Sen. Grassley Warns Obama Administration Further Diluting Visa Applicant Requirements

9-11 APGulnara Samoilova
AP/Gulnara Samoilova

The Obama administration has continued an effort — started by former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — to further dilute the vetting requirements for visa applicants seeking admission to the U.S., according to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

The State Department has adopted a regulation to waive interview requirements for certain visa applicants in what Grassley warns is “the Department’s intent to water down once again rules pertaining to interviews of visa applicants.”

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, dated Tuesday, Grassley requests details on what categories of visa applicants will be eligible to have the interview process waived, any plans for further expansion of the policy, and details about the applicants who have already had interviews waived.

As Grassley recalls in his missive, just two of the fifteen hijackers from Saudi Arabia who perpetrated the September 11, 2001 attacks had been interviewed. Following the attacks, Congress passed a law requiring all visa applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 to appear in person for an interview by a consular officer.

A little more than a decade following the 9/11 attacks, Grassley highlighted to Kerry, then-Secretary Clinton took the early steps to “substantially water down the visa interview requirement” by expanding her authority as secretary of state to grant a waiver exemption if it is in the “national interest.” Grassley wrote in his letter:

Secretary Clinton exploited that exemption to designate entire categories of visa applicants to be exempt from the visa interview requirement. The primary ‘national interest’ upon which such class-wide exemptions were based appeared to be nothing more than reduction of visa application wait times and facilitation of travel by foreign visitors.  One well-known immigration lawyer’s website cheered the program as a welcome reversion to the “pre-September 11th era.

Grassley added that the Obama administration “appears intent to circumvent the law and ignore the safeguards that Congress has put in place to prevent terrorists from arriving at our shores.”