WASHINGTON, Dec 16, (AP): The Department of Homeland Security is demanding tougher security measures from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program. DHS announced Friday that participating countries are now being asked to fully comply with a program in which they use US counter terrorism information to screen travelers.
They’re also being asked to implement stricter safeguards against insider threats to aviation security. The US will also require countries whose citizens stay in the US longer than they’re supposed to at a rate of two percent or more to launch public information campaigns to educate their citizens.
Those countries are: Hungary, Greece, Portugal and San Marino. The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the US for business or tourism for up to 90 days without having to obtain visas. The White House meanwhile is embarking on a major campaign to turn public opinion against the nation’s largely family-based immigration system ahead of an all-out push next year to move toward a more merit-based structure. The administration was laying the groundwork for such a drive even before an Islamic State-inspired extremist who was born in Bangladesh tried to blow himself up in Midtown Manhattan on Monday.
It is assembling data to bolster the argument that the current legal immigration system is not only ill-conceived, but dangerous and damaging to US workers. “We believe that data drives policy, and this data will help drive votes,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, for what the administration considers, “common sense Americafirst immigration controls the president has proposed.” White House officials outlined their strategy this week exclusively to The Associated Press, and said the data demonstrates that changes are needed immediately.
But their effort will play out in a difficult political climate, as even Republicans in Congress are leery of engaging in a major immigration debate ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The issue is expected to be prominently featured in the president’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address.
The White House also plans other statements by the president, appearances by Cabinet officials and a push to stress the issue in conservative media. The administration was beginning its campaign Thursday with a blog post stressing key numbers: Department of Homeland Security data that shows nearly 9.3 million of the roughly 13 million total immigrants to the US from 2005 to 2016 were following family members already in the United States. And just one in 15 immigrants admitted in the last decade by green card entered the country because of their skills.