October 29, 2020

Senators Hassan, Johnson Introduced Bipartisan Legislation to Bolster DHS Visa Security Teams to Help Prevent Terrorists from Entering the United States

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Committee, have introduced bipartisan legislation to help bolster the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) visa security screening process, which helps prevent terrorists and other national security threats from entering the United States.

  

Bolstering Visa Security teams has been a longstanding priority of Senator Hassan, and in 2018, the Senator participated in a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the United Kingdom, Israel, Jordan, and Greece, where she received a briefing from U.S. personnel in Israel on Visa Security teams.

 

The Senator is also focused on strengthening federal counterterrorism efforts, and earlier this year, Senators Hassan and Johnson introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a federal commission to reevaluate counterterrorism information sharing and the ability of federal, state, and local law enforcement to identify, track, and prevent all terrorist threats in the United States. Additionally, Senator Hassan joined Senator James Lankford (R-OK) in calling for answers on what the DHS, FBI, and Intelligence Community are doing to address ongoing and emerging terrorist threats amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

See below for coverage highlights:

 

Politico: Blocking ISIS fighters from U.S. shores

By Bryan Bender

 

[…]FIRST LOOK — KEEPING ISIS OUT: In another bipartisan push for legislation, Sens. Maggie Hassan and Ron Johnson are proposing a bill to enhance the Department of Homeland Security’s visa screening process overseas, including expanding its reach to more foreign embassies over the next decade.

 

“With the fall of ISIS’s caliphate, I am deeply concerned about the threat that ISIS foreign fighters, armed with western passports, could pose to our homeland and our allies,” Hassan, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

 

The Visa Security Expansion Act “will help protect us from this threat by expanding the number of counterterrorism agents who aid the State Department in making decisions about whether to grant U.S. visas to foreign nationals,” she added.

 

Johnson, who chairs the panel and also is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the DHS program “plays a crucial role in keeping the U.S. safe from terrorists and criminals, and our legislation would strengthen this important front of our national security.”

 

The Hill: Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand screening of foreign visitors

By Ellen Mitchell

 

Two senators introduced bipartisan legislation this week that would expand the Department of Homeland Security’s visa screening process, with the goal of rooting out potential terrorists among foreign visitors.

 

[…] “With the fall of ISIS’s caliphate, I am deeply concerned about the threat that ISIS foreign fighters, armed with western passports, could pose to our homeland and our allies,” Hassan said in a statement accompanying the bill's introduction.

 

The measure would seek to counter such a threat by increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations agents, personnel “who aid the State Department in making decisions about whether to grant U.S. visas to foreign nationals,” Hassan added.

 

The agents, who are trained in counterterrorism, help the State Department conduct interviews for nonimmigrant visa applicants.

 

[…] Johnson, who is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the legislation would heighten national security “by placing agents with subject matter expertise and specialized training at posts deemed to be the highest risk.”

 

[…]The bill, during a 10- to 25-year period beginning on the date of its enactment, would direct DHS and the State Department to add visa security units in at least two U.S. embassies or consulates each year.

 

The bill would pay for the staffing increases by tacking on a so-called security fee on nonimmigrant visas applications.

 

###