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Detroit Free Press: Michigan Dems call for changes to Miller's visa law

Detroit Free Press

Washington, DC, December 11, 2015 | Todd Spangler

 Four Democratic members of Michigan’s congressional delegation urged U.S. Senate leaders on Friday to consider changes to legislation which would tighten rules on 38 countries whose citizens can visit the U.S. without a visa, calling parts of the bill discriminatory.

The four — U.S. Reps. John Conyers of Detroit, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Dan Kildee of Flint Township and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield — asked Senate leaders to drop a provision that would bar residents of those countries who are dual citizens of Syria or Iraq from participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

“As written, (the legislation) would result in discrimination against people simply because they are dual citizens based on ancestry,” they wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid. “Fundamentally, people seeking entry into our country should be evaluated based on the specific security risk that they themselves pose – not where their parents are from.”

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who wrote the legislation passed by the U.S. House this week, defended it as appropriate and said it wasn't discriminatory, citing reports that some of those involved in the deadly attacks in Paris last month in which 130 people were killed had recently traveled to Syria.

“These provisions aren’t based on religious preference, they are based on facts," she said. "Groups like ISIS operating out of these countries are recruiting and radicalizing individuals at record pace. ... These provisions aren’t discriminatory. They are commonsense. Furthermore, they do not ban travel to the U.S. They merely require that these individuals undergo an additional step of screening (to secure a visa)."

Some 20 million people a year visit the U.S. from member nations under the Visa Waiver Program, which allows travelers, who are typically traveling for business, research or recreation, to remain in the U.S. for up to 90 days without first securing a visa.

While Syria and Iraq are not members of the Visa Waiver Program, under current rules, people from member nations, which includes many European countries and other U.S. allies, who are dual citizens of those or other nations potentially linked to terrorism could presumably travel to the U.S. under the program, though the Obama administration has said they are continually upgrading security measures.

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