Randy Forbes introduces bill to strengthen visa security

randy forbesCongressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) introduced legislation to address critical vulnerabilities in the United States’ current visa application screening process, which leave the U.S. dangerously open to terrorist attacks.

The Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016 (H.R. 5203) strengthens the visa screening process to combat immigration fraud, utilize social media to detect threat indicators, and  better detect terrorists who may be plotting attacks like the one that occurred in San Bernardino, California this past December.

Joining with Forbes in the introduction of this important legislation are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy.

“Terrorists use travel documents as weapons,” said Congressman Forbes. “Existing vulnerabilities in our visa screening process allow foreign nationals like the San Bernardino terrorist, Tashfeen Malik, to be admitted into the United States. This bill strengthens visa security with common sense provisions to enhance national security and the integrity of our immigration system. That is why it is crucial that Congress acts now to make necessary changes to the current visa screening system. Entry into this country is not a right, but a privilege – and the U.S. government’s top priority must be ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens.”

“From the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the more recent attack in San Bernardino, we are reminded that terrorists have and will continue to exploit our nation’s generous immigration system to carry out their heinous plots,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte said. “Visa security is critical to national security and we must address gaping holes in our immigration system that allow those who wish Americans harm and fraudsters to game the system. The Visa Integrity and Security Act takes a number of steps to strengthen visa security, curb fraud, and enhance the integrity of our nation’s immigration system. Notably, it expands a critical visa vetting program to ensure all visa applicants receive additional screening and requires the government to examine open source Internet postings to determine if a visa applicant is a security threat. I thank Congressman Randy Forbes for his work on this bill and look forward to moving it through the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.”

“When it comes to our national security, we cannot afford to take any risks,” said Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy. “As we have witnessed, the failure to properly vet all foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States could result in the loss of innocent Americans. The Visa Integrity and Security Actwill close security gaps in our current immigration system and ensure our embassies and consulates have the tools necessary to determine whether a visa applicant presents a potential risk to the United States. I applaud Congressman Forbes for his dedication to strengthening our visa processing procedures and I thank him for his work on this legislation.”

Terrorists continually seek opportunities to exploit the weaknesses in the U.S. system to harm Americans.  A 2012 Inspector General (IG) report highlighted the risk arising from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service officers rushing questionable visa applications through even when fraud was suspected.  In fact, according to a recent testimony from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) IG on March, 15, 2016, the present system presents risks to our national security – in that we may be admitting individuals who wish to do us harm, or who do not meet the requirements for a visa.”

Four years after the initial IG report was published in 2012, questionable visa applications like Tashfeen Malik’s can still slip through the cracks and could potentially cost the lives of innocent Americans.

The Visa Integrity & Security Act of 2016 helps to ensure more effective and complete security screening for all individuals seeking to enter the U.S. Specifically, the legislation:

  • Requires the completion of a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO) as part of the comprehensive security check process for nationals from certain countries of concern, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen.
  • Requires the Departments of Homeland Security and State to utilize social media and other publically available information to help determine if the visa applicant is eligible for a visa and if they are a security threat to the United States.
  • Expands the Visa Security Program to all U.S. embassies and consular posts, ensuring that all visa applicants received additional screening.
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of, and report to Congress on, the security of visa processing, including screening and background checks as well as how those results are considered in the adjudication process.
  • Requires officials at DHS to conduct in-person interviews of petitioners and beneficiaries located in the United States seeking to change their immigration status.
  • Within six months of enactment of the bill, it requires the DHS Secretary to provide the House and Senate Judiciary Committees a plan for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to use advanced analytics software to ensure the proactive detection of fraud in immigration benefits applications and petitions and to ensure applicants are not a threat to national security. The plan must be implemented one year after it is provided to the Committees.
  • Requires the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) to conduct benefit fraud assessments on various immigration programs and report their findings to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
  • Requires proof of relationship through DNA testing, paid for by the applicant, to be submitted with any family-based immigrant visa petition.
  • Applicants must answer each question completely and each line must be filled out properly. Requires any document containing foreign language submitted as part of the immigration benefits adjudication process to be accompanied by a full English translation by a certified translator.
  • For a visa to be issued by officials at the Departments of Homeland Security and State, the applicant must prove eligibility by clear and convincing evidence.
  • Requires that any request for additional documentation or evidence to substantiate the applicant’s eligibility for a visa must be fulfilled; otherwise the application will be denied.

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