NIAC Among Sixty-Five Organizations Endorsing Equal Protection in Travel Act
Washington, DC – NIAC Action was among sixty-five civil rights organizations who sent a letter to all members of the House and Senate urging for swift passage of the Equal Protection in Travel Act of 2016 (H.R. 4380/S. 2449).
“The Equal Protection in Travel Act is essential to protecting the power of the American passport and sending a clear message that the United States does not discriminate based on national origin or family heritage,” said NIAC Action Executive Director Jamal Abdi. “The Iranian-American community is shocked that our friends and family in Europe are now being discriminated against due to the recent visa waiver changes and that we may be next.”
Recent changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that were mandated by Congress have in the past two weeks led to the expulsion of thousands European citizens from program because they are considered dual-nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. In many cases, these individuals are dual nationals by birth or because of their family origin.
Because the VWP is based on reciprocity, the new restrictions could invite similar restrictions against American dual nationals and force certain U.S. passport holders to seek a visa to travel to Europe based on their family heritage or national origin. The European Union will consider potential action in April.
“Many in Congress did not realize the implications of these restrictions when they voted for them as part of a broader package of modifications to the visa waiver program that were then tucked into the end-of-year government spending bill,” said Abdi. “Lawmakers should act quickly to undo this error and ensure we do not invite others to similarly discriminate against Americans.”
The Equal Protection in Travel Act would repeal the new restrictions against dual nationals while leaving the other modifications and updates to the Visa Waiver Program intact. The bill was introduced by Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) in the House, and Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate.
The text of the letters and signers is below.