Visas, when placed in the hands of terrorists, can become weapons, and Congress must seal the vulnerabilities in the current system, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) argues.
Thursday Forbes and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) unveiled legislation that would tighten up the visa application screening process.
The bill’s reforms would include seemingly basic mandates that applications be completed prior to the issuance of a visa and that application adjudicators investigate applicants’ publicly available online postings.
“How do we know that we have a problem at all? Well we know that we have a problem because in December of last year two individuals. Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook, both brutally murdered 14 innocent Americans and severely wounded 22 others,” Forbes told reporters Thursday, recalling the December 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino.
Malik was approved for a fiancé visa and granted access to the U.S. despite an incomplete application and a social media presence revealing her as an advocate for violent jihad.
“What we know is this bill will stop other incidents that could be happening in the future,” Forbes added.
In addition to the requirements that the visa process include completed applications and social media screening, Forbes’ “U.S. The Visa Integrity & Security Act of 2016 (VISA Act)” also mandates that nationals from certain countries of concern — like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen — received heightened vetting.
Additionally, the bill would require DNA testing for family-based immigrant visa applicants, coordination between DHS and embassy and consulate officers considering in-country applications, and the implementation of analytics software to suss out fraud in immigration petitions.
We believe that coming to the United States of America is not a right, it’s a privilege. But we think it’s a right to be secure within the United States. So if we have to balance those two — between the privilege of coming to the United States and the right to be secure in the United States — we want to give the balance to the right to be secure in the United States and therefore we raise the burden of proof on these visas to a clear convincing standard.
Goodlatte added that the House Judiciary Committee would be working to move the bill though committee within the coming weeks.
“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,” he told reporters at Thursday’s unveiling.
Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is also a sponsor of the bill.