WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 28, 2014) – DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced today that the administration will expand the controversial Visa Waiver Program to include Chile.
Once again, the administration has moved to ease standards for admitting foreign visitors before it has shown the public that the Visa Waiver Program is safe and does not increase illegal immigration. In the past, Congress has been reluctant to expand the program because DHS has still not implemented a biometric entry-exit system and has devoted few resources to tracking down and removing visitors who overstay. In addition, DHS has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office for inadequate oversight of the program to reduce security vulnerabilities.
Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at the Center says, “This move will remind lawmakers and the public that President Obama’s priority is relaxing immigration controls, not enforcing them.”
This move is especially troubling in light of the administration’s deliberate suppression of immigration enforcement, which has led to declines in the number of illegal aliens removed from the interior of the country. In 2013, ICE arrests declined by 20 percent, as did interior removals, even though ICE agents encountered just as many illegal aliens.
Chile becomes the 38th visa waiver-designated country, and its citizens will now enjoy the privilege of traveling to the United States without applying for visas for short tourist or business trips. This program has been a significant driver of illegal immigration; the GAO reported in July 2013 that, of a very large sample of possible overstays, nearly half were people who entered under the Visa Waiver Program.