisting and vetting systems, especially in the aviation environment;
  • increasing availability of the Global Entry Program to increase the numbers of rigorously screened, trusted travelers; and
  • specialized screening for travelers who have recently traveled to countries of law enforcement concern, such as Syria, or for certain dual passport holders.

"We understand the political urge to act after the fact to prove that one is 'on it,' but we urge Congress to carefully consider how to tweak the VWP to respond to the threat, rather than engaging in security theater.

"Keep calm. And then legislate."

Background on the Security Benefits of the Visa Waiver Program:

Fact sheet compiled by the U.S. Travel Association

About U.S. Travel Association

The U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry that generates $2.1 trillion in economic output and supports 15 million jobs. U.S. Travel's mission is to increase travel to and within the United States.

Contact: Cathy Keefe /Jamie Morris or / 202.408.2183 / 202.218.3621

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