Can Belgian Terrorists Enter the US Without a Visa?

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A soldier checks the identification of a person entering Brussels Midi train station on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels.  (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Can Belgian Terrorists Enter the US Without a Visa?

Some are concerned a loophole in the visa waiver program may grant individuals entry with minimal security.

Published March 23, 2016

After the horrific terrorist attack in Brussels, killing 30 and wounding hundreds, many wonder about the security and risks surrounding their own countries. However, due to regulations put in place by the United States’s visa waiver program, individuals with terrorist ties are still able to enter the U.S. from Belgium.

Following the deadly attacks in both Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., congress changed the visa waiver program to require those with dual citizenship in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and anyone who’s traveled to those countries in the past five years to apply for a visa.

Congress also announced retractions on individuals who recently traveled to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. But now the focus on travel restrictions is turning from the Middle East to European countries who participate in the visa waiver program, in particular, Belgium.

House Foreign Affairs Committee member, Ron DeSantis (R., FL.), has, along with other lawmakers, warned about the high risk for terrorism in Belgium. DeSantis believes that the current U.S. foreign policy does not “mandate more strenuous checks on individuals identified as coming from terrorist hot spots, such as the small Belgian town of Molenbeek.” This means that because Belgium is a partner nation to the U.S., travelers are able to enter the country without getting proper paperwork for the visit and detailing the reason for the stay.

After the attacks in Paris, DeSantis deduced that the United States is “vulnerable from threats in Europe,” and serious reform should take place regarding the current visa waiver situation. He has openly criticized the Obama administration for both the lack of reform and negligence when it comes to “deporting individuals who overstay their visas.”

Although there have been no changes to the current visa waiver policies, the United States always screens travelers on the U.S. Terrorist Screening Database, regardless of their visa status.

However, DeSantis, as well as many prominent figures in the GOP, believe that the screening systems in place are not the most thorough when it comes to properly identifying radical individuals.

The primary concern among many liberals is creating a screening system that maintains homeland security, but doesn't use restrictions within the visa waiver program to discriminate against individuals traveling to the U.S. who mean no harm. 

(Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Written by Rachel Herron


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