The Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation joined with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and a diverse coalition of over 45 civil rights, immigrant rights, interfaith, and humanitarian organizations urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Jeh Johnson, to use his authority under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (“VWP Act”) to remove the dual nationality prohibitions and legitimate travel bans.
The VWP Act includes authorization for the Administration to waive restrictions if doing so is in the interest of law enforcement or national security personnel. Utilizing these waivers for dual nationals as well as for legitimate travel meets this standard.
In December 2016, The VWP Act passed as a rider in the spending Omnibus bill package. It prohibits individuals who are citizens of VWP countries and are also dual nationals of, or have traveled to, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, on or after March 1, 2011, from traveling to the United States under the VWP. Alarmingly, on February 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it will extend the Visa Waiver Program travel ban to persons whom traveled to Yemen, Somalia and Libya since March 1, 2011.
The request illustrates that the mandatory bar applying to all people who are dual citizens, or who have engaged in legitimate travel, is discriminatory and does not advance U.S. national security or law enforcement interests.
In addition to being discriminatory, the restrictions would likely cause affected countries to reciprocate. This would affect hundreds of thousands of Americans. For example, any EU-imposed travel restriction would impact over 740,000 American citizens solely based on their national origin and/or family heritage.