U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is calling on the Obama Administration to immediately suspend the Visa Waiver Program for countries that have thousands of citizens fighting alongside Islamic extremists in the Middle East or elsewhere.
In a statement, she names three European countries as examples of nations with people who have left to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL (also referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS).
“As things presently stand, Islamic extremists holding British, German, French or other European passports can simply get on a plane and fly to America without a visa. The safety and security of Americans should be of the highest priority, and this Visa Waiver Program puts the American people in great danger,” Gabbard, an Army National Guard captain who has served two tours of duty in the Middle East, said in a statement on her House website.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at the Democratic Party of Hawaii convention, May 24, 2014.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
“By suspending the Visa Waiver Program, all visitors from these countries will have to go through a visa application process before they are allowed to step on U.S. soil. Simultaneously, I will work with my colleagues to take action in Congress to address this issue and plug this gaping hole in our national security.”
Thirty-eight countries participate in the waiver program, which lets eligible citizens visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.
The CIA told CNN on Thursday that the Islamic State may have three times as many fighters as originally estimated, bringing the best guess up to 20,000 to 31,500 across Iraq and Syria.
The Associated Press has reported that ending the program could complicate coalition-building efforts and possibly cause Europe to stop issuing visas to Americans.
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